comparison research paper

Comparison research paper

Your academic career, you'll be asked to write papers in which you compare and contrast two things: two texts, two theories, two historical figures, two scientific processes, and so on.

Classic" compare-and-contrast papers, in which you weight a and b equally, may be about two similar things that have crucial differences (two pesticides with different effects on the environment) or two similar things that have crucial differences, yet turn out to have surprising commonalities (two politicians with vastly different world views who voice unexpectedly similar perspectives on sexual harassment).

The "lens" (or "keyhole") comparison, in which you weight a less heavily than b, you use a as a lens through which to view b.

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Lens comparisons are useful for illuminating, critiquing, or challenging the stability of a thing that, before the analysis, seemed perfectly understood.

Often, lens comparisons take time into account: earlier texts, events, or historical figures may illuminate later ones, and vice with a daunting list of seemingly unrelated similarities and differences, you may feel confused about how to construct a paper that isn't just a mechanical exercise in which you first state all the features that a and b have in common, and then state all the ways in which a and b are different.

Predictably, the thesis of such a paper is usually an assertion that a and b are very similar yet not so similar after all.

To write a good compare-and-contrast paper, you must take your raw data—the similarities and differences you've observed—and make them cohere into a meaningful argument. Thus, in a paper comparing how two writers redefine social norms of masculinity, you would be better off quoting a sociologist on the topic of masculinity than spinning out potentially banal-sounding theories of your own.

A paper without such a context would have no angle on the material, no focus or frame for the writer to propose a meaningful s for comparison.

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Let's say you're writing a paper on global food distribution, and you've chosen to compare apples and oranges.

The rationale behind your choice, the grounds for comparison, lets your reader know why your choice is deliberate and meaningful, not random.

For instance, in a paper asking how the "discourse of domesticity" has been used in the abortion debate, the grounds for comparison are obvious; the issue has two conflicting sides, pro-choice and pro-life.

In a paper comparing the effects of acid rain on two forest sites, your choice of sites is less obvious.

A paper focusing on similarly aged forest stands in maine and the catskills will be set up differently from one comparing a new forest stand in the white mountains with an old forest in the same region. As in any argumentative paper, your thesis statement will convey the gist of your argument, which necessarily follows from your frame of reference. In the most common compare-and-contrast paper—one focusing on differences—you can indicate the precise relationship between a and b by using the word "whereas" in your thesis:Whereas camus perceives ideology as secondary to the need to address a specific historical moment of colonialism, fanon perceives a revolutionary ideology as the impetus to reshape algeria's history in a direction toward r your paper focuses primarily on difference or similarity, you need to make the relationship between a and b clear in your thesis.


In fact, your paper will be more interesting if you get to the heart of your argument as quickly as possible. Thus, a paper on two evolutionary theorists' different interpretations of specific archaeological findings might have as few as two or three sentences in the introduction on similarities and at most a paragraph or two to set up the contrast between the theorists' positions. The rest of the paper, whether organized text- by-text or point-by-point, will treat the two theorists' can organize a classic compare-and-contrast paper either text-by-text or point-by-point. But in a "lens" comparison, in which you spend significantly less time on a (the lens) than on b (the focal text), you almost always organize text-by-text. All argumentative papers require you to link each point in the argument back to the thesis. In a compare-and contrast, you also need to make links between a and b in the body of your essay if you want your paper to hold together. To make these links, use transitional expressions of comparison and contrast (similarly, moreover, likewise, on the contrary, conversely, on the other hand) and contrastive vocabulary (in the example below, southerner/northerner).


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