Organizing Thoughts in Writing: Venn Diagrams

The Comparison/Contrast Paper

A few weeks ago I was tutoring a young man and told him he would be writing a comparison/contrast paper by using a Venn diagram. His response was a blank expression and a question some of you may be asking, “What is that?”

I am glad you asked. Let me show you!

I know it looks like two overlapping circles (which they are), but these two circles  are a graphic organizer that help a writer compare and contrast two items. It is particularly useful to people who are visual learners or are having a difficult time being able to generate how items can be different and alike.  Let me give you an example of what I am discussing so you can teach this to your child(ren).

In this compare and contrast paper we will look at land animals and sea animals. This will be at an elementary level, but can easily be adapted for younger or older students. You can require less or more depending upon your student’s knowledge base.

Starting with the circle to the left, label  directly above it Land Animals. Label the circle to the right as Sea Animals and the overlapping area as Shared.

Now, inside the land animal circle list all the characteristics of these creatures that are different from sea animals.

Next, do the same with the circle to the right for the sea animals.

Last, list all of the characteristics that are shared by both land and sea animals. (Note that I listed they all don’t live in the same place. I was thinking of habitats. Some land animals live in Africa while others live in South America and some sea animals live in the Mediterranean Sea while others live in a different body of water.)

Now that you have determined similarities and differences, it is time to write the paper. There are three different ways to write a comparison/contrast paper: whole-to-whole; similarities-to-differences; and point-by-point.

In a whole-to-whole paper you say everything there is to say about the first topic (land animals) and then everything there is to say about the other topic (sea animals). The paper would be constructed like this: paragraph 1- introduction, paragraph 2- land animals, paragraph 3-sea animals, and finally paragraph 4-conclusion.

When writing a similarities-to-differences paper you show all of the similarities of the topics and then tell how they are different. The paper would be constructed like this: paragraph 1- introduction, paragraph 2- similarities of land animal and sea animals, paragraph 3-differences between land animals and sea animals, and finally paragraph 4-conclusion.

If a point-by-point paper is being written the author first discusses one point about land and sea animals and then discusses the next point. A different type of graphic organizer would be better suited for this type of paper.  Click here.  Point-by-Point comparison and contrast uses a separate section or paragraph for each point. Point #1 for your paper could be information about where animals of land live and then where animals of the sea live. (You may be thinking that it is obvious they live on the land and in the sea, but being specific would be beneficial.) You’d begin a new paragraph for Point #2. For consistency, begin with the same item in each section of your point-by-point paper. The paper would be constructed like this: paragraph 1- introduction, paragraph 2- how land and sea animals breathe, paragraph 3- how land animals and sea animals move, and so forth, until your concluding paragraph. (source:


Do you want some practice before you try this on your own? Have Fun Teaching has worksheets for younger students to find differences. They also have some topics that have already been chosen for your student to compare and contrast such as You and I .

Venn Diagram Template 1

Compare:Contrast Chart Candy What child doesn’t like candy? This is not a Venn diagram, but rather a chart I made that younger students can use.

Compare/Contrast Chart A general compare/contrast chart that is discussed above in the point-by-point paper.

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