How to Write a “Compare and Contrast” Essay by Using the Foolproof “Matrix Method”

How to Write Essays

How to Write Compositions

How to Write Education-Related Copy

© Ugur Akinci

Knowing how to structure and write a “compare and contrast” essay is an important advantage for the high school and college students.

A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY:

“Compare and contrast” actually are not two different procedures. They are two facets of the same analysis; the same process. Comparing is contrasting, and vice versa.

If two entities are very similar in a certain way, very similar along a certain dimension, then the comparison does not count as a contrast.

If, on the other hand, the entities differ considerably along the X or Y or some other dimension, then we perceive such comparison as a “contrast.” That’s why contrasting is also comparing by definition. It’s just a matter of degrees; the degree to which the compared entities are similar to one another or differ.

How to Prepare the Matrix

Prepare for your essay by drawing up a matrix that looks like this:

SUBJECT 2
SUBJECT 1Dimension 1Dimension 2Dimension 3Dimension 4Dimension 5
Dimension 1

C & C

Dimension 2

C & C

Dimension 3

C & C

Dimension 4

C & C

Dimension 5

C & C

 

For example, let’s say we’d like to compare and contrast WIND POWER with FOSSIL FUEL POWER.

Let’s also say that we’d like to do our “compare and contrast” along the following 5 dimensions:

  1. Cost
  2. Availability
  3. Environmental Impact
  4. Portability
  5. Politics
The edited matrix would look like this:

FOSSIL FUEL
WIND POWERCostAvailabilityEnvironmental ImpactPortabilityPolitics
Cost

C & C

Availability

C & C

Environmental Impact

C & C

Portability

C & C

Politics

C & C

The cells where the same dimensions intersect (those marked as “C & C”) are the primary points of comparison. Other cells require more imagination for comparison since they represent “apples and oranges” kind of pairs.

For example, it makes immediate sense to compare the cost of wind power and fossil fuel. But to compare the cost of wind power with the environmental impact of fossil fuel requires a more involved argument since the argument rests on different attributes, different dimensions.

An Outline

A “compare and contrast” essay of this type would thus have the following outline:

TITLE: Wind Power and Fossil Fuel: Similarities and Contrasts

INTRODUCTION

THE COST

Wind Power vs. Fossil Fuel

AVAILABILITY

Wind Power vs. Fossil Fuel

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Wind Power vs. Fossil Fuel

PORTABILITY

Wind Power vs. Fossil Fuel

POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Wind Power vs. Fossil Fuel

CONCLUSION

Thanks to matrix, we can focus on rather non-obvious comparisons as well but you should decide whether each comparison makes sense on a case-by-case basis.

Each cell, each row-column intersection of the above table is an opportunity for comparison.

For example, how about the cell at the intersection of Fossil Fuel – Cost column and Window Power – Portability row? Would that make a good juicy comparison or should you let it pass? Only you can decide on that.

The more you know about an issue, the deeper you can go into the matrix and come up with a longer list of comparisons.

The beauty of the matrix is it works as an excellent memory device and prevents you from forgetting any row-column comparisons.

Armed with a solid structure like that, you’ll be able to write your compare-and-contrast article with authority and ease.

Return from How to Write a “Compare and Contrast” Essay by Using the Foolproof “Matrix Method” to How to Write Anything home page

Have a Great Tip, Photo or Comment About This Topic?

Do you have a great tip or photo about this? Something that you believe we should read or see? Contribute and share it today!

Enter Your Title

Tell Us Your Tip or Suggestion![ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]

Add a Picture/Graphic Caption (optional) 

Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

Your Name

(first or full name)

Your Location

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

Check box to agree to these submission guidelines.


(You can preview and edit on the next page)

Ask a Question

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.
First Name*
Last Name
E-Mail Address*
Web Site URL
City
State/Prov
Country
(Write your question here.)*

Please enter the word that you see below.

  

A great at-home business opportunity