Medal Count Comparison Essay

Comparison and contrast are processes of identifying how ideas, people, or things are alike (comparison) and how they are different (contrast). Although you have probably been writing compare/contrast papers since grade school, it can be a difficult form to master.

Such assignments require you to move beyond mere description by thinking deeply about the items being compared, identifying meaningful relationships between them, and deciding which qualities are most significant. This process involves evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing your findings and presenting them in a meaningful, interesting, and logical way.

Structure

There are two general formats for compare and contrast papers:

1. The block, divided, or whole-to-whole format

Evaluates Subject A in its entirety and then Subject B in its entirety. This format can result in two separate papers, joined by an awkward transition. Follow the tips below to develop a seamless and unified paper using the block format:

  • Provide a clear introduction and thesis that not only spells out the major similarities and differences you will be discussing but that answers the question, “So what? ”
  • “Pepper” references to both topics throughout the paper, where appropriate.
  • Link the two sections with a strong transition that demonstrates the relationships between the subjects. Remind the reader of your thesis, summarize the key points you have made about Subject A, and preview the points you will be making about Subject B.
  • Conclude the paper by summarizing and analyzing the findings, once again reminding the reader of the relationships you have noted between Subject A and Subject B

2. The alternating, integrated, or point-by point comparison

Explores one point of similarity or difference about each subject, followed by a second point, and so on. Some pointers:

  • Provide a clear introduction and thesis that not only spells out the major similarities and differences you will be discussing but that answers the question, “So what? ”
  • To avoid creating a glorified list, synthesize and organize the material in a logical way.
  • Conclude the paper by summarizing and analyzing the findings, once again reminding the reader of the relationships you have noted between Subject A and Subject B.

Brainstorming

When we first begin thinking about a subject, we generally start by listing obvious similarities and differences, but as we continue to explore, we should begin to notice qualities that are more significant, complex, or subtle. For example, when considering apples and oranges, we would immediately observe that both are edible, both grow on trees, and both are about the size of a baseball. But such easy observations don't deepen our knowledge of apples and oranges. An interesting and meaningful compare/contrast paper should help us understand the things we are discussing more fully than we would if we were to consider them individually.

Selectivity: Sharpening the Focus

As you approach a compare/contrast paper, ask the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the assignment?
  • Which of the similarities and differences that I have observed are relevant to the assignment and the themes of the course? In an economics course, it might be appropriate to consider how the markets for apples and oranges have changed, which is more popular fruit and why, which is more expensive to produce, and so on. In a humanities course, it might be fruitful to consider why we seem to have so many more cultural references to apples than to oranges.
  • What is the most interesting basis of comparison for this topic? Of the similarities and differences that I have noted, which are obvious or merely descriptive, and which are significant? Which will lead to a meaningful analysis and an interesting paper?

Recognizing the Compare/Contrast Assignment

Some assignments use the words “compare, ” “contrast, ” “similarities, ” and “differences. ” Others may not use these terms but may nevertheless require you to compare and/or contrast. Still others may require comparison and/or contrast as only part of the assignment. Some examples:

  • Select two fast food chains and discuss the approaches they have used in gaining entry into the global marketplace.
  • How do the authors we have studied thus far define and describe racism?
  • Choose a theme, such as fellowship, faith, or hope, and consider how it is treated in the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
  • The analysis in Ronald Rogowski's book Commerce and Coalitions ends in the 1980s. Extend his analysis to two countries, Canada and a country of your choice, from 1990 to 2000. Using Rogowski's theory, predict how the change in exposure to international trade should affect political conflict in Canada and the country you chose.
  • Analyze the various data security options available to online businesses and recommend one to your boss, Sally Simple, President of Simply Simple, Inc.
  • I want to invest in satellite radio. Which is the better choice: Sirius or XM?

Transitional Markers to Indicate Comparison and Contrast

Transitional markers are words or phrases that show the connections and relationships among ideas. They are often placed at or near the beginning of a sentence or paragraph. There are many such words, but here are some of the most useful terms:

Words to indicate comparison: in comparison, similarly, likewise, in the same way, parallel to, correlate, identically, akin to, consistent with, also, too, analogous to, correspondingly

Words to indicate contrast: in contrast, however, on the other hand, nevertheless, although, counter to, on the contrary, conversely, rather than, in opposition to, opposite of Sample Introductory Paragraph

Below is a sample of an introduction from a literary compare and contrast paper written by student Kate James: (Some of the terms she uses to indicate comparison and contrast are in boldface.)

