Basic Academic Writing
Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas. To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you’re considering. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common. Example:
1. Write each topic name above one of the circles. List attributes or qualities of that topic in the circle, placing any shared qualities in the overlapping section. Be specific and use details. 2. Review the lists and identify three categories or aspects that describe these details. 3. Then choose one option (point by point or block method) to structure your essay.
The thesis of your comparison/contrast paper is very important: it can help you create a focused argument and give your reader a road map so she/he doesn’t get lost in the sea of points you are about to make. As in any paper, you will want to replace vague reports of your general topic (for example, “This paper will compare and contrast two pizza places,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in some ways and different in others,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in many ways, but they have one major difference”) with something more detailed and specific. For example, you might say, “Pepper’s and Amante have similar prices and ingredients, but their atmospheres and willingness to deliver set them apart.” Be careful, though—although this thesis is fairly specific and does propose a simple argument (that atmosphere and delivery make the two pizza places different), your instructor will often be looking for a bit more analysis.
In this case, the obvious question is “So what? Why should anyone care that Pepper’s and Amante are different in this way?” One might also wonder why the writer chose those two particular pizza places to compare—why not Papa John’s, Dominos, or Pizza Hut? Again, thinking about the context the class provides may help you answer such questions and make a stronger argument. Here’s a revision of the thesis mentioned earlier: Pepper’s and Amante both offer a greater variety of ingredients than other Chapel Hill/Carrboro pizza places (and than any of the national chains), but the funky, lively atmosphere at Pepper’s makes it a better place to give visiting friends and family a taste of local culture.
How do I know if my thesis is strong?
If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following:
Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument. Is my thesis statement specific enough?
Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue. Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s o.k. to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary. Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.
Example of Comparison-Contrast Essay
The Similarities and Differences between Public and Private Universities
Malaysia has progressed in many areas since its independence. One significant area that all our past and present leaders have emphasized is education. The drastic growth in the number of universities over the past 20 years signifies this, together with the increasing demand for post-secondary education. Therefore, when public universities faced major challenges in operating within the limitations of the financial aid given by the government, the government not only encouraged private institutions to play a more active role in the higher education industry, but also supported these institutions in their efforts to increase their student intake. In 2006, there were 17 public universities and 21 private universities. Within a year, these numbers ballooned to 20 and 30 respectively. Today, students who wish to pursue higher education are spoilt for choices as there are plenty of courses offered in both public and private universities. However, deciding on which higher education institution to go to, after completing secondary school, is a crucial undertaking. Students need to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of both types of institutions based on the courses available, the course fees charged and the competitiveness of these universities.
Firstly, the types of courses that public and private universities offer vary significantly. Public institutions offer a whole range of courses that cover various aspects of science, business, social sciences and humanities in an ala-carte form. For example, the engineering programmes incorporate all aspects of engineering which include specialised areas such as marine, gas and aeronautical. Likewise, the business programmes in these institutions include various degrees in business administration like Islamic banking and insurance. In contrast, private universities only focus on programmes that have higher market value such as health sciences, religious studies, history and literature are not offered by these universities. This is especially so since they are profit-driven institutions. In fact, private institutions only specialise in certain fields, such as health sciences. University Kuala Lumpur Royal College of Medicine Perak, for example, specialises in medicine, pharmacy, nursing and radiotherapy, while Masterskill University College specialises in nursing, physiotherapy and environmental health, among others. With such vast choices available, students should choose which university to go to and what programme to enrol in wisely.
Another difference between public and private universities lies in the course fees. Even though the roles and responsibilities of both types of institutions are similar, the way they are structured is different. Public universities charge rather modest fees as compared to private universities. The primary reason for this is that public universities are largely funded by the government, as opposed to private universities that are usually privately funded by shareholders. For a public university the high cost involved in managing one is borne by the government. In contrast, private universities manage their institutions through the shareholders’ funds and the revenue they earned. Private universities charge a high fee for their courses as a means of increasing the revenue. The amount charged is normally very much higher compared to that charged by public universities, where the course fees are subsidised by the government. For instance, the fee to study medicine in University Malaya is about RM100 000 whereas in International Medical University (IMU), the fee is about RM350 000. However, since the income per capita of Malaysians has increased; many parents can afford to pay such expensive fees. Moreover, education has become a priority in Malaysia. The government is willing to support these private institutions by making student loans such as those offered by Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional (PTPTN) available for students. This helps to lessen not only parents’ burden, but also the shareholders’.
Despite these differences, public and private universities are similar in being competitive in nature. They compete to be the best educational institution in their respective fields of study. Both types of institutions strive to stay abreast to sustain their position in the education industry. The benchmark has been raised very high so that every university has to be sensitive to their customers’ needs. Most universities have made wi-fi connections available around their campus and have upgraded facilities such as computer laboratories, hostels, cafeterias and transportation. Apart from that, these universities also recruit the best faculty staff to make the teaching and learning process an exciting journey. In addition, these universities advertise their annual graduation ceremonies and highlight their top academic achievers to maintain their name and ranking among the top universities. All these criteria have become the yardstick for universities to measure their reputation as world-class education institutions.
There is paradigm shift today in the way parents and children regard education. Parents nowadays are sending their children to higher education institutions so that they could obtain a minimum university qualification. Students take up university courses not only to obtain wisdom and knowledge, but also to acquire the expertise and qualifications needed to compete in today’s knowledge-based economy. Thus, it is up to the students to compare the similarities and differences between a public university and a private university before deciding which institution to pursue their tertiary education in.