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Comparing Texts

By Yann, published on 28/12/2018 Blog > Academia > School English > How to Effectively Compare English Language Texts

“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” -Boris Pasternak

Literature has captured the attention of people from all nations for centuries. Works of fiction distract us from our everyday lives and make us believe that the impossible is attainable. Non-fiction texts educate us about topics of interest such as cooking, travelling or sports and the lives of individuals who have made an impact on society.

Works of fiction and non-fiction have been examined for decades by those who have a keen interest in literature. 

Grasping a basic understanding of the concepts of English literature can be accomplished in the classroom at primary or secondary school and further education studies at a qualified university.

The GCSE English Language subject is an excellent option for young pupils who have a knack in analysing languages and want to write about things that interest them. The various topics and sections included in this GCSE subject prepare students for a career in language arts.

Superprof will now analyse the topic of comparing texts and how it is done through a series of sections.

Comparing By Purpose and Form

comparing articles The form is the type of text that is used. Distinct text types may include a newspaper article, a blog or an open letter. (Source: pixabay)

A commonly recognised way of linking texts is through the form they are using and the purpose they are aiming to achieve.

The form is the type of text, and some examples of form include an article, a blog, a letter, a diary or a newspaper. As a writer creates a book, he often thinks about whether the form is for a public or private audience. For example, it is essential to state that a letter is usually for a private audience and a newspaper article is for a general crowd.

The purpose of a writer can be varied depending on what the author wishes to achieve. The most recurrent objectives in modern-day pieces of writing include to entertain, to inform, to advise, to persuade or to argue.

It is important to note that a writer will often have more than one purpose. For examples, some travel blogs have the intention to entertain, to inform and to advise.

As a young pupil studying this GCSE topic, it is essential to keep in mind, when comparing texts, what they have in common and what is different about them. 

If the texts that you are comparing have the same primary purpose it is essential to ask the following questions:

  • Do they use similar methods?
  • Are they aimed at the same kind of audience or different ones?

If they have a different purpose but the same subject, the following questions need to be considered:

  • How do they treat the subject differently?
  • How have the writers shown a different opinion about the same subject?

By asking the questions mentioned above, students can adequately describe and compare texts by purpose and form.

Comparing a Writer’s Methods

the thoughts of the writer Authors and writers use different methods and it is the task of students to compare the methods from different texts. (Source: pixabay)

It is a known fact that writers use different methods to achieve their purpose. The form of a specific non-fiction text will also affect the writer’s choice of method.

A practical comparison of texts focuses on how the writer’s methods are similar or different. Focusing on a writer’s use of the following is practical when comparing works of writing:

  • Tone: if it is humorous, serious or satirical,
  • Language: specific word choice, literary techniques and rhetorical devices,
  • Structure: the way that ideas are ordered, repetition and the sentence structure.

The carefully chosen methods of the writer affect the reader’s response. It is critical to think about the impact on the reader when comparing texts and analysing themes.

In this section of the GCSE English Language subject, pupils are expected to complete the assignment of reading and comparing two texts from different periods and literary genres. After the students have learned more about each expository essay or persuasive column they are writing about, they point out all of the main differences and similarities from the documents.

All of the knowledge previously acquired about tone, language and structure are put into practice right away to ensure student success on imminent examinations.

Comparing Literary Non-Fiction with Non-Fiction

Non-fiction and literary non-fiction texts often use many of the same techniques and share the same topics. Therefore, it makes complete sense that they can be compared with each other.

It would be helpful to compare the methods that writers use during the editing process to create useful texts.

Students carefully review the texts they are requested to consider and focus on the writer’s viewpoint, perspective, attitude and ideas. 

The period when the text was also written dramatically affects the attitudes or viewpoints of the writer. For example, if the book were written in the 19th century, it would have stark contrasts from a piece of literature published in the 21st century.

In this section of comparing literary non-fiction with non-fiction, students are given extracts from different texts and are required to correctly annotate the similarities and differences from each text written in different periods.

Additional information about how to analyse works of non-fiction is included on the Superprof blog.

