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At various points of your education, you will be required to compose essays comparing or contrasting two different items: philosophical ideas, theories, events, literary characters, or persons either contemporary or significant historical figures. A comparative analysis essay concentrates on similarities and dissimilarities between the items compared. However, you can perform the comparison can in a classical way in which both items get equal attention, their characteristics get analyzed in terms of what they have in common and on what points they critically differ. The paper can also contrast two seemingly completely different items, which turn out to share a significant feature or exert a similar influence on people or events. Another way to compare two items is to look at an item from the perspective of another item. An example of this type of comparison would be to examine a specific historical event in light of events that followed, or vice versa (the “lens” comparison).
Like all academic essays, a comparative analysis essay relies upon the well-established introduction-body-conclusion structure. The introduction gives your reader a notion of what you will discuss in the paper, and it is intended to grab the readers` attention. It provides a context in which two items will get compared followed by an explanation of the grounds for comparison. It should clarify the importance of the items involved, and provide logical reasoning why you chose to contrast specifically those two items instead of any others. The introduction ends with a thesis statement derived from the context you chose to write within, and it should express the essence of your argument depending on whether the two items compared are contradictory to each other, mutually exclusive or if they actually substantiate one another. Here is an example of an introduction, followed by how a thesis statement might look like:
College gymnastics is starting to be an increasingly competitive sport, growing in popularity and with ever higher stakes involved. Although not competing in professional leagues, the coaches in charge of college gymnastics teams push their protégées to the limit and place extremely high demands on them. The best coaching tactics are a matter of debate, and various coaches adapt and apply different coaching styles. Mr. Danby and Mrs. Stones are representatives of two contrasting styles in coaching. Whereas Mr. Danby appears very supportive of his gymnasts, encourages them by using praise and being understanding of their shortcomings, Mrs. Stones is rather strict, demanding, uses more critique than praise and tolerates no absenteeism or lack of effort.
The body of the essay elaborates the differences in more detail, and it can be organized either through the block method, which gives a complete argumentation of one item, before moving on to the other; or through the alternating method in which you discuss the items in alternation on specific points of interest. When opting to use the alternating method, you should try to group several similar points together and discuss them as a whole, to avoid the excessively frequent switching from one item to another which can confuse the reader and make your essay seem chaotic and hard to follow. There are some transitional words you can use when comparing two items within the body of your essay: similarly, likewise, correspondingly, equally – to denote similarities, or on the contrary, conversely, contrariwise, in contrast – to denote differences between items.
You do not have to spend equal amounts of time discussing similarities and differences; you can emphasize either of them, depending on your thesis. When writing a comparative analysis essay using the “lens” comparison technique, you will spend far less time on describing the item you use as a lens, then on portraying the other item which is actually in your focus. In this case, you would pick the block method of organizing the body of the essay, since you would not really compare the two items on different points of interest but use the lens item as a key to understanding the true nature of the focus item. Nonetheless, you would need to link each point of discussion back to the thesis and secure a natural flow of ideas in your essay. Here is a segment of a body of an essay that you might use as a reference point:
In comparison to Mr. Danby’s mild, caring and almost fatherly approach, Mrs. Stones is usually somewhat authoritarian and tough on gymnasts. At first glance, it may seem like she could not care less about their personal problems or agendas. Instead, she expects them to give their absolute best in practice while on the other hand, Mr. Danby spends a few minutes at the beginning of each training session listening to the gymnasts’ complaints about excessive school workload or discussing interpersonal problems they might have.
The conclusion section summarizes the critical issues that were discussed in the essay and provides the closing argument, deducing from the evidence presented, and comparisons made throughout the paper. It should not repeat what has already been said or state the obvious but go beyond that to expand the fundamental issues discussed and to invite the reader to think more profoundly about the subject. Then, you should restate the thesis of the essay in the closing section and possibly put into a broader context. Here you can find an example of how a conclusion might look like:
Mr. Danby and Mrs. Stones have distinctly different approaches to coaching high school gymnastics. However, they seem to complement each other and bring out the best in their students. Their approaches are actually the most efficient when combined since their students get provided with care and attention as well as rules and discipline which are all indispensable elements of success. The students look up to both of them, identifying with them and internalizing their best features in an attempt to become as successful as they both used to be in their youth.
To summarize, this is the structure of a comparative analysis essay: