Skip to main content
Humanities Libertexts

10.3: Basic Structure

  • Page ID
    4983
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    There are two basic formats for the compare/contrast essay: block or point-by-point. Block divides the essay in half with the first set of paragraphs covering one item, the other set of paragraphs covering the other item. So, if the writer is contrasting a Nikon DSLR with a similar priced Canon DSLR, the first set of paragraphs would cover Nikon and the next set would cover Canon. In point-by-point, the writer would cover the two items alternating in each point of comparison (see examples in outlines below).

    Block Method Point-by-Point Method
    1. Introduction
    2. Nikon D7000
      1. Price
      2. Image Quality
      3. Shutter Speed
      4. The Auto-focus System
    3. Canon 60D
      1. Price
      2. Image Quality
      3. Shutter Speed
      4. The Auto-focus System
    4. Conclusion
    1. Introduction
    2. Price
      1. Nikon D7000
      2. Canon 60D
    3. Image Quality
      1. Nikon D7000
      2. Canon 60D
    4. Shutter Speed
      1. Nikon D7000
      2. Canon 60D
    5. The Auto-focus System
      1. Nikon D7000
      2. Canon 60D
    6. Conclusion

    Introduction

    The introduction is the hook. It is said that first impressions are the most important. This is especially true for essays. Writers only have one opportunity to hook their readers and get them involved, so they need to look at imaginative ways to begin their essays. Some ways to introduce the topic and get the reader involved include telling a story that is related to the topic, ask a question and the thesis answers it, ask a rhetorical question that has no answer but introduces the reader to the subject matter. Usually, the final sentence of the introduction is the thesis statement.

    Begin with Narrative (tell a short story)

    Topic: Contrasting bike frames and componentry.

    Let's say I used to race both mountain and road bikes. If I was writing a contrast essay describing the differences between mountain and road bikes, I could describe what it is like to race down a hill doing 50 mph.

    Begin with a question

    Topic: Choosing the best smartphone.

    Which is better, the Galaxy S5 or the iPhone 5s?

    Begin with a rhetorical question

    Topic: Contrasting two Las Vegas resorts

    Does what happens in Vegas really stay in Vegas?

    Conclusion

    Conclusions address key points in the essay. Tie the introduction to the conclusion: if you used a quote, refer to that quote again and draw more conclusions from the information; if you began with the story, go back to the story to draw final conclusions from it; if you began with a question that can be answered, then return to that question and answer it. Your conclusion should not just restate the thesis; it should comment on the significance of the thesis. What does your reader know now after reading your essay that wasn't known before?

    For more explanation regarding introductions, body paragraphs, conclusions and thesis statements, refer to Chapter 6.

    • Was this article helpful?