Skip to main content
Jaguar Logo

Curriculum and Student Achievement

Comparison-Contrast Paragraphs

Drafting Body Paragraphs: Purpose-Based Organization Strategies Comparison-Contrast

There are several different organizational strategies designed  for specific types of body paragraphs, including cause-effect,  problem-solution, comparison-contrast and  chronological. You must identify the purpose of the paragraph before you begin writing and  then  seek out the appropriate organizational strategy for writing a paragraph with that specific purpose. This handout discusses  the comparison-contrast strategy in detail.

First, there’s one thing you should  know about  this handout and  its connection to another Academic  Center handout. This handout is best used in conjunction with  the Academic  Center handout Drafting Body Paragraphs: CECC:  An Internal  Organization Strategy, which discusses  a method of paragraph development that focuses on claim, evidence,  commentary and  conclusion. The  CECC  method accounts for the  labeling  in brackets of the  example  paragraphs in this  handout. These  labels in brackets are merely meant to show how each purpose-based organization strategy also corresponds with  the CECC  method.

The  comparison-contrast pattern is used to discuss  the similarities and/or  differences  between two or more ideas or occurrences in order  to reveal a certain point about  these  ideas or occurrences. The  point may be that one option is better than the other, that they are both  equal, or that under specific conditions one option is better than another. Regardless of the point that is expressed,  the comparison-contrast style of paragraph will follow a pattern which will be discussed within the examples  in this  section of the handout.

A comparison-contrast paragraph or paragraph block may have one of three  purposes: to present only comparison information, to present only contrast information, or to present both  types of information. However,  regardless of what specific purpose the paragraph has,  it may be organized in either  of two ways: alternating details  or option-by-option.

A paragraph block is a series of several paragraphs which share  the same topic  sentence. The  paragraph block has the same basic function as a single paragraph – to explore a main idea in detail. A paragraph block is used when the main  idea being covered features several different components or is especially detailed. The  paragraph block will still  follow the same organizational pattern; the content will just  be revealed over the course of several paragraphs rather than contained within a single paragraph.

The  first  method for organizing comparison and/or  contrast information is known  as alternating details  because when providing a detail  about  the cost of option A, a detail  about the cost of option B immediately follows. This pattern is also known as the AB, AB, AB pattern. In the example  included below, it is quite  easy to see how the information alternates:

Topic sentence(s) [claim]


Alternating Details [evidence]


Conculsion section [commentary; conclusion]


The  alternating details  approach often  works well. However,  you may wish to explore the information in sections or “chunks” using  the option-by-option approach instead. This  type of pattern will present all of the details about option A before presenting any of the details  about option B. Therefore, the pattern will look like this:  AAA, BBB.


Topic sentence(s) [claim]


Option-by-Option Approach [evidence]


Conculsion section [commentary; conclusion] 


Note  that either of the strategies, alternating details  or option-by-option, can be used for the same information when writing a comparison-contrast paragraph, paragraph block or entire paper.  You should  simply  determine which pattern better suits  your readers’  needs.

Furthermore, not  only is the cause and  effect pattern present, but  you are also able to see the components of the CECC pattern emerging. The  nature of the comparison-contrast method does not  allow the exact same amount of space to be devoted  to both  evidence and  commentary. Usually, in this  type of paragraph, several pieces of evidence,  in this  case evidence from E-Price Comparisons, appear  in a cluster which is purely  descriptive – no commentary should  be included in this  portion of the paragraph. The  commentary on all of the evidence is generally delayed until the conclusion section of the paragraph where the writer  is free to express his/her opinions. More information on providing and signaling commentary is available  in our handout Signal Your Commentary on Source Material.

Although this  handout discussed the comparison-contrast approach to paragraph organization, there  are many  other  methods you can use to organize  information within a specific paragraph. Additionally, while the information presented in this  handout is tailored toward  paragraph development, this  organizational strategies discussed can be applied  as overall organization strategies for research  papers  or can be used as organization strategies for paragraph blocks within a larger  paper.


Copyright 2008 by the Academic  Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, and  Candice  Chovanec  Melzow. Created 2007 by Candice  Chovanec  Melzow.