Planning Your Ideas

organizing your thoughts Creating a well-organized diagram can help students manage the differences and similarities in literary texts. (Source: pixabay)

To effectively compare texts and point out similarities and differences it is crucial to use a graphic organiser for successfully organising your thoughts.

Some of the most effective methods of successfully planning your ideas include spider diagrams and tables. 

Spider Diagrams

Spider diagrams are frequently used for writing, studying, brainstorming and taking notes. They are also very useful for quickly recording thoughts and ideas about a text you are examining. When writing about a text, you may decide to use a spider diagram to write down important details quickly.

However, it is important to note, depending on each person, a spider diagram may be easy to analyse and visually striking or a complete mess that can only be understood by the pupil.

When writing about two separate texts and identifying the similarities and differences, a student needs to make links between the points you have identified about each of them.

Linking can be done in two distinct ways. As a first option, a student may decide to create two separate diagrams and link the points between them and, as a second option, make one spider diagram showing each location you make about one text and checking to see if it’s true of the other text too.

Tables or Venn Diagrams

A table or Venn diagram is more structured and requires more time to create than spider diagrams. They are useful for organising thoughts but are not recommended in an examination setting.

Some advantages of a table include the fact that the similarities and differences of distinct texts are neatly displayed and schedules allow “random access” of the main points instead of scanning through the paragraphs or lists looking for the story.

The following is an example of a table that could be used to plan your ideas skillfully:

PointExample from first excerptExample from second excerpt
Both of the writers focus on a healthy lifestyleWords such as "nutrition" or "wellness" were usedThe phrase "eating too much fast food is bad for you" supports a healthy lifestyle
The tone is different"One should" or "if one" demonstrate a more formal toneTone is informal "I ate" or "I had a negative experience" prove that the personal pronoun 'I' was used

When using a table, it is important to remember that when you have connections between the points, you need to pick the most important ones.

How to Structure a Comparison Response

Learning how to write a comparison response encourages students to write an extended response and compare texts. The majority of comparison responses imitate the following structure of formatting:

  • Introduction: a very brief introduction that links the two versions together,
  • Main points: contrasting or comparing the two texts, supported by details. The main points may include points on tone, language choices, literary devices, structure and the reader’s response,
  • Conclusion: the conclusion does not have to be very long and may include a keyword from the question, and mention both texts.

When comparing two separate texts, it is crucial that they are examined throughout the response. It would be a mistake to compare and contrast one and then move onto the next.

In each paragraph of the response, make sure you mention both texts, even if a point is mostly about one of the texts. 

Certain key phrases can be used for comparing and contrasting texts. When mentioning a similarity the following words or sentence starters can be used:

  • Similarly…,
  • Equally…,
  • In the same way…,
  • Just as…so does…,
  • Both…and…

When referring to differences between texts, the following phrases can be mentioned when structuring a comparison response:

  • In contrast…,
  • However…,
  • On the other hand…,
  • Alternatively…,
  • In a different way.

It is highly valuable to remember that when comparing texts you are making a point about two different texts, backing up ideas with evidence and explaining the concept. By using a linking statement, a student can connect the two approaches and, by doing this, ensure better results during assessment periods.

To have students further grasp the basic concepts of a comparison response, particular examples and analysis of texts are considered as part of the curriculum from the GCSE English Language.

Sample Exam Question and Answer

Pupils who have chosen to study the GCSE English Language subject will be glad to know that for each topic there are sample exam questions and answers to prepare for the future assessment effectively.

Students are presented with two non-fiction texts that could come from the 19th, 20th or 21st century when considering the side by side comparison and contrast of literary texts. The language used will quickly help the student identify the period of the text.

The texts will not be very long perhaps only a paragraph containing a few sentences. Students are advised to carefully read the phrase and the question to be prepared to answer correctly.

A significant detail is that when writing your answer, it is crucial to organise and link each point to a quotation. 

A prompt revision of the different versions of sample answers helps students remain composed, fight nerves and skyrocket to success!

Superprof has other well-written articles that aid students of the GCSE English Language subject such as analysing fiction texts, reviewing works of writing that are fiction and non-fiction, and invaluable advice on how to become a better public speaker and listener.

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