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Compare and Contrast Essays, High School vs. College

August 25, 2015 - Posted to Writing

Content 20

Comparison/contrast essay writing has a very basic conceptual framework. In essence, the purpose is to take two nouns (people, places, things, ideas, processes, etc.) and present an essay that speaks to their likenesses, their differences, or both. Students encounter these types of essays while still in high school, but they are almost always confined to English courses. Compare and contrast essay for high school assignments are taught directly as an essay type, and students are usually tasked with choosing their own topics. The emphasis is on the structure of the essay as opposed to the topic that has been chosen. The other occasional comparison/contrast essay will relate to literature that has been read in those English classes, and students may be asked to compare characters, styles, symbolism, and themes of the same author of two works or of different authors writing on the same theme.

Compare and Contrast Essay for College Level Coursework will be Different

There are four major differences in this type of essay, once a student reaches college.

  1. Topics will be more complex. You will no longer be asked to compare or contrast simple objects or two characters in a novel. Topics will not be more geared to abstract concepts and ideas – topics that will require some critical thinking and analysis.
  2. Language and style requirements will be more rigorous. You are no longer able to begin a paragraph with a statement such as, “One thing that preps and nerds have in common is….” This is far too simplistic and elementary for college level style.
  3. Most topics will require a good amount of research, due to their complexities. You will not be comparing and contrasting things that you can easily know and observe. You will be dealing with ideas and concepts, and those involve study and analysis.
  4. You will be writing these types of essays in many more courses then English. The first time you are asked to write an essay comparing the philosophies of Kant and Nietzsche, you will understand!

Structures of Comparison/Contrast Essays

The basic structure of such an essay will not have changed since you first wrote them in high school. Compare and contrast essay features remain constant: You will either focus on similarities, differences, or both. There are specific patterns you will use structurally, dependent upon what you are presenting. If you only present similarities or only present differences, then your introduction will state that and your thesis statement will relate to the fact that there are definite points or comparison or contrast.

If you are to present both similarities and differences, on the other hand, you have options for structure. You can address all of the similarities, present a good transition paragraph, and then present the differences. Or you may use what is termed an “ABAB” structure, pointing out a similarity and then a difference, and so on. This structure is commonly used when two ideas have a broad commonality but then differ markedly in the details.

Organizing the Comparison/Contrast Essay

If you are struggling with how to organize your compare and contrast essay, begin by going back to the basics – and the best basic is a Venn diagram. Draw two overlapping concentric circles and do some brainstorming, either from what you know or from what you have researched. Where the circles overlap, you place the similarities; where the circles are separate, you place the differences. This is a tried and true method of structure, and you cannot go wrong with it.

Choosing Topics for Your Essay

Here are some interesting topics for good comparison/contrast essay writing.

  • Traditional Learning and E-based Learning
  • Conservatives and Progressives
  • Evolution and Intelligent Design
  • Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
  • Trickle-Down Economics and Government Economic Stimulation
  • First-Born and Middle Child
  • Impressionist and Modern Art
  • Blues and Rock and Roll
  • Solar and Wind Energy
  • Hydro and Nuclear Energy
  • Id and Superego
  • Plant Physiology and Plant Morphology
  • Chemotherapy and Radiation
  • Suburbanization and Gentrification

If you have choices for essays, such as in an English comp class, try to get creative and think “out of the box” as you select a topic. Think of two totally unrelated things and see if you can come up with comparisons and contrasts. Doing so will give your professor needed relief from the more mundane topics that students tend to select. Here are just a couple:

  • Department store Santa Clauses and Prostitutes
  • Kickboxers and Marines
  • Drug Dealers and Librarians

If You Want Some Help

Coming up with good topic ideas, conducting the research, and organizing the information can be a struggle and certainly time-consuming, and that’ just the beginning. You then have to actually compose the essay. GrabMyEssay.com “gets it.” If you need a great comparison/contrast essay on any topic, or if you need a writer to choose that topic for you and write an essay, just give us the details.

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