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How to compare and contrast entirely different factors?

How to compare and contrast entirely different factors?

More often than not, the students submit a writing outline that either lists down all the schools and colleges/universities in their city and a description of each, or a writing style that focuses only on comparing or on contrasting alone. But what really is the proper essay form and the writing process to be used for a Compare and Contrast Essay? Are they one and the same?

The first thing is to understand Webster’s meaning of the two main terms:

  • Compare – to represent as similar; to discover the resemblances or differences

Australia is big but Russia is bigger. China is the biggest country of all.

  • Contrast – to appraise in respect to differences

My Sudanese friend has black skin, while my Thai neighbor has white.

In simple terms, to compare is to use comparatives and superlatives (more, most) and to contrast is to present how dissimilar two things are in the same category. If the data is jumbled in one coherent paragraph containing all details about each subject separately, chances are, the writer omits the information of one subject on a specific category. Hence, no comparison and contrast occurred.

For example:

The smallest school in my city is St. Anne’s Primary School. Across St. Anne’s is a private college named Chen Li College, which was built in 2013. There are nine academic institutions in total inside my small city, and each one offers the best quality education.

Reflect: What is the biggest school? Are there any public colleges? What is the ranking of the quality of education given by each?

Consider the following sample essay outline in answering the instruction above:

  • Classification according to campus size and average number of enrolees per semester

McAdams Primary School has 600 students per semester in its 2-acre campus, while McAdams Technical College has double the number of enrolees at the same campus size per semester. (comparison)

  • Public versus private

Three of the nine academic institutions in my city are government-owned, while the remaining six are privately owned either by corporations or partnerships. (contrast)

  • Fondness of the student in terms of preference

St. Anne’s College has more extra-curricular activities compared to Chen Li University (comparison), but I enjoyed being at Chen Li because academic credits are given to students involved in clubs, whereas St. Anne’s consider clubs as purely non-academic (contrast).

Another way to present this data is by using:

  • Point-by-point organization – switching back and forth between the subjects, comparing and contrasting them according to several main points
  • Subject-by-subject organization – writing about all the main points of one subject, and then writing about all the main points of the other subject, and so on, referring back to the other subject(s) in a comparing/contrasting way

Most students prefer presenting the subject fully one after the other. Perhaps this is because it helps them pour out all memorized or known data with full concentration before jumping to the next subject. If this is the case, the essay hack would be to make a list of the sequence of categories discussed per subject, so that when the next subject is presented, the same categories are also expressed in the same order.

Simple? The key is to identify the categories and to choose a presentation style. Then, you’re good to go!

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