How to Write a Comparative Essay – A Research Guide
Published on: Jan 28, 2020
Last updated on: Dec 19, 2022
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A comparative essay compares the two subjects and shows their similarities and differences. The subjects might have some close relation or may be very different.
This essay type is a common assignment for school and college students. Therefore, it is important to learn how to write properly. In this blog, you will get a complete writing guide for comparative essay writing.
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What is a Comparative Essay?
A comparative essay is a type of essay in which an essay writer compares at least two or more items. The author compares two subjects with the same relation in terms of similarities and differences depending on the assignment.
The main purpose of the comparative essay is to:
- Highlight the similarities and differences in a systematic manner.
- Provide great clarity of the subject to the readers.
- Analyze two things and describe their advantages and drawbacks.
A comparative essay is also known as compare and contrast essay or a comparison essay. It analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both. The Venn diagram is the best tool for writing a paper about the comparison between two subjects.
Moreover, a comparative analysis essay discusses the similarities and differences of ideas, items, events, views, places, concepts, etc. For example, you can compare two different novels (e.g., The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Red Badge of Courage).
However, a comparative essay is not limited to specific topics. It covers almost every topic or subject with some relation.
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Comparative Essay Structure
A good comparative essay is also based on how well you structure your essay. It helps the reader to understand your essay better. Also, the structure is more important than what you write.
Therefore, it is necessary to organize your essay so that the reader can easily go through the comparisons made in an essay. The following are the two main methods in which you can organize your comparative essay.
1. Point-by-Point Method
The point-by-point or alternating method provides a detailed overview of the items that you are comparing. In this method, organize items in terms of similarities and differences.
This method makes the writing phase easy for the writer to handle two completely different essay subjects. It is highly recommended where some depth and detail are required.
Below given is the structure of the point-by-point method.
- Paragraph 1: Point 1 (Item A and B)
- Paragraph 2: Point 2 (Item A and B)
- Paragraph 3: Point 3 (Item A and B)
2. Block Method
The block method is the easiest as compared to the point-by-point method. In this method, you divide the information in terms of parameters. It means that the first paragraph compares the first subject and all their items, then the second one compares the second, and so on.
However, make sure that you write the subject in the same order. This method is best for lengthy essays and complicated subjects.
Here is the structure of the block method.
- Paragraph 1: Item A (Point 1, 2, and 3)
- Paragraph 2: Item B (Point 1, 2, and 3)
Therefore, keep these methods in mind and choose the one according to the chosen subject.
3. Mixed Paragraphs Method
In this method, one paragraph explains one aspect of the subject. As a writer, you will handle one point at a time and one by one. This method is quite beneficial as it allows you to give equal weightage to each subject and help the readers identify the point of comparison easily.
How to Start a Comparative Essay?
Here, we have gathered some steps that you should follow to start a well-written comparative essay.
1. Read the Instructions Carefully
Before starting, you have to analyze the question or essay prompt carefully. Sometimes, you have a great idea in your mind, but it does not match the prompt. Therefore, look over the prompt and create a list of the key phrases. Also, check whether any limits are placed on your topic.
2. Choose a Topic
The foremost step in writing a comparative essay is to choose a suitable topic. Choose a topic or theme that is interesting to write about and appeals to the reader. An interesting essay topic motivates the reader to know about the subject. Also, try to avoid complicated topics for your comparative essay.
3. Develop a List of Similarities and Differences
Create a list of similarities and differences between two subjects that you want to include in the essay. Moreover, this list helps you decide the basis of your comparison by constructing your initial plan. Evaluate the list and establish your argument and thesis statement.
4. Establish the Basis for Comparison
The basis for comparison is the ground for you to compare the subjects. In most cases, it is assigned to you, so check your assignment or prompt.
Furthermore, the main goal of the comparison essay is to inform the reader of something interesting. It means that your subject must be unique to make your argument interesting.
5. Do the Research
In this step, you have to gather information for your subject. If your comparative essay is about social issues, historical events, or science-related topics, you must do in-depth research.
However, make sure that you gather data from credible sources and cite them properly in the essay.
6. Create a Comparative Essay Thesis Statement
The thesis statement decides whether the similarities, on the whole, dominate the differences or vice versa. Your thesis statement will be clear and concise.
Therefore, develop the thesis statement that covers your entire essay. With the help of a thesis statement, you will easily stick to the essay’s main core.
How to Create a Comparative Essay Outline?
After writing the thesis statement, you will have to organize your content. The organization makes your essay structured and keeps you on the right path.
Here are some steps you do after creating the thesis statement. It will help you to organize and write a great comparative essay.
Write a proper comparative essay outline and include all the main information that you add to your essay. Here the structure of the outline is similar to the traditional essay outline. It consists of the following parts: introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Comparative Essay Introduction
The introduction is the first part of an essay that the readers see. Therefore, you have to think about the hook statement. It is a statement that you include at the beginning of the introductory paragraph to grab the reader’s attention.
Then, you can move to the main goal of the essay. Provide some background information and conclude the introduction with a thesis statement.
Comparative Essay Body Paragraphs
The body of an essay will give the reader everything that they want to know about the subject. Write all the information clearly and concisely.
The following are the tips that you need to follow for writing essay body paragraphs.
- The topic sentence is placed at the start of the essay.
- Each point of comparison is discussed in a separate paragraph.
- The essay body usually consists of three paragraphs, but it depends on your chosen subject.
- Use different transition words within and between the paragraphs.
- Each paragraph contains enough and meaningful information.
- The last sentences of the paragraph include a low-level conclusion.
Comparative Essay Conclusion
In this section, you need to restate the thesis statement and summarize the main points. Also, remind the reader why it is important to compare these two particular subjects. However, try to avoid writing any additional information in the conclusion of the essay .
Below is the detailed comparative essay template format for you to understand better.
Format of Comparative Essay
Once you are done with creating the outline and writing your essay, proofread and revise it properly. It is an important step to produce a good piece of writing. Never skip this step before submitting or publishing your essay.
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Comparative Essay Examples
Have a look at these comparative essay examples and get an idea of the perfect essay.
Comparative Essay on Summer and Winter - Example
Comparative Essay on Books vs. Movies - Example
Sample Comparative Essay
Thesis Example of Comparative Essay
Comparative Essay Topics
Comparative essay topics are not very difficult or complex. Check this list of essay topics and pick the one that you want to write about.
- How do education and employment compare?
- Living in a big city or staying in a village.
- The school principal or college dean.
- New Year vs. Christmas celebration.
- Dried Fruit vs. Fresh. Which is better?
- Similarities between philosophy and religion.
- British colonization and Spanish colonization.
- Nuclear power for peace or war?
- Bacteria or viruses.
- Fast food vs. homemade food.
Now, you get a complete writing guide for the comparative essay. However, if you need professional essay writing help, consult MyPerfectWords.com . Our legitimate essay writing service provides great services to students who face a difficulty writing a quality essay.
So, hire the best essay writer online and get the well-written essay on time without any mistakes.
Frequently Asked Question
How long is a comparative essay.
A comparative essay is 4-5 pages long, but it depends on your chosen idea and topic.
How do you end a comparative essay?
Here are some tips that will help you to end the comparative essay.
