Identifying a Comparison Made in a Reading

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify subjects being compared.
  • Identify points of comparison used in the comparison.
  • Distinguish between subject-by-subject and point-by-point comparisons.

LESSON
Being able to identify a comparisonA discussion of two or more things based on the categories of characteristics they share. Written comparisons must include both the subjects being compared and the similarities and/or differences between the subjects. in a readingA piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage). is a skill that you can use to help you read more efficiently and effectively. Comparison articlesA non-fiction, often informative writing that forms a part of a publication, such as a magazine or newspaper. and essaysA 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. are arranged in logical patterns. This lesson will help you identify the two major elements of a comparative reading as well as the two organizational strategiesA plan for arranging the structure of an outline or essay. There are many different strategies, such as point-by-point, subject-by-subject, or order of events. .

All comparisons include subjectsThe people, places, things, or ideas being discussed or described. , which are the people, places, things, or ideas being compared. All comparisons also include the points of comparisonThe criteria by which subjects are compared and/or contrasted., that is, the criteriaThe standards or rules used to decide or judge something. being used to compare the subjects.

To identify the subjects, try the following strategies:

To identify the points of comparison, it is useful to identify the organizational strategy. Once you have figured this out, the criteria will be evident.

Comparisons are arranged in one of two ways, point-by-pointAn organizational strategy for a comparison or compare and contrast essay. In this method, the writer lists the major points of comparison/contrast between subjects, and discusses them one at a time. A point-by-point comparison is useful for subjects that have many points of comparison because the reader can consider both subjects side-by-side. or subject-by-subjectAn organizational strategy for a comparison or compare and contrast essay. In this method, a single subject is discussed in detail, followed by a similar examination of the other subject. A subject-by-subject comparison is best used for less complex arguments that have fewer points, so that the reader can remember the points made about the first subject while learning about the second..

Point-by-point outline

  1. Introductory Paragraph
    1. Hook
    2. Background
    3. Thesis
  2. Body Paragraphs
    1. Point of comparison 1
      1. Subject A
      2. Subject B
    2. Point of comparison 2
      1. Subject A
      2. Subject B
    3. Point of comparison 3
      1. Subject A
      2. Subject B
  3. Concluding Paragraph

 

Subject-by-subject outline

  1. Introductory Paragraph
    1. Hook
    2. Background
    3. Thesis
  2. Body Paragraphs
    1. Subject A
      1. Point of comparison 1
      2. Point of comparison 2
      3. Point of comparison 3
    2. Subject B
      1. Point of comparison 1
      2. Point of comparison 2
      3. Point of comparison 3
  3. Concluding Paragraph

 

Once you have highlighted the subjects in the comparison, it should be clear which organizational strategy the writer used. If it is a point-by-point strategy, the writer will discuss points of comparison, or common aspects, of the two subjects. For example, he or she might discuss the health benefits of apples and oranges, followed by the costs of apples and oranges, and so on.

If it is a subject-by-subject strategy, the writer will first discuss aspects of apples, then discuss parallelUsing the same pattern of words to describe ideas in order to create balance in a writing. Parallel structure can be at the word-, phrase-, clause-, sentence-, and even paragraph-level. aspects of oranges. It is very important that the aspects being discussed are parallel, or the same. If the writer discusses how apples taste, but how oranges look, then that is not a real comparison. It is merely stating facts about each one.

These are simple examples, but think about how they apply to more important ideas. If an advertiser, for example, tries to convince you that one car is better than another, you must be sure that the advertiser is comparing the same aspects. If not, he is not being honest. Likewise, if a writer compares and contrasts two theories about the causes of the Civil War and concludes that one is more accurate, you should make sure that the writer is making parallel comparisons between the two to arrive at this conclusion.

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