Developing a Thesis for a Compare and Contrast Essay

Learning Objectives:

  • Determine when to use an explanatory thesis or an evaluative thesis for a compare and contrast essay.
  • Develop an explanatory thesis.
  • Develop an evaluative thesis.

Like any essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. , a compare and contrast essayA written discussion of both the similarities and differences between people, objects, or ideas. This type of essay shows how things are alike in some ways (compare) as well as how they are different in other ways (contrast). hinges on an effective thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work.. Without a strong thesis, an essay will be weak and will not convey an effective main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about. for readers. In a compare and contrast essay, you can develop either an explanatory or evaluative thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader?. This lesson will help you differentiate between the two types of thesis statements and give you the tools to develop your own thesis statements.

Explanatory Thesis Statements

An explanatory thesisA statement that explains something without judgment. compares two subjectsThe people, places, things, or ideas being discussed or described. without taking a particular stance on either one. You will use this type of thesis in expository essaysAn essay that explains or describes something with facts and not opinions. How-to guides, timelines, and biographies are all examples of expository writing. and research papers. This type calls attention to the differences and/or similarities between two subjects without biasIn writing, bias indicates a writer's personal prejudice for or against an idea, person, activity, or object. Being objective, or displaying no tendency toward a preference, is the opposite of showing bias.. These points of comparisonThe criteria by which subjects are compared and/or contrasted. should not be obvious, but should surprise or enlighten the reader about something he or she might not have known before. For example, it is very obvious that cats and dogs are different. It might be more interesting for the reader to learn about the many ways that they are the same.

Here are some examples of explanatory thesis statements:

Evaluative Thesis Statements

An evaluative thesisA statement that presents an opinion about the topic., on the other hand, is a claim that provokes opposition. It makes a judgment call. It declares one subject to be better or worse than another. The two subjects are no longer equal.

Here are some examples of evaluative thesis statements:

It is important to understand your assignment in order to know whether you need to develop an explanatory or an evaluative thesis statement. Assignments, sometimes called promptsInstructions for a writing assignment given by an instructor., will be tailored toward one or the other.

The following prompts require explanatory thesis statements because they are asking the writer to compare two things without taking a particular stance on whether one is better or worse.

The following prompts require evaluative thesis statements because they ask the writer to compare the two subjects while taking a position in favor of one over the other.