- Restate the thesis statement
- Wrap up the entire essay
- Highlight the main points
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- Comparing and contrasting in an essay | Tips & examples
Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay | Tips & Examples
Published on August 6, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
Comparing and contrasting is an important skill in academic writing . It involves taking two or more subjects and analyzing the differences and similarities between them.
Table of contents
When should i compare and contrast, making effective comparisons, comparing and contrasting as a brainstorming tool, structuring your comparisons, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about comparing and contrasting.
Many assignments will invite you to make comparisons quite explicitly, as in these prompts.
- Compare the treatment of the theme of beauty in the poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats.
- Compare and contrast in-class and distance learning. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?
Some other prompts may not directly ask you to compare and contrast, but present you with a topic where comparing and contrasting could be a good approach.
One way to approach this essay might be to contrast the situation before the Great Depression with the situation during it, to highlight how large a difference it made.
Comparing and contrasting is also used in all kinds of academic contexts where it’s not explicitly prompted. For example, a literature review involves comparing and contrasting different studies on your topic, and an argumentative essay may involve weighing up the pros and cons of different arguments.
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As the name suggests, comparing and contrasting is about identifying both similarities and differences. You might focus on contrasting quite different subjects or comparing subjects with a lot in common—but there must be some grounds for comparison in the first place.
For example, you might contrast French society before and after the French Revolution; you’d likely find many differences, but there would be a valid basis for comparison. However, if you contrasted pre-revolutionary France with Han-dynasty China, your reader might wonder why you chose to compare these two societies.
This is why it’s important to clarify the point of your comparisons by writing a focused thesis statement . Every element of an essay should serve your central argument in some way. Consider what you’re trying to accomplish with any comparisons you make, and be sure to make this clear to the reader.
Comparing and contrasting can be a useful tool to help organize your thoughts before you begin writing any type of academic text. You might use it to compare different theories and approaches you’ve encountered in your preliminary research, for example.
Let’s say your research involves the competing psychological approaches of behaviorism and cognitive psychology. You might make a table to summarize the key differences between them.
Or say you’re writing about the major global conflicts of the twentieth century. You might visualize the key similarities and differences in a Venn diagram.
These visualizations wouldn’t make it into your actual writing, so they don’t have to be very formal in terms of phrasing or presentation. The point of comparing and contrasting at this stage is to help you organize and shape your ideas to aid you in structuring your arguments.
When comparing and contrasting in an essay, there are two main ways to structure your comparisons: the alternating method and the block method.
The alternating method
In the alternating method, you structure your text according to what aspect you’re comparing. You cover both your subjects side by side in terms of a specific point of comparison. Your text is structured like this:
Mouse over the example paragraph below to see how this approach works.
One challenge teachers face is identifying and assisting students who are struggling without disrupting the rest of the class. In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher can easily identify when a student is struggling based on their demeanor in class or simply by regularly checking on students during exercises. They can then offer assistance quietly during the exercise or discuss it further after class. Meanwhile, in a Zoom-based class, the lack of physical presence makes it more difficult to pay attention to individual students’ responses and notice frustrations, and there is less flexibility to speak with students privately to offer assistance. In this case, therefore, the traditional classroom environment holds the advantage, although it appears likely that aiding students in a virtual classroom environment will become easier as the technology, and teachers’ familiarity with it, improves.
The block method
In the block method, you cover each of the overall subjects you’re comparing in a block. You say everything you have to say about your first subject, then discuss your second subject, making comparisons and contrasts back to the things you’ve already said about the first. Your text is structured like this:
- Point of comparison A
- Point of comparison B
The most commonly cited advantage of distance learning is the flexibility and accessibility it offers. Rather than being required to travel to a specific location every week (and to live near enough to feasibly do so), students can participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This allows not only for a wider geographical spread of students but for the possibility of studying while travelling. However, distance learning presents its own accessibility challenges; not all students have a stable internet connection and a computer or other device with which to participate in online classes, and less technologically literate students and teachers may struggle with the technical aspects of class participation. Furthermore, discomfort and distractions can hinder an individual student’s ability to engage with the class from home, creating divergent learning experiences for different students. Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.
Note that these two methods can be combined; these two example paragraphs could both be part of the same essay, but it’s wise to use an essay outline to plan out which approach you’re taking in each paragraph.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.
Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .
Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.
You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.
Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:
- The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
- The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.
It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.
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- Comparative Analysis
What It Is and Why It's Useful
Comparative analysis asks writers to make an argument about the relationship between two or more texts. Beyond that, there's a lot of variation, but three overarching kinds of comparative analysis stand out:
- Coordinate (A ↔ B): In this kind of analysis, two (or more) texts are being read against each other in terms of a shared element, e.g., a memoir and a novel, both by Jesmyn Ward; two sets of data for the same experiment; a few op-ed responses to the same event; two YA books written in Chicago in the 2000s; a film adaption of a play; etc.
- Subordinate (A → B) or (B → A ): Using a theoretical text (as a "lens") to explain a case study or work of art (e.g., how Anthony Jack's The Privileged Poor can help explain divergent experiences among students at elite four-year private colleges who are coming from similar socio-economic backgrounds) or using a work of art or case study (i.e., as a "test" of) a theory's usefulness or limitations (e.g., using coverage of recent incidents of gun violence or legislation un the U.S. to confirm or question the currency of Carol Anderson's The Second ).
- Hybrid [A → (B ↔ C)] or [(B ↔ C) → A] , i.e., using coordinate and subordinate analysis together. For example, using Jack to compare or contrast the experiences of students at elite four-year institutions with students at state universities and/or community colleges; or looking at gun culture in other countries and/or other timeframes to contextualize or generalize Anderson's main points about the role of the Second Amendment in U.S. history.
"In the wild," these three kinds of comparative analysis represent increasingly complex—and scholarly—modes of comparison. Students can of course compare two poems in terms of imagery or two data sets in terms of methods, but in each case the analysis will eventually be richer if the students have had a chance to encounter other people's ideas about how imagery or methods work. At that point, we're getting into a hybrid kind of reading (or even into research essays), especially if we start introducing different approaches to imagery or methods that are themselves being compared along with a couple (or few) poems or data sets.
Why It's Useful
In the context of a particular course, each kind of comparative analysis has its place and can be a useful step up from single-source analysis. Intellectually, comparative analysis helps overcome the "n of 1" problem that can face single-source analysis. That is, a writer drawing broad conclusions about the influence of the Iranian New Wave based on one film is relying entirely—and almost certainly too much—on that film to support those findings. In the context of even just one more film, though, the analysis is suddenly more likely to arrive at one of the best features of any comparative approach: both films will be more richly experienced than they would have been in isolation, and the themes or questions in terms of which they're being explored (here the general question of the influence of the Iranian New Wave) will arrive at conclusions that are less at-risk of oversimplification.
For scholars working in comparative fields or through comparative approaches, these features of comparative analysis animate their work. To borrow from a stock example in Western epistemology, our concept of "green" isn't based on a single encounter with something we intuit or are told is "green." Not at all. Our concept of "green" is derived from a complex set of experiences of what others say is green or what's labeled green or what seems to be something that's neither blue nor yellow but kind of both, etc. Comparative analysis essays offer us the chance to engage with that process—even if only enough to help us see where a more in-depth exploration with a higher and/or more diverse "n" might lead—and in that sense, from the standpoint of the subject matter students are exploring through writing as well the complexity of the genre of writing they're using to explore it—comparative analysis forms a bridge of sorts between single-source analysis and research essays.