Because America itself is still a relatively young nation, its poetry, too, lacks the years of history and growth that have defined the voices of other nations. However, within the past century, American poetry has developed into a distinctive and accomplished art of its own. The creation of this poetic voice is often attributed to Walt Whitman, who has been coined “the father of American poetry.” His revolutionary style and untraditional subject matter, exemplified in his renowned poem “Song of Myself,” have paved the way for future generations of American writers. Furthermore, his unique use of the line and breath has had a great influence on many poets' own work, particularly the writing of the more contemporary poet Allen Ginsberg, whose controversial poem “Howl” echoes many of the characteristics of Whitman's verse. However, while the form and content of “Howl” may have been influenced by “Song of Myself,” Ginsberg's poem signifies a transformation of Whitman's use of the line, his first-person narration, and his vision of America. As Whitman's sprawling lines open outward in the voice of a cosmic speaker who creates a positive view of America, Ginsberg's poem does the opposite, using long lines that close inward to mimic the suffocation and madness that characterize the vision of America that he presents through the voice of a prophetic speaker.

*Thesis Statement

After she developed the introduction and thesis, Kate had to decide which format would be most effective for organizing her argument and proving her thesis. One way to decide which structure to use is to create outlines that visually organize the information:

Sample Block Format Outline

  1. Introduction/thesis
  2. Poets' Use of Line
  3. Voice of First Person Speaker
  4. Vision of America
  5. Discussion/analysis
  6. Conclusion

Sample Integrated Format Outline

  1. Introduction/thesis
  2. Whitman's “Song of Myself”
    • Use of Line
    • Voice of First Person Speaker
    • Vision of America
  3. Ginsberg's “Howl”
    • Use of Line
    • Voice of First Person Speaker
    • Vision of America
  4. Discussion/analysis
  5. Conclusion

In this case, Kate decided that the integrated format would be more effective because it allowed for the side-by-side analysis of passages that illustrated the three primary qualities that she noticed in the poems.

Sample Paragraph in the Block Format

In the following paragraph from “American Space, Chinese Place, ” writer Yi-Fu Tuan fully discusses space in America before turning to an analysis of place in China:

Americans have a sense of space, not of place. Go to an American home in exurbia, and almost the first thing you do is drift toward the picture window. How curious that the first compliment you pay your host inside his house is to say how lovely it is outside his house! He is pleased that you should admire his vistas. The distant horizon is not merely a line separating earth from sky, it is a symbol of the future. The American is not rooted in his place, however lovely: his eyes are drawn by the expanding space to a point on the horizon, which is his future. By contrast, consider the traditional Chinese home. Blank walls enclose it. Step behind the spirit wall and you are in a courtyard with perhaps a miniature garden around a corner. Once inside his private compound you are wrapped in an ambiance of calm beauty, an ordered world of buildings, pavement, rock, and decorative vegetation. But you have no distant view: nowhere does space open out before you. Raw nature in such a home is experienced only as weather, and the only open space is the sky above. The Chinese is rooted in his place. When he has to leave, it is not for the promised land on the terrestrial horizon, but for another world altogether along the vertical, religious axis of his imagination.

--from DiYanni, Robert and Pat C. Hoy. Frames of Mind. Thomson Wadsworth. 2005. p. 260

Sample Paragraph in the Alternating Format

In the book Oranges, author John McPhee wanted to help readers appreciate the difference between Florida and California oranges. Here's a sample paragraph from the book:

An orange grown in Florida usually has a thick and tightly fitting skin, and is also heavy with juice. Californians say that if you want to eat a Florida orange you have to get into a bathtub first. California oranges are light in weight and have thick skins that break easily and come off in hunks. The flesh inside is marvelously sweet, and the segments almost separate themselves. In Florida, it is said that you can run over a California orange with a ten-ton truck and not even wet the pavement. The differences from which these hyperboles arise will prevail in the two states even if the type of orange is the same. In arid climates, like California's, oranges develop a thick albedo, which is the white part of the skin. Florida is one of the two or three most rained-upon states in the United States. California uses the Colorado River and similarly impressive sources to irrigate its oranges, but of course irrigation can only do so much. The annual difference in rainfall between the Florida and California orange-growing areas is one million one hundred and forty thousand gallons per acre. For years, California was the leading orange-growing state, but Florida surpassed California in 1942, and grows three times as many oranges now. California oranges, for their part, can safely be called three times as beautiful.

--from DiYanni, Robert and Pat C. Hoy. Frames of Mind. Thomson Wadsworth. 2005. p. 260

Fran Hooker & Kate James, Webster University Writing Center, 2007

We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.

Does Brazil have a home-field advantage in Rio?

Again and again, research has shown that home-field advantage is a constant in sports across the world. Basketball referees call more fouls on the visitors. Pitchers for the home team in baseball get a wider strike zone. Home teams in soccer receive fewer yellow cards.

To see whether the same is true in the Olympics,1 we analyzed medal counts since World War II2 by comparing a country’s results in the year it hosted the games to its results in the games four years earlier. In other words, we estimated Great Britain’s 2012 home-field advantage by comparing its 2012 performance to its results from 2008. This is an improvement over previous research, which analyzed home advantage by comparing hosts to non-hosts in the same year, which ignores the fact that the average host (like Great Britain or China) is much different than the average non-host (like Djibouti or Paraguay).

