(Personal Experience Essay Using Comparison/Contrast) One of the most common ways of thinking, learning, and communicating ideas is comparison/contrast, a strategy which includes metaphors, analogies, and even the design of research projects. For the strategy to be useful, there must be a good basis and reason for comparison. Scientists who set up research projects make sure that their test groups are as closely matched as possible, except for one or two variables. If legislators and advocates are going to argue for change using comparisons about gun control or immigration reform, they will want to point out the many similarities between cultures, populations, and situations. Critics who evaluate books or movies often use comparison to show that one work is better than the other.
While you will be writing from personal experience in this first essay to reveal something important about yourself, you must also have a good basis for comparison and a good reason for using this strategy. Most importantly, everything in the essay, including the comparison, must contribute to your overall thesis and purpose in writing.
The essays you should read to prepare for your first longer writing assignment all use comparison/contrast. Some are personal experience essays by professional writers and some describe research. When you are reading, think about your own experiences and how you might choose two people you have known, two places you’ve lived in, or two stages of your life to compare. Your entire essay does not have to be comparison/contrast; you are only required to use that strategy within the essay. So you should start with your purpose of showing readers something important about yourself, something that you learned. To generate ideas, use the exercises in the Invention PowerPoint and ask yourself questions about your experiences, such as “Why do I remember this event so vividly?” or “What did I learn from this event?” or “Why and how was this person or place so influential?” Please realize that while some events are inherently dramatic, we don’t always learn anything about ourselves from them. Things that just happen to us--car crashes, the illness or death of someone close to us--or funny situations may make good stories, but they are not always meaningful. And realize please that the best short student essays are narrow and focused, limited in time or space; you cannot effectively communicate much about your entire life in only a thousand words.
Your audience for the essay is primarily your instructor and other students in the class. But you should be descriptive and detailed enough so that the essay, if posted on the Web, would communicate your experiences to college students in California and New York. Your purpose is to help readers understand an important experience, person, or place which changed you or influenced you. You might start thinking in terms of a turning point or a place or person that is significant in your life and compare this to similar place or relationships. You can use both narrative and descriptive techniques, as the professional authors do, and you must include some effective comparisons or contrasts.
These are the essays you should read for next week. They are all posted on the class Website. Please look through these and read at least the first three or four to prepare for class and for writing your essay. We will cover the others later.
Andrew Malcolm, “Dad” (personal experience)
Scott Russell Sanders, “The Men We Carry in Our Minds” (personal experience)
Elizabeth Wong, “All American Girl” (personal experience)
Jon Meacham, “Two Lions Roaring at the Same Time” (chapter from his book on FDR and Churchill, that is, “Franklin and Winston”) (biography)
Debra Tannen, “He Said, She Said” (report on research)
Carol Dweck, “Mind-Sets and Equitable Education” (report of research)
Due Date: Monday, January 28th at 12:30 pm
The draft of Project/Paper #1 (Personal Experience Essay using comparison/contrast) is due at the START of class. Students should bring two copies of their draft to class, one to submit to the instructor, the other to use for peer review. They should also print out a copy of the peer review sheet. The revision is due one week after the class set is returned. If you have questions, please ask before submitting your draft. Be sure you understand the requirements of the essay. Your draft will be graded “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” and that grade will be taken into consideration when the final letter grade on the essay is calculated. The final grade on late papers (drafts or revisions) will be lowered, and no draft will be accepted after one week without formal documentation of an emergency or other extenuating circumstances.