Typical learning objectives for single-sources essays: formulate analytical questions and an arguable thesis, establish stakes of an argument, summarize sources accurately, choose evidence effectively, analyze evidence effectively, define key terms, organize argument logically, acknowledge and respond to counterargument, cite sources properly, and present ideas in clear prose.
Common types of comparative analysis essays and related types: two works in the same genre, two works from the same period (but in different places or in different cultures), a work adapted into a different genre or medium, two theories treating the same topic; a theory and a case study or other object, etc.
How to Teach It: Framing + Practice
Framing multi-source writing assignments (comparative analysis, research essays, multi-modal projects) is likely to overlap a great deal with "Why It's Useful" (see above), because the range of reasons why we might use these kinds of writing in academic or non-academic settings is itself the reason why they so often appear later in courses. In many courses, they're the best vehicles for exploring the complex questions that arise once we've been introduced to the course's main themes, core content, leading protagonists, and central debates.
For comparative analysis in particular, it's helpful to frame assignment's process and how it will help students successfully navigate the challenges and pitfalls presented by the genre. Ideally, this will mean students have time to identify what each text seems to be doing, take note of apparent points of connection between different texts, and start to imagine how those points of connection (or the absence thereof)
- complicates or upends their own expectations or assumptions about the texts
- complicates or refutes the expectations or assumptions about the texts presented by a scholar
- confirms and/or nuances expectations and assumptions they themselves hold or scholars have presented
- presents entirely unforeseen ways of understanding the texts
—and all with implications for the texts themselves or for the axes along which the comparative analysis took place. If students know that this is where their ideas will be heading, they'll be ready to develop those ideas and engage with the challenges that comparative analysis presents in terms of structure (See "Tips" and "Common Pitfalls" below for more on these elements of framing).
Like single-source analyses, comparative essays have several moving parts, and giving students practice here means adapting the sample sequence laid out at the " Formative Writing Assignments " page. Three areas that have already been mentioned above are worth noting:
- Gathering evidence : Depending on what your assignment is asking students to compare (or in terms of what), students will benefit greatly from structured opportunities to create inventories or data sets of the motifs, examples, trajectories, etc., shared (or not shared) by the texts they'll be comparing. See the sample exercises below for a basic example of what this might look like.
- Why it Matters: Moving beyond "x is like y but also different" or even "x is more like y than we might think at first" is what moves an essay from being "compare/contrast" to being a comparative analysis . It's also a move that can be hard to make and that will often evolve over the course of an assignment. A great way to get feedback from students about where they're at on this front? Ask them to start considering early on why their argument "matters" to different kinds of imagined audiences (while they're just gathering evidence) and again as they develop their thesis and again as they're drafting their essays. ( Cover letters , for example, are a great place to ask writers to imagine how a reader might be affected by reading an their argument.)
- Structure: Having two texts on stage at the same time can suddenly feel a lot more complicated for any writer who's used to having just one at a time. Giving students a sense of what the most common patterns (AAA / BBB, ABABAB, etc.) are likely to be can help them imagine, even if provisionally, how their argument might unfold over a series of pages. See "Tips" and "Common Pitfalls" below for more information on this front.
Sample Exercises and Links to Other Resources
- Common Pitfalls
- Advice on Timing
- Try to keep students from thinking of a proposed thesis as a commitment. Instead, help them see it as more of a hypothesis that has emerged out of readings and discussion and analytical questions and that they'll now test through an experiment, namely, writing their essay. When students see writing as part of the process of inquiry—rather than just the result—and when that process is committed to acknowledging and adapting itself to evidence, it makes writing assignments more scientific, more ethical, and more authentic.
- Have students create an inventory of touch points between the two texts early in the process.
- Ask students to make the case—early on and at points throughout the process—for the significance of the claim they're making about the relationship between the texts they're comparing.
- For coordinate kinds of comparative analysis, a common pitfall is tied to thesis and evidence. Basically, it's a thesis that tells the reader that there are "similarities and differences" between two texts, without telling the reader why it matters that these two texts have or don't have these particular features in common. This kind of thesis is stuck at the level of description or positivism, and it's not uncommon when a writer is grappling with the complexity that can in fact accompany the "taking inventory" stage of comparative analysis. The solution is to make the "taking inventory" stage part of the process of the assignment. When this stage comes before students have formulated a thesis, that formulation is then able to emerge out of a comparative data set, rather than the data set emerging in terms of their thesis (which can lead to confirmation bias, or frequency illusion, or—just for the sake of streamlining the process of gathering evidence—cherry picking).
- For subordinate kinds of comparative analysis , a common pitfall is tied to how much weight is given to each source. Having students apply a theory (in a "lens" essay) or weigh the pros and cons of a theory against case studies (in a "test a theory") essay can be a great way to help them explore the assumptions, implications, and real-world usefulness of theoretical approaches. The pitfall of these approaches is that they can quickly lead to the same biases we saw here above. Making sure that students know they should engage with counterevidence and counterargument, and that "lens" / "test a theory" approaches often balance each other out in any real-world application of theory is a good way to get out in front of this pitfall.
- For any kind of comparative analysis, a common pitfall is structure. Every comparative analysis asks writers to move back and forth between texts, and that can pose a number of challenges, including: what pattern the back and forth should follow and how to use transitions and other signposting to make sure readers can follow the overarching argument as the back and forth is taking place. Here's some advice from an experienced writing instructor to students about how to think about these considerations:
a quick note on STRUCTURE
Most of us have encountered the question of whether to adopt what we might term the “A→A→A→B→B→B” structure or the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure. Do we make all of our points about text A before moving on to text B? Or do we go back and forth between A and B as the essay proceeds? As always, the answers to our questions about structure depend on our goals in the essay as a whole. In a “similarities in spite of differences” essay, for instance, readers will need to encounter the differences between A and B before we offer them the similarities (A d →B d →A s →B s ). If, rather than subordinating differences to similarities you are subordinating text A to text B (using A as a point of comparison that reveals B’s originality, say), you may be well served by the “A→A→A→B→B→B” structure.
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself how many “A→B” moves you have in you. Is each one identical? If so, you may wish to make the transition from A to B only once (“A→A→A→B→B→B”), because if each “A→B” move is identical, the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure will appear to involve nothing more than directionless oscillation and repetition. If each is increasingly complex, however—if each AB pair yields a new and progressively more complex idea about your subject—you may be well served by the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure, because in this case it will be visible to readers as a progressively developing argument.
As we discussed in "Advice on Timing" at the page on single-source analysis, that timeline itself roughly follows the "Sample Sequence of Formative Assignments for a 'Typical' Essay" outlined under " Formative Writing Assignments, " and it spans about 5–6 steps or 2–4 weeks.
Comparative analysis assignments have a lot of the same DNA as single-source essays, but they potentially bring more reading into play and ask students to engage in more complicated acts of analysis and synthesis during the drafting stages. With that in mind, closer to 4 weeks is probably a good baseline for many single-source analysis assignments. For sections that meet once per week, the timeline will either probably need to expand—ideally—a little past the 4-week side of things, or some of the steps will need to be combined or done asynchronously.
