Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What Is the Point-by-Point Method and Block Method?

A compare and contrast essay, also called a comparison or comparative essay, is used to explain the similarities and differences between two subjects. These types of essays usually use specific structures or formats for presenting information, the most common of which are the point-by-point method and the block method.

What Does a Comparative Essay Do?

A comparative essay is used to discuss points of comparison and contrast between two aspects of a topic. Both aspects are presented equally, meaning that an equal amount of information and space in the essay is given to each one.

Regardless of which method is used, a comparative essay will begin with an introductory paragraph that establishes the topic of the essay and introduces the two subjects being compared. It should also touch on the points that will be covered in the essay. Comparative essays should also end with a concluding paragraph in which the key points are briefly summarized and the overall message of the essay – the thesis – is stated or reiterated.

A thesis statement is usually a single sentence that asserts the ultimate point of the essay. In a compare and contrast essay, the thesis can either be the last sentence of the introductory paragraph or it can appear in the concluding paragraph at the end of the paper. How and where the thesis is presented in the essay will depend on the contents and purpose of the essay. For example, a comparative essay might be used to help determine the best pet for a family, and an assertion will ultimately be made as to which pet is the best. In this example, the thesis statement may be presented in the concluding paragraph as a means of wrapping up all of the points that were discussed and making an ultimate determination about the topic. However, the thesis statement can also be presented in the introduction of the essay, serving as an assertion by the author that will then be explained and supported in the rest of the essay.

There is no set rule as to which placement is better for the thesis. Generally speaking, if the essay is serving as an exploratory essay, the eventual decision would logically be presented at the end of the paper. If, on the other hand, the essay is meant to be more persuasive, trying to convince the reader to agree with the author’s point of view on the topic, the thesis might be presented in the introduction with the comparison and contrast in the paper serving to support the author’s argument.

Using a notebook and writing by hand can be a great way to see ideas on paper.

Image of a notebook and pencil

How to Use the Point-by-Point Comparison Method?

A point-by-point comparison essay discusses two subjects using the same set of criteria. The criteria are applied to each subject, one point at a time. In this way, the point-by-point method can seem a bit like a list. The point-by-point method is typically better for longer essays, those of more than four pages, because both subjects are being discussed within each point throughout the essay, keeping both subjects fresh in the reader’s mind and making it easier for the reader to follow each point of comparison and contrast.

The block method, as discussed later in this lesson, addresses one subjects at a time, and in a longer paper, the first subject presented may fade a bit in the reader’s mind by the end of the essay if the essay is too long.

Example of a Point-by-Point Essay

The point-by-point organization will begin with an introductory paragraph that establishes the topic of the essay and the subjects that will be compared. The body of the essay will focus on comparing and contrasting the two subjects. In a point-by-point comparative essay about pet ownership and whether a cat or a dog is the best pet for a family, the criteria for comparison might include:

  • Costs of owning the pet
  • Needs and requirements of the pet
  • Time commitment involved in owning the pet
  • Family engagement and interaction

The essay might begin by comparing how much it costs to obtain both a cat and a dog, followed by the cost of food and supplies required for each pet. Then the author will move on to discuss the needs and requirements of each animal, such as toys and treats and veterinary care. In the next section of the essay, the author will discuss the time commitment for owning and caring for each type of pet, perhaps pointing out that dogs require daily walks and exercise while cats can often be left alone for much longer periods of time. Finally, in the last section, the author will consider how the different pets interact with their owners, perhaps explaining how dogs tend to be more playful and want to spend more time with their owners while cats tend to be more solitary.

How to Use the Compare and Contrast Block Method?

The block method of compare and contrast presents all of the information about one subject before moving on to present all of the information about the other subject. Both subjects are still given equal attention in the essay, but the focus stays first on one and then moves on to the other. This helps to avoid the list-like feel of the point-by-point method, which can get a bit monotonous. It also allows the author to present the full picture for one subject before moving on to the next. However, this method tends to work better for shorter essays so that the information presented about the first subject does not fade into the background by the time the information for the second subject is finished.

Like the point-by-point essay, the block method essay will still begin with an introductory paragraph and will end with a concluding paragraph. However, the block method also requires the use of a transition paragraph, which helps move the essay from the first subject to the second subject.

Example of a Block Essay

A compare and contrast block method essay will begin with an introductory paragraph, the same as that used in the point-by-point method. The topic will be introduced, along with both subjects being compared and the key points of comparison. The essay would then begin by focusing wholly on one of the subjects. Using the same example of analyzing the best pet for a family, the block method would present all of the information about owning a dog (for example), followed by all of the information for owing a cat. The same key points of comparison could be used. It is just the organization of the paper that is different.

Using a computer can help the writer polish the final essay into a professional-looking paper.

Image of a person using a computer

Lesson Summary

A compare and contrast essay, also known as a comparison or comparative essay, is one in which two subjects are compared and contrasted according to a certain set of criteria. There are two main formats for a comparative essay: the point-by-point method and the block method. Both types of essays include an introductory paragraph, a concluding paragraph, and a thesis statement, or the one-sentence argument of the essay.

The point-by-point method of comparison is organized by the criteria or key points of comparison, discussing each subject within each of these points. Because of this structure, the point-by-point method can seem a bit list-like and is often better for longer papers. The block method of comparison focuses first on one subject, addressing all of the key criteria about that subject before changing to the second subject and applying the same criteria to that subject. Because of this structure, the block method also includes a transition paragraph that moves the reader from the first subject to the second subject in the essay. This method is better for shorter papers so that readers don’t lose sight of the information about the first subject by the time they finish reading about the second subject.

Join the conversation