Writing a Comparison/Critical Analysis Essay

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Writing a Comparison/Critical Analysis Essay
Picking a Topic
The most difficult task is deciding where to start. Your professor may have given you a book review
assignment, a short essay assignment, or an in-class exam and asked you to critique, or to compare
and contrast, information. Writing a comparison essay, though, requires more than just listing similarities
and differences; you must tell your reader why these similarities and differences are important.
First, you must pick a few topics that you want to compare and contrast. Make a list of topics
compiled from each source. Next, decide which topic you would like to discuss. If you are given
articles about climate change in Alberta, for example, you might want to discuss glacier, rainfall, and
snowfall patterns. Keep in mind that you are looking for topics that most or all of your sources
discuss, not just one source (there wouldn't be much to compare, would there?).
Use this chart to help you plan your topics
Possible Topics
Source 1:
Source 2:
Source 3:
Source 4:
Fill in the spaces with any interesting topics you might come across, and fill in the name of each
source. You might also want to write down page numbers, so that you don't lose track of where your
topics come from.
Once you find a few topics that appear in all of your sources, you can start to compare and contrast
Revised September 2014
Comparing and Contrasting
Now that you've chosen a topic, you can weigh them against each other. These are some of the
questions you might want to ask yourself as you return to your sources: Do all sources agree? If not,
why? How does each source approach each topic?
Here is another chart to help you organize your comparisons
Topic 1:
Topic 2:
The hard part is finished. Now, you can focus on writing.
Compare and contrast essays tend to follow three basic organization patterns. All three may contain
the same information, but it is presented in a different manner. In the first method, the writer follows
this basic pattern:
Body Paragraph(s) A - presents all the information about Topic 1
Body Paragraph(s) B - presents all the information about Topic 2
The second method involves alternating within each paragraph. It is organized as follows:
Body Paragraph – about one aspect of the comparison
Topic 1, Topic 2, Topic 1, Topic 2
Body Paragraph – about another aspect of the comparison
Topic 1, Topic 2, Topic 1, Topic 2
The third method is a combination of the above methods.
Don’t forget that you need to explain why these similarities and differences are important. If two
sources agree on one topic and disagree on another, you can discuss why this is a significant
observation. If two or more papers agree about a single topic, but come to different conclusions, this
is also something to address. Ultimately, it is up to you to choose what is important or not, but
hopefully this guide has made it easier for you to complete.