What It Can Build Up To
Comparative analyses can build up to other kinds of writing in a number of ways. For example:
- They can build toward other kinds of comparative analysis, e.g., student can be asked to choose an additional source to complicate their conclusions from a previous analysis, or they can be asked to revisit an analysis using a different axis of comparison, such as race instead of class. (These approaches are akin to moving from a coordinate or subordinate analysis to more of a hybrid approach.)
- They can scaffold up to research essays, which in many instances are an extension of a "hybrid comparative analysis."
- Like single-source analysis, in a course where students will take a "deep dive" into a source or topic for their capstone, they can allow students to "try on" a theoretical approach or genre or time period to see if it's indeed something they want to research more fully.
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The Comparative Essay
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What is a comparative essay?
A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare
- positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
- theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
- figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
- texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth )
- events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008–9)
Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.
Make sure you know the basis for comparison
The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself.
- Provided by the essay question: The essay question may ask that you consider the figure of the gentleman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall . The basis for comparison will be the figure of the gentleman.
- Developed by you: The question may simply ask that you compare the two novels. If so, you will need to develop a basis for comparison, that is, a theme, concern, or device common to both works from which you can draw similarities and differences.
Develop a list of similarities and differences
Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them.
For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations , being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall , being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity.
The list you have generated is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan.
Develop a thesis based on the relative weight of similarities and differences
Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases:
While Callaghan’s “All the Years of Her Life” and Mistry’s “Of White Hairs and Cricket” both follow the conventions of the coming-of-age narrative, Callaghan’s story adheres more closely to these conventions by allowing its central protagonist to mature. In Mistry’s story, by contrast, no real growth occurs.
Although Darwin and Lamarck came to different conclusions about whether acquired traits can be inherited, they shared the key distinction of recognizing that species evolve over time.
Come up with a structure for your essay
Note that the French and Russian revolutions (A and B) may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.
When do I use the block method? The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:
- You are unable to find points about A and B that are closely related to each other.
- Your ideas about B build upon or extend your ideas about A.
- You are comparing three or more subjects as opposed to the traditional two.
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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
Last Updated: May 12, 2023 Approved
This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 29 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 3,091,601 times.
The purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to analyze the differences and/or the similarities of two distinct subjects. A good compare/contrast essay doesn’t only point out how the subjects are similar or different (or even both!). It uses those points to make a meaningful argument about the subjects. While it can be a little intimidating to approach this type of essay at first, with a little work and practice, you can write a great compare-and-contrast essay!
Formulating Your Argument
- You could pick two subjects that are in the same “category” but have differences that are significant in some way. For example, you could choose “homemade pizza vs. frozen grocery store pizza.”
- You could pick two subjects that don’t appear to have anything in common but that have a surprising similarity. For example, you could choose to compare bats and whales. (One is tiny and flies, and the other is huge and swims, but they both use sonar to hunt.)
- You could pick two subjects that might appear to be the same but are actually different. For example, you could choose "The Hunger Games movie vs. the book."
- For example, ask yourself: What can we learn by thinking about “The Hunger Games” and “Battle Royale” together that we would miss out on if we thought about them separately?
- It can be helpful to consider the “So what?” question when deciding whether your subjects have meaningful comparisons and contrasts to be made. If you say “The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are both similar and different,” and your friend asked you “So what?” what would your answer be? In other words, why bother putting these two things together?
- A “Venn diagram” can often be helpful when brainstorming. This set of overlapping circles can help you visualize where your subjects are similar and where they differ. In the outer edges of the circle, you write what is different; in the overlapping middle area, you write what’s similar.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- You can also just draw out a list of all of the qualities or characteristics of each subject. Once you’ve done that, start looking through the list for traits that both subjects share. Major points of difference are also good to note.
- For example, if you are comparing and contrasting cats and dogs, you might notice that both are common household pets, fairly easy to adopt, and don’t usually have many special care needs. These are points of comparison (ways they are similar).
- You might also note that cats are usually more independent than dogs, that dogs may not provoke allergies as much as cats do, and that cats don’t get as big as many dogs do. These are points of contrast (ways they are different).
- These points of contrast can often be good places to start thinking about your thesis, or argument. Do these differences make one animal a superior type of pet? Or a better pet choice for a specific living situation (e.g., an apartment, a farm, etc.)?
- Show readers why one subject is more desirable than the other. Example: "Cats are better pets than dogs because they require less maintenance, are more independent, and are more adaptable."
- Help readers make a meaningful comparison between two subjects. Example: "New York City and San Francisco are both great cities for young professionals, but they differ in terms of their job opportunities, social environment, and living conditions."
- Show readers how two subjects are similar and different. Example: "While both The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird explore the themes of loss of innocence and the deep bond between siblings, To Kill a Mockingbird is more concerned with racism while The Catcher in the Rye focuses on the prejudices of class."
- In middle school and high school, the standard format for essays is often the “5-paragraph form,” with an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If your teacher recommends this form, go for it. However, you should be aware that especially in college, teachers and professors tend to want students to break out of this limited mode. Don’t get so locked into having “three main points” that you forget to fully explore your topic.
Organizing Your Essay
- Subject by subject. This organization deals with all of the points about Topic A, then all of the points of Topic B. For example, you could discuss all your points about frozen pizza (in as many paragraphs as necessary), then all your points about homemade pizza. The strength of this form is that you don’t jump back and forth as much between topics, which can help your essay read more smoothly. It can also be helpful if you are using one subject as a “lens” through which to examine the other. The major disadvantage is that the comparisons and contrasts don’t really become evident until much further into the essay, and it can end up reading like a list of “points” rather than a cohesive essay.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- Point by point. This type of organization switches back and forth between points. For example, you could first discuss the prices of frozen pizza vs. homemade pizza, then the quality of ingredients, then the convenience factor. The advantage of this form is that it’s very clear what you’re comparing and contrasting. The disadvantage is that you do switch back and forth between topics, so you need to make sure that you use transitions and signposts to lead your reader through your argument.
- Compare then contrast. This organization presents all the comparisons first, then all the contrasts. It’s a pretty common way of organizing an essay, and it can be helpful if you really want to emphasize how your subjects are different. Putting the contrasts last places the emphasis on them. However, it can be more difficult for your readers to immediately see why these two subjects are being contrasted if all the similarities are first.
- Introduction. This paragraph comes first and presents the basic information about the subjects to be compared and contrasted. It should present your thesis and the direction of your essay (i.e., what you will discuss and why your readers should care).
- Body Paragraphs. These are the meat of your essay, where you provide the details and evidence that support your claims. Each different section or body paragraph should tackle a different division of proof. It should provide and analyze evidence in order to connect those proofs to your thesis and support your thesis. Many middle-school and high-school essays may only require three body paragraphs, but use as many as is necessary to fully convey your argument.
- Acknowledgement of Competitive Arguments/Concession. This paragraph acknowledges that other counter-arguments exist, but discusses how those arguments are flawed or do not apply.
- Conclusion. This paragraph summarizes the evidence presented. It will restate the thesis, but usually in a way that offers more information or sophistication than the introduction could. Remember: your audience now has all the information you gave them about why your argument is solid. They don’t need you to just reword your original thesis. Take it to the next level!
