5 Paragraph Compare And Contrast Essay Template For Apa

How to Write an Effective Compare and Contrast Paper

While you may believe that a compare and contrast paper is the easiest type to write by simply comparing things that are alike and things that are different, there’s more to it than that. The whole point of the exercise is to have you explain why the similarities and differences matter. Your ultimate goal is to create meaningful connections to a larger issue, using your comparisons or contrasts as a means to argue a case. Your professors may ask you to find the differences or similarities between two things, or they may ask for the differences and similarities. Once your subject has been defined, create your thesis statement containing the idea or claim that unites the discussion and includes the argument that you are making in support of the claim.

Choose Your Organizational Style

You can arrange your ideas in a compare and contrast paper using either the alternating or tandem style. There is no rule about selecting one method over another, but for papers over five or six pages you should probably use the alternating style. This will help the reader follow the pertinent information about each side of your argument more easily. The tandem pattern is suitable for shorter papers.

The Alternating Style

This style is also known as the point-by-point style and is usually written in five or more paragraphs. Let’s suppose you are writing a paper comparing the differences between attending a major university versus a local community college. Start with your opening paragraph, which will include your thesis. Then write a paragraph about the first difference between the university and the community college in the same sentence. For example, a sizable university may offer a prestigious course study while a community college may provide a smaller class size and more affordable tuition. Discuss the point, comparing backwards and forwards between the university and the community college in each sentence. The following paragraph will address the next difference or similarity. Use as many paragraphs as you need to discuss each point.

The Tandem Style

The tandem style of organization, also known as the block style, is often written in four paragraphs. To demonstrate, let’s use our example of comparing attending a major university versus a local community college. When using the tandem style, start with your opening paragraph, which again must include your thesis. Then, write about attending the university in the second paragraph and enrolling in the community college in the third. Any point you make in the paragraph about the university you must also make in the paragraph about the community college and in the same order. For example, you may discuss the large class size of a major university in one paragraph followed by a paragraph discussing the smaller class sizes of a community college. Finish with your concluding paragraph, which generally reaffirms your thesis in new words and demonstrates how you’ve proven it.

Support your analysis by providing textual support for each point you address. You can either use direct quotes from text or you can paraphrase, but you must remember to cite each source correctly. A compare and contrast paper often requires that you use the MLA formatting style. However, make sure you confirm which citation style your professor requires. If you aren’t up to speed on the latest MLA formatting guidelines, there is software available for you to apply the most current guidelines with just a couple of clicks of your mouse, helping you to avoid any deduction in points for formatting issues.

David Plaut

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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Sally Baggett holds a master’s in literature. She enjoys inspiring students, cooking with her family, and helping others achieve their dreams.


Just like there is more than one way to skin a cat (or so they say), there is more than one way to write an essay. One is not required to produce a perfectly formatted five-paragraph essay every time one composes a piece of writing. There is another type of essay you can write that may just be simpler than the traditional style: the three-paragraph essay. This type of essay might be beneficial for beginning writers as it offers the organizational structure of a longer essay without requiring the length. It also offers a challenge to more advanced writers to condense their points.

The Parts of the Essay and Its Benefits

As with most essays, the three-paragraph essay has three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Yet with this type of essay–unlike its five-paragraph counterpart–each one of these sections has only one paragraph. The three-paragraph essay, therefore, might be ideal for young writers or those who are currently mastering the English language.

Another benefit to the three-paragraph essay could be that it requires you to condense your supporting points into just one, which can be a good exercise. If you had to choose only one point to convince a reader to agree with you, what would it be?

After performing some light prewriting, such as brainstorming or writing an outline, students can move right into composing the essay. While this process is similar across the board for writing academic papers, the three-paragraph essay is unique in that the body will take up less space in the finished product.

