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Compare and Contrast

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Can you provide me with a step-by-step guide showing me how to approach a compare and contrast essay? I'm not sure of how to write up the bibliography, so could you included examples of various types of references (on-line, books, articles, etc.) also. Thanks.

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Solution Summary

This solution provides a step-by-step guide showing how to approach a compare and contrast essay including an example of a of how to write up the bibliography (on-line, books, articles, etc.).

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Homework Starter

These step-by-step instructions and examples are a great starting place for many homework projects. Follow these steps to break up a big assignment into doable pieces, learn how to efficiently complete each part to get the most out of your time, and organize your work to finish everything when due.

Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay is a short composition that points out the similarities and differences between two things. Tackle a compare and contrast essay just like you would tackle any other essay-break it down into manageable tasks.

Task 1: Requirements

Make sure you understand what your teacher expects of you. Review all of the information you have about the assignment and verify that you can answer the following questions. If you don't know, ask your teacher.

Are you required to compare and contrast something in particular?
When is your essay due?
Is there a requirement for length?

Task 2: Topic and points of comparison

1. Decide what you're going to compare and contrast. Choose something that interests you and complies with any guidelines that your teacher provided. You might compare and contrast objects, ideas, or people. If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, think about recent experiences, page through a magazine, watch the news, or skim a newspaper for stories about people, events, or issues that intrigue you.

Example: You are in the process of buying a new car. You have narrowed their options down to two choices: a Ford Explorer and a Jeep Grand Cherokee. You decide to use your essay to make your final decision by comparing and contrasting the two cars.

Or, you might want to compare two movies or two philosophical theories.

2. Identify your points of comparison-that is, the key aspects that you will compare and contrast. If necessary, do some digging to get a better feel for your topic and pertinent points to compare. Do Internet searches, read a few newspaper articles, and skim encyclopedia articles related to your topic.

Example: Up until this point, you haven't been very involved in your parents' search for a new car. You decide to start by familiarizing yourself with the factors people consider when they're ready to purchase a new car. You visit a few car-buying Web sites and check out a guide for new car buyers from the public library.

Task 3: Outline

With your topic and points of comparison identified, it's time to organize your ideas-that is, to outline your essay.

1. Start by listing your points of comparison-the key aspects that you will compare and contrast-on a piece of paper.

Example: You plan to compare and contrast the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Cherokee, so you decide to use the factors people consider when they're ready to purchase a new car as your points of comparison:

Gas mileage

2. Under each point of comparison, note the related similarities and differences between your items. In essays, you can draw on personal experience as well as research to support your points. If you don't know enough about the similarities and differences for a particular point of comparison from personal experience, do a little research.

Example: You've picked a topic that you don't have much personal experience with-you've never driven an Explorer or a Grand Cherokee. You'll have to rely heavily on research. You decide to read several reviews on the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and then to take an informal survey of all the people you know who own one of these cars.

Tip: If your teacher/instructor requires you to hand in a bibliography with your essay, take a few minutes now to determine what information on each source you'll need. For example, does your teacher/instructor require you to list your source's publisher and where it was published? Jot this information down for each source as you do your research. Knowing exactly what you need now will save you the hassle of having to go back to look it up later.

3. Read through your points and consider the order in which they appear. Does the sequence work? Could your essay be stronger if you presented your points of comparison in a different order? Would it make sense to discuss all of the similarities, then move on to the differences? If necessary, rearrange your outline.

Task 4: Body

Writing the body of your essay can be a formidable task, but it doesn't have to be if you let the tools you've amassed-your topic, points of comparison, and your outline-do the heavy lifting for you.

1. With your outline as a guide, turn each of your points of comparison into a paragraph or two.

2. Once you've fleshed out the bones of your essay, go back and connect the paragraphs into a cohesive narrative. Be sure to use strong topic sentences as transitions between the paragraphs. Your goal is to make clear to the reader why you presented the information in the order you did.

Tip: Be sure to cite any information you borrowed from another author-that is, any fact or opinion that is not your own.

3. Read through your essay with a critical eye. Does each topic sentence clearly summarize the point of the paragraph? Does the sequence of your paragraphs work?

4. If time permits, take a break. Put your essay out of sight for a day or two and forget about it. This way your eye and your perspective will be fresh when you next review the essay.

Task 5: Introduction and conclusion

Your essay's introduction and conclusion reinforce the key points you make in your paper.

1. Use your introduction to state what you will compare and contrast and to identify the points of comparison. Your introduction should also grab the reader's attention and make them want to read on. Including a surprising fact or anecdote about your topic can help grab attention.

2. Use your conclusion to summarize the key similarities and differences. Don't restate your findings word for word-your goal is to provide a sense of closure and to leave the reader with a ...

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