Comparing & Contrasting as a brainstorming tool

Comparing and contrasting can be a useful tool to help organize your thoughts before you begin writing any type of academic text. You might use it to compare different theories and approaches you’ve encountered in your preliminary research, for example.

Let’s say your research involves the competing psychological approaches of behaviorism and cognitive psychology. You might make a table to summarize the key differences between them.

BehaviorismCognitive psychology
Dominant from the 1920s to the 1950sRose to prominence in the 1960s
Mental processes cannot be empirically studiedMental processes as focus of study
Focuses on how thinking is affected by conditioning and environmentFocuses on the cognitive processes themselves

Or say you’re writing about the major global conflicts of the twentieth century. You might visualize the key similarities and differences in a Venn diagram.

A Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.