- Introduction: state your intent to discuss the differences between camping in the woods or on the beach.
- Body Paragraph 1 (Woods): Climate/Weather
- Body Paragraph 2 (Woods): Types of Activities and Facilities
- Body Paragraph 3 (Beach): Climate/Weather
- Body Paragraph 4 (Beach): Types of Activities and Facilities
- Body Paragraph 1: Similarity between woods and beaches (both are places with a wide variety of things to do)
- Body Paragraph 2: First difference between woods and beaches (they have different climates)
- Body Paragraph 3: Second difference between woods and beaches (there are more easily accessible woods than beaches in most parts of the country)
- Body Paragraph 4: Emphasis on the superiority of the woods to the beach
- Topic sentence: This sentence introduces the main idea and subject of the paragraph. It can also provide a transition from the ideas in the previous paragraph.
- Body: These sentences provide concrete evidence that support the topic sentence and main idea.
- Conclusion: this sentence wraps up the ideas in the paragraph. It may also provide a link to the next paragraph’s ideas.
Putting It All Together
- If you are having trouble finding evidence to support your argument, go back to your original texts and try the brainstorming process again. It could be that your argument is evolving past where it started, which is good! You just need to go back and look for further evidence.
- For example, in a body paragraph about the quality of ingredients in frozen vs. homemade pizza, you could close with an assertion like this: “Because you actively control the quality of the ingredients in pizza you make at home, it can be healthier for you than frozen pizza. It can also let you express your imagination. Pineapple and peanut butter pizza? Go for it! Pickles and parmesan? Do it! Using your own ingredients lets you have fun with your food.” This type of comment helps your reader understand why the ability to choose your own ingredients makes homemade pizza better.
- Reading your essay aloud can also help you find problem spots. Often, when you’re writing you get so used to what you meant to say that you don’t read what you actually said.
- Avoid bias. Don't use overly negative or defamatory language to show why a subject is unfavorable; use solid evidence to prove your points instead.
- Avoid first-person pronouns unless told otherwise. In some cases, your teacher may encourage you to use “I” and “you” in your essay. However, if the assignment or your teacher doesn’t mention it, stick with third-person instead, like “one may see” or “people may enjoy.” This is common practice for formal academic essays.
- Proofread! Spelling and punctuation errors happen to everyone, but not catching them can make you seem lazy. Go over your essay carefully, and ask a friend to help if you’re not confident in your own proofreading skills.
Sample Body Paragraphs
- "When one is deciding whether to go to the beach or the woods, the type of activities that each location offers are an important point to consider. At the beach, one can enjoy the water by swimming, surfing, or even building a sandcastle with a moat that will fill with water. When one is in the woods, one may be able to go fishing or swimming in a nearby lake, or one may not be near water at all. At the beach, one can keep one's kids entertained by burying them in sand or kicking around a soccer ball; if one is in the woods, one can entertain one's kids by showing them different plans or animals. Both the beach and the woods offer a variety of activities for adults and kids alike."
- "The beach has a wonderful climate, many activities, and great facilities for any visitor's everyday use. If a person goes to the beach during the right day or time of year, he or she can enjoy warm, yet refreshing water, a cool breeze, and a relatively hot climate. At the beach, one can go swimming, sunbathe, or build sandcastles. There are also great facilities at the beach, such as a changing room, umbrellas, and conveniently-located restaurants and changing facilities. The climate, activities, and facilities are important points to consider when deciding between the beach and the woods."
Sample Essay Outline
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- Collect your sources. Mark page numbers in books, authors, titles, dates, or other applicable information. This will help you cite your sources later on in the writing process. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 2
- Don't rush through your writing. If you have a deadline, start early. If you rush, the writing won't not be as good as it could be. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Use reputable sources. While Wikipedia may be an easy way to start off, try to go to more specific websites afterwards. Many schools refuse to accept Wikipedia as a valid source of information, and prefer sources with more expertise and credibility. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- If you have external sources, make sure you always cite them. Otherwise, you may be guilty of plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/comparing-and-contrasting/
- ↑ http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/compcontrast/
About This Article
To write a compare and contrast essay, try organizing your essay so you're comparing and contrasting one aspect of your subjects in each paragraph. Or, if you don't want to jump back and forth between subjects, structure your essay so the first half is about one subject and the second half is about the other. You could also write your essay so the first few paragraphs introduce all of the comparisons and the last few paragraphs introduce all of the contrasts, which can help emphasize your subjects' differences and similarities. To learn how to choose subjects to compare and come up with a thesis statement, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Printable version of Comparative Essays (PDF) .
Writing a comparison usually requires that you assess the similarities and differences between two or more theories , procedures , or processes . You explain to your reader what insights can be gained from the comparison, or judge whether one thing is better than another according to established criteria.
Helpful tip: When you are asked to write a comparative essay, remember that, unless you are instructed otherwise, you are usually being asked to assess both similarities and differences . Such essays may be called comparative essays , comparison essays , or compare-and-contrast essays .
How to write a comparative essay
- Establish a basis of comparison A basis of comparison represents the main idea , category , or theme you will investigate. You will have to do some preliminary reading , likely using your course materials, to get an idea of what kind of criteria you will use to assess whatever you are comparing. A basis of comparison must apply to all items you are comparing, but the details will be different. For example, if you are asked to "compare neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture," you could compare the influence of social context on the two styles.
- Gather the details of whatever you are comparing Once you have decided what theme or idea you are investigating, you will need to gather details of whatever you are comparing, especially in terms of similarities and differences . Doing so allows you to see which criteria you should use in your comparison, if not specified by your professor or instructor.
Helpful tip: Organize your criteria in columns or a Venn diagram ; using visual methods to map your pre-writing work can help you to stay on track and more clearly get a sense of how the essay will be structured.
Based on the information in the above table, you could focus on how ornamentation and design principles reveal prevailing intellectual thought about architecture in the respective eras and societies.
- Develop a thesis statement After brainstorming, try to develop a thesis statement that identifies the results of your comparison. Here is an example of a fairly common thesis statement structure: e.g., Although neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture have [similar characteristics A and B], they reveal profound differences in their interpretation of [C, D, and E].
Helpful tip: Avoid a thesis statement that simply states your obvious purpose. e.g., The aim of this essay is to compare [A and B] with reference to [X, Y, and Z].
- Organize your comparison You have a choice of two basic methods for organizing a comparative essay: the point-by-point method or the block method. The point-by-point method examines one aspect of comparison in each paragraph and usually alternates back and forth between the two objects, texts, or ideas being compared. This method allows you to emphasize points of similarity and of difference as you proceed. In the block method , however, you say everything you need to say about one thing, then do the same thing with the other. This method works best if you want readers to understand and agree with the advantages of something you are proposing, such as introducing a new process or theory by showing how it compares to something more traditional.
Sample outlines for comparative essays on neoclassical and gothic architecture
Building a point-by-point essay.
Using the point-by-point method in a comparative essay allows you to draw direct comparisons and produce a more tightly integrated essay.
Helpful tip: Note that you can have more than three points of comparison , especially in longer essays. The points can be either similarities or differences. Overall, in order to use this method, you must be able to apply criteria to every item, text, or idea you are comparing.
