For Essay 2, you will want to begin by reading Chapter 6: Comparing and Contrast

For Essay 2, you will want to begin by reading Chapter 6: Comparing and Contrasting (pp. 88-105) and Chapter 18: Strategies for Developing, (just 293-303). No matter if you are writing an exam for history, selecting a restaurant, or even deciding which TV show, movie, actor, singer, or book you like best, you often have to compare and contrast. For that reason, comparing and contrasting is a rhetorical form that will serve you well in college, as well as in life. We are constantly put into positions that ask us to show how one thing is either the same or different from another, and I can almost guarantee that any essay exam you have to complete in a college classroom will have at least one comparison/contrast essay.
In writing this type of essay, though, you need to keep some basic ideas in mind.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMPARING AND CONTRASTING: Usually, you compare to show similarities, and you contrast to show difference. Your essay should favor one of these. Going back and forth to show both aspects of a topic will only work against you. For this assignment, decide if you want to show similarities or differences with your topic and stick to that. Often you will want to use comparing or contrasting to evaluate the merits of a topic, to describe something that is unfamiliar to the reader by comparing it to something else, or to argue that one item is better than another. More often than not, there is a persuasive quality to your writing. (In the future, you might have to alter this plan. If, for instance, your history professor does give you a comparison/contrast essay and asks you to do both, you will need to follow his instructions.)
SELECTING THE RIGHT TOPIC: Finding the right topic is extremely important. To compare two similar items is pointless. You would not want to compare MacDonald’s to Burger King and show how they are similar, for example. Your reader does not need to read a paper to know that they are basically the same type of fast food restaurant. It’s obvious that they both serve hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and French fries, and they are alike in service, price, and quality of food. Conversely, with the contrast essay, you do not need to write an essay to show that two dissimilar items are different. Contrasting the upscale Capitol Grille to MacDonald’s is equally pointless. Think of teaching the reader something new as you write your comparison or contrast essay. Although I am not recommending this as a topic, writing a comparison paper to show that MacDonald’s is just as good as Capitol Grille would be a unique way to show how two items that one might not usually associate with one another are indeed the same. Occasionally, you might also contrast to show how two things are different from one another, even though they seem similar on the surface. If you wanted to contrast your two sisters, for example, you might argue that despite the fact that they grew up in the same family, they are quite different in the way they look, act, interact with others. They have different interests, lifestyles, and points of view on life.
STATING YOUR THESIS: Your thesis should favor one or the other. Make sure that you select two distinct ideas to compare or contrast. Stating that a subject has both positive and negative qualities and comparing and contrasting the good against the bad makes for a wishy-washy, weak thesis and paper. Who cares if riding a motorcycle with a helmet has both bad and good points? Does the reader really need to know that? Writing a thesis that states “Facebook has both negative and positive aspects” might certainly be a true statement, and might, in fact, be interesting to the reader. However, developing a thesis that contrasts Facebook with Twitter would certainly give you more information and a sharper focus.
ORGANIZING YOUR ESSAY: More than any other essay, comparing or contrasting depends on organizational logic. After you have decided which two items you want to compare or contrast, you have to decide which points you want to make about each. Then, you need to decide how you will approach the essay. You can either decide on the Opposing Pattern that goes subject by subject, or you might want to use the Alternating Pattern that goes point by point. Please see pages 116-118 for specific detail. OR
Two sources of entertainment (movie theaters vs. live theater, Netflix vs. network TV, reality TV vs. fictional drama)
Two former boyfriends or girlfriends
Two people who are strikingly different in attitude or behavior (even though you would assume that they had a great deal in common)
Two courses that you’ve taken that were quite different but both valuable
Two places that you’ve lived or visited
Two events in your life that shared similar aspects but turned out to be quite different.
Two holidays or family customs
Two writers, two artists, or two musicians who seem to be similar
Two points of views
Two policies, viewpoints, or opinions on a subject
Any other topics listed in the chapter or below (borrowed from
Forty Topic Suggestions: Comparison and Contrast
The 40 topic suggestions listed here are offered as starting points to help you discover some fresh ideas on your own.
Two stages of a person’s life
Two places you have visited
Two perspectives on the same place: past and present
Two perspectives on the same place: morning and night
Two fast-food restaurants
An online class compared to a traditional class
The Toyota Camry hybrid and the Camry sedan
Two candidates competing for public office
Two pets in the same household
The rules set for you as a child and the rules you have set (or plan to set) for your own children
Two professional athletes
Two views of your parents: before and after you left home
Your experiences before and after giving up a bad habit
Two neighborhoods
Two vampires
Two ways to break a bad habit
A real vacation and a dream vacation
Two hosts of late-night talk shows
A good boss and a bad boss
Bulimia and anorexia
Two video games
Two classes in the same subject: one in high school and the other in college
The car you own and the car you dream of owning
Two types of exercise
Two ways of studying for an exam
Two sports fans
Two ways of losing weight: one healthy, the other dangerous
Microsoft’s Zune and Apple’s iPod
Your family home and the house of your dreams
Harry Potter–on the page and on the screen
Two memorable teachers or professors
Two workplaces
Two coffee shops
Infatuation versus love
Two close friends
Living on campus and living off campus
A starting pitcher and a reliever
Two ways of downloading music or movies
Two versions of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers
An active student and a passive student