Comparing Or Contrasting

to compare: v. to examine (two or more things, ideas, people, etc.) for the purpose of noting similarities and differences; to consider or describe as similar.

We compare things all the time: this college, city, or state to that; one movie, book, or CD to another; and so on. As we compare, we usually also contrast, noting the differences as well as the similarities in our comparison; thus, the act of comparing includes the act of contrasting as well. In my nonacademic life, I read the magazine Consumer Reports regularly

Comparing or Contrasting 89

to help me choose one product over another; in my academic life, I read College English to help me choose one theory or interpretation over another.

Throughout your college studies you will be asked to compare and contrast in order to interpret and evaluate; you will do this as often in business, math, and engineering as in history, philosophy, and literature. However, actual comparative essays are more common in the latter, more interpretive disciplines than in the former, more quantitative ones. For purposes of essay writing, you should be aware of particular types of comparison as well as good methods for doing it.

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