Compare and Contrast: How to Write a Research Paper

Papers are a type of school assignments that comprise a variety of different written works conducted by a student. By saying ‘a paper,’ college teachers normally mean one of the following works: article, essay, research, or a report. Normally, the purpose of writing one is to showcase a student’s ability to analyze and synthesize information and demonstrate the comprehension and thorough knowledge on a topic.

Each of the works can be done via different methods that investigate a topic from a particular point of view. One of them is a comparison/contrast paper. Such a paper is research on a topic that usually includes from two to four ideas, which are juxtaposed to determine their similarities and find their differences.

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Even though the method is called compare/contrast, it’s up to a writer to decide, if a paper is going to focus on one of the approaches or combine both of them. So, how to write a research paper comparing and contrasting?

Note: As an example, you may work on a philosophical topic of the types of world perception. For instance, ‘Scientific World Perception against Religious World Perception as a Matter of Modern Dispute.’

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Step 1. Decide on a Topic

Choose a theme that is characterized by a controversy of ideas, which are completely or, at least, mostly opposing. This will facilitate finding information and make your research more involving since you’ll be dealing with polarized subjects.

When your topic is all set, you need to find a subject of the discussion. For instance, if you stick to the issue of philosophy, you may choose a representative of the mentioned above world perceptions like Thomas Aquinas for the religious point of view and Isaac Newton for the scientific one. Mind, you cannot select people or ideas from different eras since their perception has to be based on time and purposes they were embraced by.

Step 2. Determine Properties

Here, you need to outline fundamental thoughts and variations of what you’re going to be working with. Comparing and contrasting mean that you have to find what is similar and what differs between the two perspectives. For this, write down what you think will look like an explicit adversary.

Make sure that you start with what correlates rather than with what opposes. If you’ve got the hang of similarities then finding differences shouldn’t be a problem. Try to select an even number of points for both personas since, for instance, supporting a theological thinker’s ideas with only two arguments whereas a scientific one has four or more is an unfair game, which undermines your objectivity.

When your chart is ready, you need to take a minute and think which perspective appeals to you more and, especially, if there are more the same or opposing ideas. If more arguments disprove then, obviously, it’s more logical to focus your paper on contrasting the two rather than simply comparing. Also, read about how to include pictures in a research paper.

Step 3. Outline a Paper

While writing about a couple of personalities, you can choose one of the two following approaches to how to arrange your paragraphs.

Option 1

Organize your work by introducing the biography, achievements, and ideas of a person one after another, like:

  1. Aquinas’ biography.
  2. Aquinas’ achievements.
  3. Aquinas’ ideas.
  4. Newton’s biography.
  5. Newton’s achievements.
  6. Newton’s ideas.

By using this outline, you introduce the material gradually and smoothly lead a reader from one perspective to another, which prevents people from being confused. On the other hand, while writing in this manner, you can encourage people to forget the information given in the beginning by the time a reader reaches the last abstract.

Option 2

Contrast personas right away by drawing a parallel between/among their data. This is done in the following manner:

  1. Aquinas’ biography.
  2. Newton’s biography.
  3. Aquinas’ achievements.
  4. Newton’s achievements.

This approach is useful in cases when your work is a long piece and comprises a great share of information. And by structuring it this way, you help readers have a balanced input of data.

Step 4. Compose a Paper

A comparing and contrasting research paper has the organization of an argumentative essay, for this, you don’t need to change your way of writing.

However, since this type of work is aimed at persuading people, you need to make sure that they don’t lose a thread of the discussion. You can achieve this by inserting in and filling your text with a set of linking verbs and adverbs like ‘on the contrary, however, on the other hand; yet, (even) though, while; in addition to this, since, etc.

Such a transition will help you organize your work most logically and concisely and avoid confusions.

To sum up, it’s important to underline that when you need to compare and contrast ideas in a paper, you need to follow a simple guide. First of all, find a topic that intrigues you, and determine its collision of ideas. Second of all, make a plan by outlining the main thoughts. Lastly, make sure to keep it structured and coherent. Just follow the tips and best of luck!