Sep 14, 2006

Comparision Essays and Why They Should Not Be Assigned

I'm a slow writer and it's killing me on this freaking term paper. Perhaps I'm too critical: I'll type a page, then delete a page, then type another page, then decide that I hate the way I've organized the whole paper and spend the next hour changing everything around and re-writing and re-writing. And I've been working on this for so long and the only part I like is the introductory paragraph.

I hate comparison essays. They always feel so forced. How can you organize one, anyway? I really can't figure out a way to do it without sounding strained. And I do not want mine to come out feeling like the sample papers that my professor posted for us. I know they're the sample papers, so supposedly that's what I should shoot for, but they both suck beyond reason. They sound like comparision essays, and though I realize that's what this is supposed to be, comparision essays take a whole lot of disguising to keep from sounding like a fifth grader is writing. An actual sample will show you what I mean:

"Although Abigail Adams and Mary Todd Lincoln each had ancestors who were landowners and politicians, and though they each grew up in a well-to-do family, their backgrounds were more dissimilar than alike. They lived in a different era and region, and a whole different family environment."

Now the ideas aren't necessarily bad (not brilliant, but not bad), but you read that and think "Oh, I'm reading something that's comparing Abigail Adams and Mary Todd Lincoln." much like you would think "Oh, I'm reading a Christmas wish list." So obvious and so elementary school. It's the list of things similar and then the list of things different and then the list of things similar and then the list of things different's awful. And when every single sentence has the "Person A and Person B both did whatever, however, Person A did this, while Person B did that" structure to's awful. And when it's just a listing of facts about the two parties organized into what's similar and what's different and no analysis at's awful.

I realized about mid-day today, though, the true reason why the sample papers sucked and why my paper sucked at the time: no thesis. Or at least no real thesis, because "Henry Knox and Joseph E. Johnston had many similarities, but also many differences," is not a thesis. So I've luckily remedied that problem in my paper ("Understanding the lives of Ann Lee and Mary Baker Eddy reveals how and why their respective movements came about and how they fit into the greater American religious experience." which isn't amazing, I'll admit, but work-able) ...which I really ought to get back to...

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