- Introductory material
- Thesis: Although neoclassical and gothic architecture are both western European forms that are exemplified in civic buildings and churches, they nonetheless reveal, through different structural design and ornamentation, the different intellectual principles of the two societies that created them.
- Why this comparison is important and what it tells readers
Building a block method essay
Using the block method in a comparative essay can help ensure that the ideas in the second block build upon or extend ideas presented in the first block. It works well if you have three or more major areas of comparison instead of two (for example, if you added in a third or fourth style of architecture, the block method would be easier to organize).
- Thesis: The neoclassical style of architecture was a conscious rejection of the gothic style that had dominated in France at the end of the middle ages; it represented a desire to return to the classical ideals of Greece and Rome.
- Text 1: History and development
- Text 2: Change from earlier form; social context of new form
- Synthesis and analysis: What does the comparison reveal about architectural development?
Back to Writing Centre resources .
Comparing and Contrasting
What this handout is about.
This handout will help you first to determine whether a particular assignment is asking for comparison/contrast and then to generate a list of similarities and differences, decide which similarities and differences to focus on, and organize your paper so that it will be clear and effective. It will also explain how you can (and why you should) develop a thesis that goes beyond “Thing A and Thing B are similar in many ways but different in others.”
In your career as a student, you’ll encounter many different kinds of writing assignments, each with its own requirements. One of the most common is the comparison/contrast essay, in which you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas—usually two of them—are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to make connections between texts or ideas, engage in critical thinking, and go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis: when you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them.
Recognizing comparison/contrast in assignments
Some assignments use words—like compare, contrast, similarities, and differences—that make it easy for you to see that they are asking you to compare and/or contrast. Here are a few hypothetical examples:
- Compare and contrast Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression.
- Compare WWI to WWII, identifying similarities in the causes, development, and outcomes of the wars.
- Contrast Wordsworth and Coleridge; what are the major differences in their poetry?
Notice that some topics ask only for comparison, others only for contrast, and others for both.
But it’s not always so easy to tell whether an assignment is asking you to include comparison/contrast. And in some cases, comparison/contrast is only part of the essay—you begin by comparing and/or contrasting two or more things and then use what you’ve learned to construct an argument or evaluation. Consider these examples, noticing the language that is used to ask for the comparison/contrast and whether the comparison/contrast is only one part of a larger assignment:
- Choose a particular idea or theme, such as romantic love, death, or nature, and consider how it is treated in two Romantic poems.
- How do the different authors we have studied so far define and describe oppression?
- Compare Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression. What does each imply about women’s collusion in their own oppression? Which is more accurate?
- In the texts we’ve studied, soldiers who served in different wars offer differing accounts of their experiences and feelings both during and after the fighting. What commonalities are there in these accounts? What factors do you think are responsible for their differences?
You may want to check out our handout on understanding assignments for additional tips.
Using comparison/contrast for all kinds of writing projects
Sometimes you may want to use comparison/contrast techniques in your own pre-writing work to get ideas that you can later use for an argument, even if comparison/contrast isn’t an official requirement for the paper you’re writing. For example, if you wanted to argue that Frye’s account of oppression is better than both de Beauvoir’s and Bartky’s, comparing and contrasting the main arguments of those three authors might help you construct your evaluation—even though the topic may not have asked for comparison/contrast and the lists of similarities and differences you generate may not appear anywhere in the final draft of your paper.
Discovering similarities and differences
Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas. To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you’re considering. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common. Assign each one of the areas that doesn’t overlap; in those areas, you can list the traits that make the things different. Here’s a very simple example, using two pizza places:
To make a chart, figure out what criteria you want to focus on in comparing the items. Along the left side of the page, list each of the criteria. Across the top, list the names of the items. You should then have a box per item for each criterion; you can fill the boxes in and then survey what you’ve discovered.
As you generate points of comparison, consider the purpose and content of the assignment and the focus of the class. What do you think the professor wants you to learn by doing this comparison/contrast? How does it fit with what you have been studying so far and with the other assignments in the course? Are there any clues about what to focus on in the assignment itself?
Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. These are by no means complete or definitive lists; they’re just here to give you some ideas—you can generate your own questions for these and other types of comparison. You may want to begin by using the questions reporters traditionally ask: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? If you’re talking about objects, you might also consider general properties like size, shape, color, sound, weight, taste, texture, smell, number, duration, and location.
Two historical periods or events
- When did they occur—do you know the date(s) and duration? What happened or changed during each? Why are they significant?
- What kinds of work did people do? What kinds of relationships did they have? What did they value?
- What kinds of governments were there? Who were important people involved?
- What caused events in these periods, and what consequences did they have later on?
Two ideas or theories
- What are they about?
- Did they originate at some particular time?
- Who created them? Who uses or defends them?
- What is the central focus, claim, or goal of each? What conclusions do they offer?
- How are they applied to situations/people/things/etc.?
- Which seems more plausible to you, and why? How broad is their scope?
- What kind of evidence is usually offered for them?
Two pieces of writing or art
- What are their titles? What do they describe or depict?
- What is their tone or mood? What is their form?
- Who created them? When were they created? Why do you think they were created as they were? What themes do they address?
- Do you think one is of higher quality or greater merit than the other(s)—and if so, why?
- For writing: what plot, characterization, setting, theme, tone, and type of narration are used?
- Where are they from? How old are they? What is the gender, race, class, etc. of each?
- What, if anything, are they known for? Do they have any relationship to each other?
- What are they like? What did/do they do? What do they believe? Why are they interesting?
- What stands out most about each of them?
Deciding what to focus on
By now you have probably generated a huge list of similarities and differences—congratulations! Next you must decide which of them are interesting, important, and relevant enough to be included in your paper. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s relevant to the assignment?
- What’s relevant to the course?
- What’s interesting and informative?
- What matters to the argument you are going to make?
- What’s basic or central (and needs to be mentioned even if obvious)?
- Overall, what’s more important—the similarities or the differences?
Suppose that you are writing a paper comparing two novels. For most literature classes, the fact that they both use Caslon type (a kind of typeface, like the fonts you may use in your writing) is not going to be relevant, nor is the fact that one of them has a few illustrations and the other has none; literature classes are more likely to focus on subjects like characterization, plot, setting, the writer’s style and intentions, language, central themes, and so forth. However, if you were writing a paper for a class on typesetting or on how illustrations are used to enhance novels, the typeface and presence or absence of illustrations might be absolutely critical to include in your final paper.
Sometimes a particular point of comparison or contrast might be relevant but not terribly revealing or interesting. For example, if you are writing a paper about Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” pointing out that they both have nature as a central theme is relevant (comparisons of poetry often talk about themes) but not terribly interesting; your class has probably already had many discussions about the Romantic poets’ fondness for nature. Talking about the different ways nature is depicted or the different aspects of nature that are emphasized might be more interesting and show a more sophisticated understanding of the poems.
The thesis of your comparison/contrast paper is very important: it can help you create a focused argument and give your reader a road map so she/he doesn’t get lost in the sea of points you are about to make. As in any paper, you will want to replace vague reports of your general topic (for example, “This paper will compare and contrast two pizza places,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in some ways and different in others,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in many ways, but they have one major difference”) with something more detailed and specific. For example, you might say, “Pepper’s and Amante have similar prices and ingredients, but their atmospheres and willingness to deliver set them apart.”
