“Drawing comparisons” is one of the most common kinds of thinking and writing that you will do in a university. How is A similar to, and different from B? Mastering this kind of writing will not only help you in an English class, but in any humanities class where you have to examine facts, ideas, opinions or predictions.
The topic you choose for your comparison essay, therefore, is critical. A good comparison essay should tell the reader something that is not obvious:
- The differences between two subjects that look very similar, or
- The similarities between two subjects that look very different.
For example, J-Pop and K-Pop seem very similar (at least to this reader!) I would be interested in an article that explained how they were, OMG, so very different. On the other had, an elephant and a mouse are very different. An interesting comparison essay would show us the similarities.
Apples and Oranges
There’s an expression in English that means you shouldn’t compare things that are too different from each other: “You can’t compare apples and oranges.”
I despise this expression.
Of course you can compare apples and oranges, because they are both common fruit. In fact, when you are shopping for groceries, you might want some fruit and have to decide between the apples and the oranges–which look better today?
The more significant point, however, is that you should be careful making unfair or illogical comparisons. For example, it might be unfair to criticize the Obiyamachi shopping area when you compare it to Harajuku: “Obiyamachi! Bah! It’s so much less stylish than Harajuku!”
However, it is not illogical to compare them.
Activity 1: As a team, please list five similarities and five differences between Obiyamachi and Harajuku.
Not only is it relatively easy, but it also an interesting way to talk about something important: i.e., the sociological, economic, and cultural differences between rural and metropolitan Japan.
Activity 2 : As a team, please list five similarities and five differences between a baseball bat and misoshiru.
What does such a comparison tell us?
Good Topics and Titles
Activity 3: As a team, decide which of the following might make a good comparison essay? Be ready to explain why.
- Why High School Students Should Work Part-Time
- To Join a Club or Not?
- The Benefits of Exercise
- Commuting by Car vs. Commuting by Bicycle
- The Best Way to Cook Rice
- The Guitar and the Ukulele
- Opening a New Restaurant
- YouTube and Television
- Drunk Driving in University
- A Comparison of the Harry Potter Books and Movies
Homework: write three possible original topics and titles for your comparison essay. Leave your answer in the reply below.