Now that you have an understanding of both the Salem witch trials and of McCarthyism, it’s time to exercise that understanding. You will be writing a compare/contrast essay on both of these topics.
More often than not, students will do a great job listing all the things the two topics have in common and all the things two topics do not have in common, thinking that they are writing great compare/contrast essays. However, that is simply not the case. There needs to be a point to all the comparing and contrasting. For this purpose, we are using a five-paragraph essay structure to help you focus on your thesis.
Part 1: Create a Graphic Organizer
This is a basic Venn diagram. You have probably seen these before, and they are very helpful in helping students organize information. In the left circle, begin brainstorming all the information about the Salem witch trials that you have learned in the course so far. In the right circle, brainstorm all the information about McCarthyism. In the area where the two circles overlap, brainstorm the information that the witch trials and McCarthyism have in common. If you need a larger organizer, you can find one in Appendix E.
Print out the Venn diagram to complete Part 1 of this assignment. Once you have filled in your graphic organizer, I want you to find three topics in each area and circle them. You will have three topics in the Salem Witch Trial circle, three in the McCarthyism circle, and three in the overlapped area. These topics will make up topics of your body paragraphs.
Part 2: Compare/Contrast Essay
Your compare/contrast essay should have a point to it; it shouldn’t just list topics. This point is essentially your thesis statement, which should be included in your introduction paragraph and then restated in your conclusion. For example, let’s look at this thesis statement:
The Salem witch trials and McCarthyism have many historical similarities and differences that reveal much about human nature.
The first half of the thesis statement is to alert the reader that the type of essay (or mode) is a compare/contrast essay. The second half of the thesis statement explains to the reader what I call “the point of the telling.” The point of this telling is to express to the reader that by comparing and contrasting these two time periods—the witch hunts and McCarthyism—the writer is going to discuss human nature.
Of course, this puts a lot more responsibility on the writer. The writer (that’s you) needs to be sure that every paragraph relates back to “the point of the telling.” That’s why we’re starting with just a five-paragraph essay.
The essay will need to be typed, double-spaced, written in 12-point Times New Roman font, and will be 1 to 1½ pages in length.
Here is how your five-paragraph essay should be constructed:
- Paragraph 1:
- An introduction paragraph including a thesis statement
- Paragraph 2:
- A paragraph about the Salem witch trials, including three topics from the Venn diagram
- Paragraph 3:
- A paragraph about McCarthyism, including three topics from the Venn diagram
- Paragraph 4:
- A comparison of the time periods, including three topics from the Venn diagram
- Paragraph 5:
- A concluding paragraph, including a restated thesis statement