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I need help on writing a compare and contrast essay but I don't how to write the body...

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oleander | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 21, 2009 at 7:53 AM via web

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I need help on writing a compare and contrast essay but I don't how to write the body and so on.

i'm writing about two favorite restaurant chili's and olymipa

 

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madelynfair | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 21, 2009 at 9:57 AM (Answer #1)

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I know of two methods of comparison essay organization: block and alternating. But since writing is a process, I would recommend following these steps.

Before you begin structuring your essay, take time to prewrite by brainstorming. When brainstorming, you may want to try a three-column method where you

  • list in the first column all the very specific details you want to compare from Chili's,
  • list in the second column all the very specific details you want to compare from Olympia's (not sure about the spelling),
  • and list in the third column the topics that these details fall under.

For example, let's say you love the chocolate cake at Chili's and the cheesecake at Olympia's. In column 1, list specifics of what makes the chocolate cake great, and in column 2, list specifics of what makes the cheesecake excellent. Then, in column 3, simply write "desserts." The third column is where you use big, comprehensive, and generalizing words, which are the beginnings of a topic sentence. "Desserts" is a general word, but you may wish to go even more general and choose "food" because you have several other areas to compare such as "service," "ambience," etc. These are what I call topical subgroups. Perhaps your instructor has already asked you to compare service, food, ambience, etc, and if so, you essentially already have your topical subgroups. It never hurts to come up with some other areas, should you have your own ideas.

The other two columns need to be filled with evidence, and in the case of restaurant comparison, you definitely want to use sensory detail such as taste, sight, sound, smell, and even touch (texture of the food). It's important to get all these details out in the open and categorized. If you have a few random, stray details, you may decide to toss them, because you realize that you love the music in Chili's but hate the way you can't hear yourself in Olympia's, and while those details fall under "atmosphere" or "ambience," you may not have any other details to explore under that category. (By category, I also mean topical subgroup.) So, you want to know which details matter most to you at this stage and just how many you're dealing with before you commit to block or alternating methods of comparison. Once you know the number and type of topical subgroups you wish to compare, then you can organize your essay.

In the block method of organizing, you will take one topical subgroup such as "service" and compare both restaurants in one paragraph. Then, you will tackle desserts in another paragraph, and so on, talking about both restaurants at once within the paragraph. In other words, you treat each body paragraph as a block where you analyze a certain comparison point or subgroup. You compare and contrast both restaurants on one point (topical subgroup) in that paragraph.

The alternating method asks you to talk only about Chili's service in one paragraph, then in the next paragraph discuss Olympia's service.

It really depends on how many details you have for each topical subgroup and how in depth you wish to go in each area. I don't have a preference myself; I wait to see how many details I can gather before I commit to block or alternating. The alternating method allows you to really "sink your teeth" into one restaurant's topical subgroup at a time and get very detailed in your analysis. In the block method, you're forced to move back and forth between restaurants in one paragraph, and that might be effective if you want to cover one subgroup quickly.

Do remember to mention all topical subgroups in your thesis paragraph, and make sure to be very clear in each body paragraph which topical subgroup is being addressed.

Hope this helps!

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 21, 2009 at 4:41 PM (Answer #2)

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Don't forget to use enotes to help you on this.  Go to the site listed below

When writing the body, you may wish to begin with the strongest comparison or contrast between the two ideas/characters/etc. about which you are writing.  Then, in the next paragraph use a lesser point and so on.  Be sure to use transitional words such as similarly, likewise, in contrast to, unlike, on the other hand, while a is....b is.... to join your ideas. Support, support from the text what you write.

Good luck!

(It has been my experience that most college professors prefer the block method that the above post describes.) 

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