A compare and contrast essay can be an essential tool for formulating persuasive arguments as well as for supplying an audience, be they consumers, for example, with pertinent information about two or more objects, events, places, people, and so on. In essence, compare and contrast essays highlight both the similarities and differences between two subjects, whether they’re extremely different or incredibly similar.
A writer must keep in mind that effective compare and contrast essays serve a higher function than merely stating facts. Good ones can shed light on something before unknown, disambiguate misunderstandings, or demonstrate the superiority of one subject over another, all of which is achieved through strong factual arguments.
But how can these arguments be delivered with the most impact? Well, that’s where outlines come in.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: What’s the Point?
Why Outlines Are Important
In order to craft a skillfully impactful essay, it’s imperative to draft a logically sound outline. This will help ensure that the flow of the essay reads smoothly, making the information more accessible to an audience.
A strong compare and contrast essay outline will provide a basic foundation for the writer to reference in order to stay dutifully on message throughout. It is the backbone to the prose, keeping it standing sturdily to the eyes of readers. That’s why you need to know…
How to Create Effective Outlines
Assuming we’re working in a standard, five-paragraph essay format, the most accessible structure to a given audience is fairly routine and commonsensical.
The first paragraph serves as an introduction of the topic to the reader. Specific topics and subjects are typically addressed and defined in this section, followed by a thesis statement that provides a reader with the writer’s overall goal for the essay.
Gripping first sentences are often useful in attracting an audience’s attention, otherwise you risk alienating a sect of potential readers right off the bat, before they even learn what the essay is about.
Paragraphs 2 Through 4
The body paragraphs are where the fine details are delved into. Ideally, each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence that lays out for the reader what aspect of the subject is being compared or contrasted. For instance, if you’re comparing the Moon with the Sun, a body paragraph’s topic sentence might read something like: “The first point to made about the Moon and the Sun is that though both are bodies within our solar system, each serves a drastically different role in relation to Earth.”
Next should follow specific details about one of the subjects as they relate to the topic sentence. Continuing the above Moon/Sun example: “The Moon’s orbit takes it around the Earth, which in turn experiences a number of effects from said orbit, such as the flow of tides.”
After one subject’s details have been discussed, move on to the next subject, showing how it is similar or different from the first subject. This format is repeated for each succeeding body paragraph, the total number of which is determined by the number of aspects being discussed about both subjects. This should keep the space devoted to each subject somewhat equal, which can lend credibility to the essay, preventing the display of an overt bias.
The conclusion is where all the nitty-gritty details come to a head, where the main points are efficiently condensed into an easily digestible summary for the audience. After this reminder of the points, an evaluation should follow. This is another chance for the writer to build a case for the essay’s overall goal. Is one subject better than the other? Is there a reason why everyone should know about both subjects? Last comes a reiteration of the significance of the essay, which should closely follow (but not match exactly) the thesis statement from the introduction. Effective significance statements can be rendered in just one sentence, depending on the complexity of the subjects being compared or contrasted.
Does It Have to Be 5 Paragraphs?
Of course compare and contrast essays do not have to be in five paragraphs. The above paragraphs can easily be converted into multi-paragraph sections, expanded to be as long as the topic at hand demands.
Remember, the above is a guideline and does not need to be swallowed whole. Instead, it should be toyed with to conform to the confines of the topic and the essay writer’s higher goal for the text. Any outline, though, is better than no outline at all, as a building lacking a foundation is liable to crumble in even the weakest of winds.