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ENC 1101: Composition - Professor Miranda: Compare & Contrast Essay

This guide was created to support Professor Miranda's ENC 1101 course

Typewriter with ENC 1101 and the word Composition

The Assignment

Compare and Contrast 2 Historical Figures 

  • Include at least 3 fully typed and MLA-formatted essay pages (about 1,100 words) for the final draft. 
  • Use the MDC databases to help with your search.
  • You may use other databases through the MDC Libraries link to find at least 3 outside sources (minimnum of 1 for each person), but do not use or cite Wikipedia. 
  • Include MLA format (Heading and Header) with a Works Cited page at the end listing at least 3 outside sources (minimum of 1 for each person). 


Conventions of Historic Writing

  • History papers are always written in past tense
  • 1960s not 1960's
  • Do not use first person or second person (I, we, you, us). Unless stating an opinion, the paper should be fact-based and objective
  • No contractions
  • Do not use fragments or run-on sentences
  • A full paragraph is at least 3-5 sentences 
  • Paragraphs should not be more than about 3/4 of a page.  A one-page or one-and-a-half page paragraph is too long
  • Do not use abbreviations
  • Do not use slang
  • Be specific; do not use words such as thing, a lot, get, so, like
  • Spell out numbers that can be written as one or two words (Ex: "three" or "thirty-three")

Compare & Contrast Essays

Compare and contrast essays ask the writer to focus on the similarities and differences of two elements or ideas. In this case, the focus is on two historical figures. Begin by asking yourself questions about each person:

  • Where were they from? In what period did they live?
  • What was their race, gender, or class?
  • What was their upbringing, education, or occupation?
  • Why are they a noted figure? What was their contribution to history?

Organize the information to show patterns of similarities or differences.  Examples would include a T-chart or Venn diagram.  Focus on what is most important about these people: their similarities or their differences.  

There are two main ways to organize a compare and contrast essay.  The first format is a subject-by-subject analysis. This essay would address historical figure one, then historical figure two, followed by an analysis of the major similarities and differences. The second format would be a point-by-point analysis organized by defining characteristic. 

Adapted from the University of North Carolina Writing Center 

Selecting Historical Figures

What is your general area of interest? Is there a historical figure that comes to mind when you think of this topic? Can you relate that historical figure to another through a unifying idea or concept?

  • For example, Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States through the First and Second World Wars, respectively. How was their leadership similar or different? 

The key to writing a successful compare and contrast essay is to connect the subjects in a meaningful way. 

Adapted from the University of Minnesota Libraries

Content of the Compare and Contrast Essay

  • Paragraph 1: Introduction with thesis statement. In your introduction, briefly explain or summarize the subject, book, or figures.  
    • For the compare and contrast essay, introduce us to the two historical figures you selected.
    • A thesis statement is an argument. What is your position? How can you prove your position?
  • Paragraphs, 2, 3, 4: Body.  Prove your argument with specific examples and evidence. 
    • For the compare and contrast essay, if using the subject-by-subject format, paragraph two would be historical figure one and paragraph three would be historical figure two. The fourth paragraph would tie the two together with your unifying theme.
    • If you are using a point-by-point compare and contrast format, paragraphs two, three, and four would each be different ideas within your unifying theme.
  • Paragraph 5: Conclusion.  Restate your main points and why they are important.