Researchers are often asked to write papers in which you compare and contrast two subjects. It may be texts, theories, historical figures, industrial processes or social media strategies. Here is a guide to high-impact comparative analysis.
Equal Weighting Versus Lens Comparison
In the traditional compare-and-contrast analysis, you weigh the two things equally. You may be comparing similar things that have a small number of critical differences (such as two chemicals with different environmental effects). Or it could be two things that are superficially quite different and yet, when looked at in a certain way, have a surprisingly large number of common features (such as two politicians with different views on a topic but the same policy prescriptions).
An alternative approach is the lens (or keyhole) comparative analysis. Here, you attach different weights to the subjects. You focus on Subject A while drawing comparisons with Subject B. In the same way that looking through prescription glasses changes your perception of an object, using Subject A as a foundation for understanding Subject B changes how you perceive Subject B. Lens comparison has tremendous value when challenging the perception of something that is seen in a simplistic, hackneyed and/or rigid way.
Elements of Comparative Analysis
Readers will not appreciate a mechanical approach in which you do little more than list what two things have in common and which aspects are different. They want a coherent story. To produce this, you need to analyse first and write second. Here are elements of comparative analysis that help produce a captivating read.
1. Frame of Reference
A frame of reference is the context in which you place the two subjects for comparison. It may be a theme, question, problem or theory. A frame of reference is vital for establishing an angle to explain the differences and commonalities between the subjects. It anchors your paper. Without it, what you write may lack focus and purpose.
2. Grounds for Comparing
The grounds for comparison is the reasoning behind your choice of subjects. Why are you comparing these two things in particular? It lets your readers know that your choice is deliberate and the analysis is of significance.
Your thesis is the gist of the argument you are presenting. In comparative analysis, it may be about difference or similarity. What is the relationship (usually contrasting) between Subject A and Subject B? Whereas Subject A has these characteristics, you contend that Subject B …
4. Analytical Structure
Your analysis can be segmented text. This is where you discuss each subject completely one at a time. Otherwise, it may be alternating. This is where you work through a series of points, discussing both subjects in relation to those points.
You can organize a traditional, even-weighted comparative analysis text-by-text or point-by-point. However, in a lens comparison, in which you spend more time on one subject, text-by-text is usually more logical.