Instructional Materials for Craig White's Literature Courses


Overall / Block or Point-by-Point

Comparing and contrasting are among people's most basic critical thinking skills, so these processes appear naturally and prominently in academic and policy analysis.

Two standard formats or organizations for comparing & contrastingóbut essays frequently mix the two or play variations on either. (They're not iron-bound formats as much as opportunities to keep in mind.)

The table below outlines two different organizations for an essay comparing a vacation in the mountains with a vacation at the beach.

(part of essay)

Overall or Block



preview subject / "they say"
> background,  argument, line of reasoning; indicate organization?
> thesis: either your decision or how to make a decision

preview subject / "they say"
> background,  argument, line of reasoning; indicate organization?
> thesis: either your decision or how to make a decision


Primary headings = objects of comparison

first body paragraph(s): the Mountains > sub-points

climate (fresh air, cool nights, low humidity)

things to do / attractions  (hikes, scenery, crafts)

location (near / far; ease of travel)

following body paragraph(s): the Beach > sub-points

climate (sun, salt air, refreshing breezes)

things to do / attractions (water sports, leisure, parties)

location (near / far; ease of travel)


Primary headings = points of comparison

first body paragraph(s): Climate

mountains (fresh air, cool nights, low humidity)

beach (sun, salt air, refreshing breezes)

next body paragraph(s): things to do / attractions

mountains (hikes, scenery, crafts)

beach (water sports, leisure, parties)

concluding body paragraph(s): location

mountains (near / far; ease of travel)

beach (near / far; ease of travel)

Conclusion overall summary of evidence and judgment (indicated earlier but enriched & re-emphasized here) overall summary of evidence and judgment (indicated earlier but enriched & re-emphasized here)

adapted from with thanks to

Example of Overall / Block Comparison Essay

Stick Shift or Automatic?

Why are stick shift cars so popular anyway? They are more difficult to drive, and you must be skilled to drive them. Why not choose an automatic easy ride, which can turn your driving in to comfort, especially while driving in heavy traffic? [<subject] If this is what you think, you must read this essay before you make up your mind. The purpose of this essay is to contrast stick shift transmission cars with automatic transmission cars. [thesis >] People who drive stick shift cars know the difference and the advantages of having total control of your car engine [<thesis]; people who drive cars with automatic transmissions do not.

Cars with automatic transmissions [<paragraph topic] are a great way to drive around because they do not require much driving skill [<thesis-connection]. People who donít like to drive usually will choose an automatic transmission which is one of the main problems. People who drive cars with automatic transmissions often do not pay as much attention as they should. Cars with automatic transmissions have improved through modern chips that have developed better shifting and response with the driver just pressing on the gas. However, they are not as much fun because they are not as challenging. Race cars, for example, do not use automatic transmissions.

Stick shift cars [< paragraph topic] need skilled driving which has advantages [<thesis-connection]. Cars with Stick shifts are very fuel efficient. Cars with a stick shift will respond better to the driver which makes them safer. People who are used to shifting gears will focus more on their driving making it more efficient and safe. When a driver shifts a gear down to reduce their speed, they are actually saving on brake repairs. Cars with stick shifts have more power, and tend to respond better when you accelerate. Another reason for driving stick shifts is that it is just more fun! Stick shifts will make your driving more interesting. Race drivers use the stick shift to take driving to a higher level for maximum performance. [<"summarizing sentence" reinforces topic sentence]

Your personality will make you decide which is better. Cars are made for driving, and driving must be fun. While driving a car with an automatic transmission will be easier and comfortable, driving a car with a stick shift will make you a better driver with a better performance. Driving an automatic is just a part of driving that corresponds to leading the car. However, driving a stick shift will make the driver control the machine [<thesis reinforced]. Always remember to drive safely and buckle up! [neutral-sounding exit-line]

Example of Point-by-Point Comparison Essay

Consuming Fresh Foods Instead of Canned Foods

[This example is a classic 5-paragraph essay w/ 3-item checklist thesis.]

Eating [< essay subject] is an activity that we as humans do at least two times a day. We live in a world where the variety of food is immense, and we are responsible for what we eat. We decide what we are about to eat and how it will affect our bodies. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast the differences between eating fresh foods instead of canned foods. The three main differences are flavor, health benefits, and cost. [<classic (boring) 3-item thesis statement]

The most notable difference between these two kinds of foods is their flavor [<topic of topic sentence]. Fresh foods have great flavor and taste because they keep all their natural conditions. Canned foods however, lack a lot of its flavor characteristics because there are some other chemical products added to the natural foods. It is logical that the fresh foods will have a greater taste and flavor when consumed just because of the time in which they have been prepared.

Comparing both types of foods we notice [transition>] another difference [<thesis connection]. There is a health factor [<topic of topic sentence] that affects both of them. Canned foods lose some of the original fresh food nutrients when stored, and also it has to be tinned with many conservatives and chemical factors that prolong the shelf life and apparent freshness of the food but could also become toxic if consumed too often.

[transition>] Yet another difference [<thesis connection] between these two types of foods is the cost [<topic of topic sentence]. Canned foods are much more expensive than fresh foods. Here the benefit of buying tinned foods is that they are easier to find, for example, in a supermarket instead of the market like the fresh foods, and they require less work to prepare than fresh foods, just open and serve.

[conclusion as summary and reinforcement of thesis>] Here are the main three differences between buying fresh foods and buying canned foods. As we can see it comes down to a personal choice, based on the time each person has, the money and the importance he/she gives to his/her nutrition and health. Therefore it is important that you consider your possibilities and choose the best type of foods for your convenience and lifestyle.