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How to Start a Comparison Essay: Outline & Thesis

Instructor: Joe Ricker
A comparison essay allows you to share the relationship between two or more topics. Comparison is a good way to determine why something is the best or why something is popular.

On Your Mark

Beginning a paper can be a daunting and time-consuming task. Keep in mind that writing a paper is not a race, but knowing where and how to begin will help keep you organized and save time. While starting a comparison paper might seem like a much easier task to tackle than a cause and effect paper, there are still some things to consider before moving forward with a comparison.

A comparison paper focuses on the similarities between two or more things. This might be a comparison of authors, sports teams, political figures, historical events, etc. Before you start your comparison paper, the most important thing to consider is the basis for comparison.

A Basis for Comparison

The basis for comparison is the reason you are writing the paper. There should be enough similarities among the things being compared to justify writing a comparison paper. If the things you are writing about are far more different than they are alike, you would instead write a contrast or compare/contrast paper. If you're comparing sports teams, for example, you would probably compare teams for the same sport. For example, you might write a paper on how the Red Sox and the Yankees are the best teams in baseball. If you were to write a paper on the best teams, you probably wouldn't write that the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots are the best teams because there are far more differences between them than there are similarities. Instead, you might write which city has the best sports franchises: Boston, New York, Atlanta, etc.

This is how you will identify your thesis or what the paper is about. A thesis typically answers a 'Why' question. For instance, why are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees the best teams in baseball?

Listing the Details

The next step in your comparison paper, before you actually start writing the paper, is to list the details that are worthy of comparison. You'll have to conduct some research to find sources that will validate the details you use in your paper. Since you will be writing a comparison paper, any details that are contrasting or different will be omitted. You'll want to focus solely on the similarities of the items you've chosen for your paper. When you've finished listing all of the details that are related, you'll identify the most interesting and crucial details and move on to the next step, which is creating your outline.

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