 

An outline for this essay might look like this:

  1. Introduction Paragraph
    1. Hook
    2. Background Points
    3. Thesis Statement
  2. Body Paragraph
    1. Topic Sentence
      1. Supporting fact 1
      2. Supporting fact 2
    2. Transition Sentence
  3. Conclusion Paragraph
    1. Re-statement of Thesis
    2. Summary of Main Point
    3. Challenge to the Reader

Paragraph One: Introduction

As with most formal essays, the three-paragraph essay begins with an introduction paragraph. Such paragraphs must, obviously, introduce the reader to your idea and, in most cases, convince the reader that this essay is worth reading. To craft a strong introduction, be sure to open with a solid hook. You want to draw in readers so they are compelled to engage with your writing.

A hook can be something compelling such as a question, a powerful quote, or an interesting fact. Introduction paragraphs also usually contain background information that assists the reader in understanding your topic, perhaps defining it or explaining an important part. Finally, you want to include a thesis statement. Even though your essay only has three paragraphs, there still needs to be a purpose to the writing.

 

You could structure your introduction paragraph according to this outline:

  1. Introduction Paragraph
    1. Hook: Is there no solution for dumping waste in the ocean?
    2. Background Points
      1. Explain why trash is dumped in the ocean
      2. Statistics about dumping trash in the ocean
    3. Thesis Statement: Dumping waste in the ocean is a problem because it spells disaster for the ecosystem, leading to problems on land.

This structure is not mandatory, though it might be useful in the long run for organizing your thoughts.

 

Paragraph Two: Body

The second paragraph, as we have discussed, is the one and only body paragraph. This paragraph bears the burden of communicating support for the thesis statement all on its own. As such, it may take more than one rough draft to get this paragraph to communicate everything you want it to.

Your body paragraph needs to underscore the thesis statement. Create a topic sentence for this body paragraph that communicates this and also transitions from the introduction into the body. For example, your body paragraph topic sentence based on the outline above could be:

One of those problems might play itself out as food scarcity where humans live.

This topic sentence reiterates the thesis and moves the reader into a body paragraph that contains a supporting point: that damage to the ocean’s ecosystem could lead to food scarcity. Within the body paragraph, you can quote different sources that support this point.

Again, this paragraph does not have room to contain everything that a full five-paragraph essay might. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in some strong evidence to convince your reader to see your perspective, such as is accomplished through quotes and analysis. Don’t forget to end with a strong transition sentence to move the reader seamlessly into the conclusion.

 

Paragraph Three: Conclusion

The final paragraph in an essay is usually the conclusion. The three-paragraph essay is no exception. In this essay, the conclusion can be just as long as the other two paragraphs, and it can drive home the point made in the thesis statement and body paragraph. As with most conclusion paragraphs, this paragraph ought to restate the thesis in different words. It should then summarize what was stated in the body paragraph before challenging the reader in some way, whether in thought or action.

Editing Before Turning It In

One thing to be sure of in this type of essay (as in any other) is to polish it. Make it flow well. In other words, revise it!

Before beginning the revision process, take a break from your writing so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Once you start revising, hunt not only for grammar and punctuation errors but for ways to make the writing flow better. Take a look at the sentences at the beginning and end of each paragraph. Do these sentences contain transition words? Do these paragraphs link to each other? Transition words or phrases like “Likewise,” “In spite of,” or “In addition to” can ensure that your paragraphs are coherent. There are also other services that will automatically proofread you paper.

If you used any sources (i.e. websites, books, videos, etc.) to help support your points and write your paper, you need to cite them! Most teachers will ask you to create a bibliography in MLA format. Others may have you one in APA format, or create references in Chicago style. Ask your teacher for guidance on what citation style they prefer.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget that you aren’t limited to using this type of essay for just persuasion. You can also use it to relate a narrative tale, using the three parts as the beginning, middle, and end of a story. You can use this to craft an informative essay. See if other types of essays–such as a process analysis or an evaluation–will fit inside the three-paragraph essay format.

In many ways, the three-paragraph essay is similar to the five-paragraph essay. They both make a solid point using an introduction, body, and conclusion. This simpler essay only requires that you condense your points into one body paragraph, perhaps only one supporting point, before reaching a conclusion. Again, this can make a good exercise for beginning English writers, but can also make a challenge for a more advanced writer to select their strongest supporting points.

 

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