MEDALS WON BY HOST COUNTRY
HOST COUNTRYYEARPREVIOUS OLYMPICSHOST YEARCHANGE
Finland19522422-2
Australia19561135+24
Italy19602536+11
Japan19641829+11
Mexico196819+8
West Germany19722640+14
Canada1976511+6
Soviet Union1980125195+70
United States198494174+80
South Korea19881933+14
Spain1992422+18
United States1996108101-7
Australia20004158+17
Greece20041316+3
China200863100+37
Great Britain20124765+18

The table3 above on the Summer Olympics shows that host countries tend to improve their medal count over their total in the previous games.4 On average, host nations of the Summer Olympics increase their overall medal count by 20.1 medals and their gold medal count by 10.9.5 It is worth noting that the biggest jumps occurred for the Soviet Union in 1980, when the United States and allies boycotted the Moscow Games, and for the United States in 1984, when the Soviet Union and allies boycotted the Los Angeles Games — both times removing a major competitor in the medal count for the host nation. Excluding the years affected by these boycotts brings the average increase in overall medal count to 12.2 and in gold medal count to 6.8.

ATHLETES FROM HOST COUNTRY PARTICIPATING
HOST COUNTRYYEARPREVIOUS OLYMPICSHOST YEARCHANGE
Finland1952129258+129
Australia195681294+213
Italy1960135280+145
Japan1964162328+166
Mexico196894275+181
West Germany1972275423+148
Canada1976208385+177
Soviet Union1980410489+79
United States1984396522+126
South Korea1988175401+226
Spain1992229422+193
United States1996545647+102
Australia2000417617+200
Greece2004140426+286
China2008384599+215
Great Britain2012304530+226

Why do host nations do so well? Research has pointed to referees or crowds as crucial to home advantage in other sports, but we found a unique factor driving the home advantage in the Olympics. The table above shows that the number of athletes that a country sends to the games jumps tremendously when it is the host. On average, there are 175.8 additional athletes representing the host country than represented it four years earlier.

The main explanation for this increase is that qualification standards are lower for athletes from the host country. Olympic hosts are guaranteed a spot in each team sport. For example, the Brazilian men’s field hockey team will participate in its first Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Host-country athletes who compete in individual events also have an easier time qualifying for the games. In the triathalon, for example, hosts are guaranteed at least one competitor of each gender. While some of these “add-on” host country athletes aren’t good enough to contend for medals, elite athletes from the host may participate in more events than they otherwise would.

MEDALS WON PER ATHELETE PARTICIPATING BY HOST COUNTRY
HOST COUNTRYYEARPREVIOUS OLYMPICSHOST YEARCHANGE
Finland19520.190.09-0.10
Australia19560.140.12-0.02
Italy19600.190.13-0.06
Japan19640.110.09-0.02
Mexico19680.010.03+0.02
West Germany19720.090.09+0.00
Canada19760.020.03+0.00
Soviet Union19800.300.40+0.09
United States19840.240.33+0.10
South Korea19880.110.08-0.03
Spain19920.020.05+0.03
United States19960.200.16-0.04
Australia20000.100.09+0.00
Greece20040.090.04-0.06
China20080.160.17+0.00
Great Britain20120.150.12-0.03

To assess the impact that participation levels have on the medal count, we compared the ratio of medals to participants for host nations. The table above shows a much more mixed story about whether host country athletes are having more success at home. We find that, on average, Summer Olympics hosts win fewer medals per athlete, compared with their results just four years earlier (although this result is not statistically distinguishable from a difference of zero, which remains true even if we remove the games affected by the 1980s boycotts from the pool). This tells us that even though host countries tend to increase their aggregate medal count, the increase disappears when we account for the higher number of medal-winning opportunities. This is due in part to the host’s aforementioned automatic entry for team sports, which add a large number of athletes in one shot, and the fact that teams can win only one medal, while an individual athlete may enter multiple events.

So what do our findings mean for Brazil’s sporting performance in the coming weeks? The Brazilian team has 481 participants. That’s quite a jump from 2012 (248 participants) and 2008 (268). If Brazil’s medals-per-athlete rate were to stay about the same as in 2008 and 2012, it would be expected to win about 30 medals in Rio. And that would be the nation’s best Olympics showing ever (they won 17 in 2012).

Brazil has the goal of a top-10 finish in the medals table. Italy, tenth in the total medal count in 2012, won 28 medals in London.6 Coming into Tuesday, the fourth day of the games, Brazil had one gold in judo and one silver in shooting.

One gold medal that Brazil hopes to win is in men’s soccer, the country’s most popular sport. The men’s national team has won the World Cup five times but never Olympic gold. Beyond all the numbers, winning men’s soccer gold would make the games a success for many Brazilians.

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