Be careful, though—although this thesis is fairly specific and does propose a simple argument (that atmosphere and delivery make the two pizza places different), your instructor will often be looking for a bit more analysis. In this case, the obvious question is “So what? Why should anyone care that Pepper’s and Amante are different in this way?” One might also wonder why the writer chose those two particular pizza places to compare—why not Papa John’s, Dominos, or Pizza Hut? Again, thinking about the context the class provides may help you answer such questions and make a stronger argument. Here’s a revision of the thesis mentioned earlier:
Pepper’s and Amante both offer a greater variety of ingredients than other Chapel Hill/Carrboro pizza places (and than any of the national chains), but the funky, lively atmosphere at Pepper’s makes it a better place to give visiting friends and family a taste of local culture.
You may find our handout on constructing thesis statements useful at this stage.
Organizing your paper
There are many different ways to organize a comparison/contrast essay. Here are two:
Begin by saying everything you have to say about the first subject you are discussing, then move on and make all the points you want to make about the second subject (and after that, the third, and so on, if you’re comparing/contrasting more than two things). If the paper is short, you might be able to fit all of your points about each item into a single paragraph, but it’s more likely that you’d have several paragraphs per item. Using our pizza place comparison/contrast as an example, after the introduction, you might have a paragraph about the ingredients available at Pepper’s, a paragraph about its location, and a paragraph about its ambience. Then you’d have three similar paragraphs about Amante, followed by your conclusion.
The danger of this subject-by-subject organization is that your paper will simply be a list of points: a certain number of points (in my example, three) about one subject, then a certain number of points about another. This is usually not what college instructors are looking for in a paper—generally they want you to compare or contrast two or more things very directly, rather than just listing the traits the things have and leaving it up to the reader to reflect on how those traits are similar or different and why those similarities or differences matter. Thus, if you use the subject-by-subject form, you will probably want to have a very strong, analytical thesis and at least one body paragraph that ties all of your different points together.
A subject-by-subject structure can be a logical choice if you are writing what is sometimes called a “lens” comparison, in which you use one subject or item (which isn’t really your main topic) to better understand another item (which is). For example, you might be asked to compare a poem you’ve already covered thoroughly in class with one you are reading on your own. It might make sense to give a brief summary of your main ideas about the first poem (this would be your first subject, the “lens”), and then spend most of your paper discussing how those points are similar to or different from your ideas about the second.
Rather than addressing things one subject at a time, you may wish to talk about one point of comparison at a time. There are two main ways this might play out, depending on how much you have to say about each of the things you are comparing. If you have just a little, you might, in a single paragraph, discuss how a certain point of comparison/contrast relates to all the items you are discussing. For example, I might describe, in one paragraph, what the prices are like at both Pepper’s and Amante; in the next paragraph, I might compare the ingredients available; in a third, I might contrast the atmospheres of the two restaurants.
If I had a bit more to say about the items I was comparing/contrasting, I might devote a whole paragraph to how each point relates to each item. For example, I might have a whole paragraph about the clientele at Pepper’s, followed by a whole paragraph about the clientele at Amante; then I would move on and do two more paragraphs discussing my next point of comparison/contrast—like the ingredients available at each restaurant.
There are no hard and fast rules about organizing a comparison/contrast paper, of course. Just be sure that your reader can easily tell what’s going on! Be aware, too, of the placement of your different points. If you are writing a comparison/contrast in service of an argument, keep in mind that the last point you make is the one you are leaving your reader with. For example, if I am trying to argue that Amante is better than Pepper’s, I should end with a contrast that leaves Amante sounding good, rather than with a point of comparison that I have to admit makes Pepper’s look better. If you’ve decided that the differences between the items you’re comparing/contrasting are most important, you’ll want to end with the differences—and vice versa, if the similarities seem most important to you.
Our handout on organization can help you write good topic sentences and transitions and make sure that you have a good overall structure in place for your paper.
Cue words and other tips
To help your reader keep track of where you are in the comparison/contrast, you’ll want to be sure that your transitions and topic sentences are especially strong. Your thesis should already have given the reader an idea of the points you’ll be making and the organization you’ll be using, but you can help her/him out with some extra cues. The following words may be helpful to you in signaling your intentions:
- like, similar to, also, unlike, similarly, in the same way, likewise, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, contrasted with, on the contrary, however, although, yet, even though, still, but, nevertheless, conversely, at the same time, regardless, despite, while, on the one hand … on the other hand.
For example, you might have a topic sentence like one of these:
- Compared to Pepper’s, Amante is quiet.
- Like Amante, Pepper’s offers fresh garlic as a topping.
- Despite their different locations (downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro), Pepper’s and Amante are both fairly easy to get to.
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9 Easy Steps for Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay
- Posted on April 25, 2022 April 18, 2022
Compare and contrast essays are common assignments in middle and high school English classes. They frequently show up in college as well, and while this task may not be explicitly given to professionals, the ability to compare two subjects critically during the writing process is crucial to academics of every age.
Once you master this type of essay , you will see benefits throughout your life. Strong comparison skills will help you write better college entrance essays and argue your point in debates. These skills will improve your test scores and deepen your college papers. Looking professionally, they could aid in easily convincing team members of anything from a new workflow software to a functional coffeemaker to a promotion.
In order to write a good compare and contrast essay , though, you need the ability to formulate a highly-researched and well-structured piece of academic writing . That means understanding the type of essay assigned, familiarizing yourself with this specific writing process , and knowing how to effectively incorporate transition words . It also requires a firm grasp of different styles of citations , in order to lend confidence to your argument and give proper credit to others.
Let’s take a look at what exactly a comparison essay is, what purpose its writing serves, and how to write one in nine easy steps.
What is a Compare and Contrast Essay ?
A compare and contrast essay is exactly what it sounds like. You take two – or sometimes more – items and evaluate the similarities and differences between them. Your paper might tackle any subject, such as science, history, economics, literature, or philosophy.
Comparing essays are different from other types of essays that are commonly assigned in school. For instance, a descriptive essay usually pertains to one subject, book, or idea, exploring it in detail. A persuasive essay, on the other hnad, tries to convince the reader to take one specific course of action.
The main aspect of contrast essay topics is that they consider two subjects or ideas at once. Some of the most common contrast essay examples include comparisons between:
- Exploring two different scientific methods for similarities and differences in approach
- Reading contextually two classic novels from the same time period
- Examining contrasting political systems in the United States or abroad
- Looking at two different cultures to see values and practices they share and, conversely, do not share
- Considering two possible approaches to a moral or logistical problem
- Exploring two methods of farming specifically focusing on productivity, simplicity, and empirical evidence
You could theoretically use this organizational structure to examine two items within the same category for almost any subject.
Purpose of a Compare and Contrast Essay
The purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to point out all the similarities and all differences between two nouns, ideas, et cetera. Considering two ideas fully can naturally transition into an ability to argue for or against a position or stance.
In debate, for example, comparing and contrasting is a critical skill as you must be able to examine the topic from both angles. Obviously, you need to make a case for your own side of the debate, however it is critical you see the other side’s point of view as well. Otherwise, you will find yourself completely unprepared for their arguments. Therefore, comparing the benefits, ideological underpinnings and rhetorical styles that best match both sides of an issue is an excellent lifelong skill.
