University of Houston-Victoria

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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]

  • Portable USB drives are a rising trend among computer users; however, before buying a USB drive, you should make sure that it meets your needs in terms of capacity per cost, sha  e/size and additional features such as textured grip, data storage light and warranty.

 

Alternating Details [evidence]

  • [Detail about A] According to E‐Price Comparisons (2006), the Memorex 512 MB TravelDrive USB 2.0 Flash drive costs approximately $40 to $50, [Detail about B] while the Lexar Media 512 MB JumpDrive Secure USB 2.0 costs approximately $30 to $40.
  • [Detail about A ] The Memorex TravelDrive is slightly larger in size than the Lexar JumpDrive due to its rounded shape, but the Memorex’s weight, at 4.2 ounces, is actually slightly less than [Detail about B ] the Lexar JumpDrive, which maintains the traditional rectangular shape and weighs 4.3 ounces (E‐Price Comparisons 2006).
  • [Detail(s) about A ] The Memorex TravelDrive has a rubber‐textured grip which makes it easy to install; however, it does not have a light to indicate when data storage is occurring (E‐Price Comparisons 2006). [Detail about B ] In contrast, the Lexar JumpDrive does not have the rubber‐textured grip, but features a data protection light which blinks to indicate when data is being stored. Furthermore, according to E‐Price Comparisons (2006), both drives feature a 12‐month warranty on parts and labor.

 

Conculsion section [commentary; conclusion]

  • [Commentary] Both drives are nearly identical in size and storage capacity, so key differences are in cost, shape and additional features. The Memorex TravelDrive costs slightly more than the Lexar JumpDrive, but its shape and rubber grip make it easier on someone who may have difficulty holding onto portable USB drives. [Conclusion] Therefore, it is up to the customer to decide whether the traditional shape of the Lexar JumpDrive is appealing, or whether the more ergonomic features of the Memorex TravelDrive are worth the extra $10.

 

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]

  • Portable USB drives are a rising trend among computer users; however, before buying a USB drive, it is important to make sure that it meets your needs. This paragraph will explore the capacity per cost, shape/size and additional features, including textur  d grip, data storage light and warranty, of the Memorex 512 MB TravelDrive USB 2.0 Flash and the Lexar Media 512 MB Jump  rive Secure USB 2.0.

 

Option-by-Option Approach [evidence]

  • [Detail about A] According to E‐Price Comparisons (2006), the Memorex 512 MB TravelDrive USB 2.0 Flash drive costs approximately $40 to $50. It is slightly larger than other drives due to its rounded shape, but its weight, at 4.2 ounces, is actually quite similar to that of the traditionally‐shaped rectangular drives. Additionally, the Memorex TravelDrive has a rubber‐textured grip which makes it easy to install, but it does not have a data storage‐indicator light. This drive features a 12‐month warranty on parts and labor (E‐Price Comparisons, 2006).
  • [ Detail about B ] In contrast to the Memorex’s $40 to $50 price tag, the Lexar Media 512 MB JumpDrive Secure USB 2.0 costs approximately $30 to $40 (E‐Price Comparisons, 2006). This drive features a traditional rectangular shape and weighs in at 4.3 ounces. Although the Lexar JumpDrive does not have the rubber‐ textured grip, it features a data protection light which blinks to indicate when data is being stored. This drive also features a 12‐month warranty on parts and labor (E‐Price Comparisons 2006).

 

Conculsion section [commentary; conclusion] 

  • [Commentary] Both drives are nearly identical in size and storage capacity, so key differences are in cost, shape and additional features. The Memorex TravelDrive costs slightly more than the Lexar JumpDrive, but its shape and rubber grip make it easier on someone who may have difficulty holding onto portable USB drives.

    [Conclusion] Therefore, it is up to the customer to decide whether the traditional shape of the Lexar JumpDrive is appealing, or whether the more ergonomic features of the Memorex TravelDrive are worth the extra $10.

 

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.