Creating a Thesis for the Compare/Contrast Essay
Once you have decided what your overall point will be, you must refine that point to create a clear, focused thesis statement. A good thesis is a debatable point, a proposition that is not self-evidently true. You must avoid the temptation to say something safe, something no one could disagree with. A good thesis reveals patterns that others have overlooked. If you are writing a compare/contrast essay about a single work of literature, you are trying to show how a pattern of parallels and differences illuminates the meaning of the work. If you are comparing and contrasting two works of literature, you are trying to show how the parallels and differences illuminate the meanings of each work or clarify the category of literature to which each belongs. In all cases, make sure your thesis presents a strong, focused argument, not a bland, general statement. Go beyond mere observation.
Say you are still comparing/contrasting two of your teachers, Sally Strict and Larry Lax. Given the results of your brainstorming, here is one possible thesis statement:
Although Sally Strict & Larry Lax are both respected teachers at our school, their teaching styles and expectations for students differ significantly. While Ms. Strict maintains a highly structured classroom atmosphere to keep her pupils disciplined and motivated, Mr. Lax downplays structure in order to allow his students to push themselves.
Click here for some sample thesis statements for a literary compare/contrast essay.
Now that you have a focused thesis for your essay, you can start organizing your main argument with an outline. If you need to develop more details, you can elaborate on your thesis by practicing "showing not telling."
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About this page:
These materials were originally created as handouts by the English Department.