English 101, Section 124

Ms. Vilhotti


Project A: Comparison of Popular and Academic Sources


Grade weight: 10%

Peer Review: January 20th

Final Due Date: January 23rd

Page Length: 2-3 pages


Purpose: To illuminate the distinctive features of "popular" and "academic" or "scholarly" sources on the same topic. Because you will do extensive research using academic sources, you must know how to distinguish these valued, research-based texts from other, less-substantive articles.




How this paper is distinctive from past papers:

It's possible that in high school or in a previous university course you wrote "compare and contrast" papers. These papers are most often focused on the content differences you uncover in two sources. In this paper, you will be concerned with content, specifically content quality, as well as form and style.



Your analysis should be written for an academic audience of fellow students who, like you, are exploring the conventions of academic writing. You are not writing about science to other scientists. You may assume that your audience is familiar with the articles.


Focus of Comparison:

You will read and analyze two articles that I will post to the “Unit 2” page of the website by Monday, January 14th.



Before you begin writing the paper, you'll need to amass a collection of notes on which to base your comparison. 

1)      In order to "get a handle" on the content similarities and differences, you ought to begin by creating a paragraph-by-paragraph summary of each article. The next step might be some "dual-entry journaling" whereby you have a chance to respond to each summary paragraph. This "dual-entry journaling" will yield the most interesting results if you wait until you have summarized each article. When you are in the response phase, you ought to ask yourself to what degree is this content different? If one article is more extensive, how so? You'll need to provide specific examples in the body of your paper to illustrate the differences. I imagine you'll spend some time talking about use of evidence.


2)      You'll also need to consider the differences in style. Take notes on the use of "voice" (first-person, third person?) as well as diction or word choice. In comparing the two articles, you should comment on the effect of each article's stylistic choices, although you should be cautious in trying to answer definitively "why" the articles are like this. Remember that audience is a big influence when it comes to style.


3)      Form or organization is an interesting and distinctive category for comparison. Consider not only what the articles "do" paragraph-by-paragraph, but also how they look on the published page. Are there pictures? Font changes? Ads? Documentation is also a part of form and is certainly worth comparing.


4)      There are several other things you might add to your list of points-for-comparison. For instance, consider what you know about the authors. Consider how the titles differ. Consider the places of publication.


Writing this paper:


1)      Once you have a clear idea of how these articles are different, you'll need to begin writing the paper. You may begin with your introduction. The introduction should introduce both articles (titles, authors, place of publication), make your rhetorical purpose clear, and state your claim, or thesis statement. Your claim should illuminate how these articles are similar and more importantly, how they differ. In a short paper like this one, you should try to have your thesis predict your body paragraphs.


2)      Each body paragraph should have a topic sentence that states the points for comparison you'll discuss and briefly states the similarities or differences. Use quotes and paraphrase from each text to illustrate your claims. Do not, however, become over-reliant on quotes or paraphrase. Your paper should be about one-third evidence and two-thirds discussion.


3)      The conclusion should briefly restate your main points and also speculate about what the specific similarities and differences in these articles reveals about the distinctive features of academic writing in general.



While there is no "right" way to organize this paper, you might consider two different options:


Block Organization:

I.                    Intro

II.                 Point 1 about Article A

III.               Point 2 about Article A

IV.              Point 3 about Article A

V.                 Point 1 about Article B

VI.              Point 2 about Article B

VII.            Point 3 about Article B

VIII.         Conclusion


Topic Organization (or point-by-point):

I.                    Intro

II.                 Point 1 about Article A

III.               Point 1 about Article B

IV.              Point 2 about Article A

V.                 Point 2 about Article B

VI.              Point 3 about Article A

VII.            Point 3 about Article B

VIII.         Conclusion


(alternately you could combine discussion of each point, although sometimes you can "short-change" an article)


NOTE: I have used 3 points as an example. Please work to use as many points-for-comparison as seem useful and fruitful


Documentation style:

MLA documentation (please refer to the section on MLA documentation in your EI text).