A compare and contrast essay is exactly what it says on the tin – it is a relatively short academic assignment dedicated to the comparative analysis of two or more items belonging to more or less the same category. This last detail is important: the items in question should be similar enough for a comparison between them to have meaning. Speaking about logistics, you can compare the way the flow of goods is organized in two international delivery companies or compare the primary approaches in business and military logistics in general. However, a comparison between the ways deliveries are organized in a large retail chain like Target and a small business somewhere in rural Africa is all but meaningless: these organizations exist in completely different environments, face different challenges and operate on different scales. They may belong to the same general type of business, but they are so different that there is no sense in drawing parallels.
Writing a compare and contrast essay in a discipline such as logistics requires deep analysis and careful study of the subject matter, which can be intimidating for many students. However, with the right approach and proper planning there is nothing difficult about this task – in this guide you will find everything you need to complete it with flying colors.
The choice of topic for a compare and contrast essay mostly boils down to the selection of items you intend to juxtapose. As we have already said, the items in question should be sufficiently similar for a comparison to make sense (e.g., they should fall into the same general category), but different enough for there to be enough ground for parallel analysis. E.g., comparing the logistics of two companies of the same size working in the same industry that do not have any important differences is possible, but is not particularly interesting.
After you have settled upon your choice of subjects, brainstorm their primary similarities and differences to make sure you are going to have enough material to write about. Depending on whether you are a visual person or not, it may be a good idea to use a Venn diagram at this point. In it, you can visually represent how the items under your scrutiny overlap and what features are unique to each of therm.
Alternatively, you can simply select a few important fields of comparison and write down what features each of your items has related to them. Of course, you can do all this at a later stage, but it is preferable to check out the basic similarities and differences between the subjects before you finalize your topic and commit to it.
Eventually, you should come up with a topic like this:
Your earlier brainstorming was mostly to make sure there is enough parallels and contrasts between the items to write a meaningful argument. Now you have to collect everything you have gathered so far and systematize it. Divide the information into categories and write down all the characteristics of each item referring to each of them. Note any gaps in your knowledge and think about additional aspects of the items you analyze: so far you probably only looked upon the more obvious characteristics. Now it is time to dig deeper.
The information you can get from immediately available sources like Wikipedia and other online resources is very basic. To write a high-quality essay, you have to use more special sources, preferably – peer-reviewed papers from trustworthy academic journals.
You can find many of them using online academic search engines and databases. These range from general ones that cover all disciplines (such as Google Scholar and JSTOR) to specialized ones dealing only with logistics and transportation. Check out different databases to make sure you do not miss any important and relevant sources.
A thesis statement is the main idea of your essay expressed in a single sentence. It will be a part of your introduction, but it is better to write it in full at the preparatory stage – this will help you better understand your topic and prevent you from steering away from the primary subjects of your essay.
A thesis statement should be:
An outline is a framework or a roadmap you use when you write your essay. In it, you cover all the important things you have to mention, note down where you should introduce each fact and plan out the general structure of the essay. Later you will simply have to look at the outline and follow it step by step, fleshing out what is written in it.
The general structure of a compare and contrast essay is the same as that of any other essay:
There are two primary approaches to the structure of the main part of a compare and contrast essay: a point-by-point and block structure.
With this approach, you take two or more items, identify a number of important points and then proceed to review each point in succession, analyzing how you can characterize each of the items in relation to this point. For example, if you analyze logistics of two retail companies, you can pay attention to nodes of the distribution network, means of transportation, order-processing methods, warehouse management and so on. After introducing each point, you discuss how it is organized in one company, then in the other one and draw comparisons between them.
This approach is better used when there are many points to cover and you want to be as detailed as possible.
In block structure, you first introduce the first item involved in your comparison, analyze it in its entirety, then move on to the second one, and do the same. You cover all the same points, but juxtapose the items as a whole instead of their individual characteristics.
This approach is typically used when there are not many points across which you compare the items, and you can follow them without it getting too confusing for the reader.
Transition words are expressions and phrases that connect individual sections of the essay and make sure readers perceive it as a cohesive whole rather than a collection of unrelated statements. Transition words are used in all types of academic writing, but compare and contrast essays have a fair share of such expressions that are used in them more often, such as ‘similarly’, ‘however’, ‘nonetheless’, ‘likewise’ and so on. Make sure you choose your transition words right and do not upset the logic of the essay.
Organize all your body paragraphs similarly: it adds structure and readability to the whole essay. A typical paragraph structure goes as follows:
Writing a compare and contrast essay is more than just listing a bunch of points and explaining what the items in question have in common and how they are different. What you write is not worth much unless you explain why it is important. Why do you make this comparison in the first place? What does your comparison prove?
For example, if you compare two radically different approaches to logistics, you are expected to analyze them and decide which of them, after careful analysis, is more efficient under current market conditions.
Always try to complete your essays at least a few days before they are due. Firstly, this will insure you against potential contingencies. Secondly, it will give you an opportunity to set your writing aside for a while before proofreading it. While you work on an essay, you get too used to it, its wording, structure and so on. Therefore, when you reread it you rather recall it from memory instead of perceiving it objectively, which may prevent you from noticing mistakes. By taking a break, you allow it to fade from your memory and get a fresher perspective on it.
When analyzing and comparing things, especially in such a complicated discipline as logistics, it is possible to steer away from your original intentions and start comparing factors that are not really related. For example, when you talk about warehouse automation, it is easy to diverge and include a few passages about one company’s characteristic CRM without mentioning its counterpart. Thus, your comparison becomes lopsided and cannot further be called objective. Make sure you do not allow this.
Many students, especially beginners, have trouble being consistent after choosing an essay structure. They start writing using block structure, then they notice an important point (or what they think to be important) about the second item that can be mentioned to great effect, introduce it into the description of the first one, hop back and forth between them and turn the essay into a complete mess. In other words, make sure you write consistently using the same structure.
No matter how attentively you read your essay, you can never treat it 100 percent objectively. If you want an unbiased opinion, ask somebody with sufficient knowledge of the subject to read it for you and point out what he/she believes to be in need of improvement. It may be your fellow student, an on-campus tutor or a professional proofreader – just make sure you can trust his/her knowledge of English and understanding of logistics.
As you can see, there is nothing particularly complicated about writing a compare and contrast essay in logistics. It is all a matter of planning and organization. If you follow all the steps described above carefully and put sufficient effort into them, we believe that writing such a paper will not present any difficulty for you in future!