In literature, you will benefit from the ability to compare two books for themes, writing style, word choice, characterization, and more. Doing so helps you become a better writer yourself, as well as understand the complexity of the human condition.
Knowing how to develop a solid argument, moreover, helps you:
- Deepen your critical thinking skills
- Develop eloquence in your speaking and writing
- Practice using skills such as outlining and reading for clues
- Explore how context changes meaning
Now let’s explore exactly how to write one, step by step.
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
You will complete your compare and contrast essay in three main stages: researching, writing and proofreading. While this might sound like an overly formal approach, it is effective because it allows you to organize your main points ahead of time, using any visual aid you might need to see the similarities and differences.
Once you’ve laid out your points of comparison , you can group them according to likeness. There are two methods for this we will discuss: the alternating method and the block method . These will allow you to craft your main thesis and insert appropriate transitions where needed. Then you’ll add an introduction and conclusion to round out the paper before moving on to proofreading.
Make sure you spend enough time on the research phase. It is tempting to skip over this part and launch into the writing, bypassing the less-exciting step of examining your sources thoroughly. However, this is a good way to miss important points that might reinforce or work against your argument.
Step 1: Conduct Initial Research
Your initial research should answer questions such as:
- What sources will I use (if given a choice by my teacher or professor)? Do I need additional sources to support or strengthen the research from my first ones? Do I have enough information to write the paper?
- Do my subjects have enough in common that comparing and contrasting them will be useful? Apples and oranges might be different, but they are at least both types of fruit; apples and cats aren’t a very useful comparison at all.
- Has anyone else compared these two subjects before? Should I take a look at their work to see what to do/not to do?
Step 2: List Out Similarities & Differences
Next, it’s time to list out what is similar and what is different between your two items. Let’s say you are contrasting two books from the 1800s. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley are both early examples of science fiction, so they make a good pair.
Start by using a Venn diagram , chart, or another visual tool to make a side by side comparison. You might include setting, plot, characters, year written and year set, mood, themes, tone and appearances throughout later pop culture. Make sure your points of comparison are grouped together so you’re not searching for the corollaries later.
Step 3: Develop a Thesis Statement
Once you have rough compare and contrast sentences written out, you can then craft a topic sentence . This is also known as a thesis or thesis statement , in which you lay out the main argument you will make.
For instance, you might write “While The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley both use elements of speculative fiction and folklore differently, they speak to the same innate fear that our humanity is a fragile thing.” This shows the reader that you are going to share both the differences (the main writing elements) and similarities (themes) in the paragraphs to come.
Having established the case you will make, it is time to turn those rough points and thesis sentences into a fully fleshed-out paper. Let’s move on to the writing.
Step 4: Create an Outline
Armed with your main points , you should now elevate your rough content into an outline. There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay ; the alternating method and the block method .
- Alternating Method : In this method, you alternate between one item and another, back and forth. So in our example, you would first tackle the setting of both books, comparing and contrasting. Next, are the characters, with similarities and differences as well. Work your way down the list, speaking about both subjects in turn. This will buffer your argument throughout.
- Block Method : With this approach, you instead tackle all aspects of one topic in a block , then the other, subject by subject . That means you would address how Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde uses the setting, characters, time period, and so forth completely. Then you move on to do the same with Frankenstein . In the second block, it makes sense to call out the first book repeatedly, but you will save the main thrust of your argument for the conclusion.
Either approach allows you to create a rough outline of your main points , with additional brainstorming when needed. Afterwards, you can begin with the actual fleshing out of the paper.
Step 5: Write the Introduction
Once you have a thesis statement and an essay outline , the actual essay writing becomes much simpler. Start with the introduction, and plan to have the thesis you created at the end of the intro paragraph(s). Lead up to that statement with a brief description of both items you’re comparing (in this case, the two novels), including pertinent subject matter information such as the author, writing periods, and overarching themes.
Step 6: Write the Body Paragraphs
The most important component of your essay structure is the body paragraphs, and standard essay form asks for three paragraphs. If your essay is longer, instead of using a single paragraph for the first subject , second subject and so on, you might use a whole section. Either way, you will use the first body paragraph as a compare and contrast in the alternating method , or a thorough treatment of the first subject overall. Then, you will address the second subject , and so forth.
Step 7: Write the Conclusion
The conclusion should wrap up your essay overall, driving home the main point of your thesis. Be sure to restate it, not verbatim, but quite closely near the top of your concluding paragraph.
Next, it’s time to make sure you don’t have any outstanding errors or plagiarism that might ruin your grade. Always proofread a paper before turning it in to ensure you are submitting your best work.
Step 8: Check for Spelling & Grammar
First, use a spellchecker to catch errors. Most word processing software offers this tool for spelling and grammar. If you take this approach, make sure it is set correctly to your language and dialect, or mistakes will slip through. Alternatively, you can use an online service, which will help take your writing to the next level.
Step 9: Check for Citation Errors
While most students are honorable and do their own work, it is possible to get caught accidentally plagiarizing simply because you do not know the proper citation rules. For instance, you need to source every quote from a novel, even if you are using the same novel repeatedly and have already cited it in your paper . Sadly, even unintentional plagiarism can lead to serious academic and career consequences, so you must be vigilant.
Luckily, that won’t happen if you use a plagiarism checker like Quetext . Not only does it identify where sources are needed, but it will also help you catch instances of similar wording, which might also require a source citation . Overall, it allows you to:
- Verify your writing for originality so you don’t get caught for plagiarism , even while summarizing or paraphrasing
- Flag content in need of citations
- Add in-text MLA/APA/Chicago-style citations where needed
- Create MLA/APA/Chicago Style citations for references page
Understanding the meaning, purpose and benefits of a compare and contrast essay will enable you to tackle them more effectively from now on. This is especially true if you use the nine steps listed above, which will earn you points in both high school and college courses. That is, if you properly check that you have not plagiarized from any of your sources.
Using a plagiarism checker will benefit you not only in academic settings, but also in all instances of future writing. Even unintentional plagiarism can lead to severe negative consequences regardless of your profession or standing. Plagiarism checkers provide a simple way to ensure you have properly cited and paraphrased all your writing, and give you peace of mind before submitting any work.
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10.7 Comparison and Contrast
- Determine the purpose and structure of comparison and contrast in writing.
- Explain organizational methods used when comparing and contrasting.
- Understand how to write a compare-and-contrast essay.
The Purpose of Comparison and Contrast in Writing
Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different. A compare-and-contrast essay , then, analyzes two subjects by comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. The purpose of conducting the comparison or contrast is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Drawing distinctions between elements in a similar category will increase the audience’s understanding of that category, which is the purpose of the compare-and-contrast essay.
Similarly, to focus on comparison, choose two subjects that seem at first to be unrelated. For a comparison essay, you likely would not choose two apples or two oranges because they share so many of the same properties already. Rather, you might try to compare how apples and oranges are quite similar. The more divergent the two subjects initially seem, the more interesting a comparison essay will be.
Writing at Work
Comparing and contrasting is also an evaluative tool. In order to make accurate evaluations about a given topic, you must first know the critical points of similarity and difference. Comparing and contrasting is a primary tool for many workplace assessments. You have likely compared and contrasted yourself to other colleagues. Employee advancements, pay raises, hiring, and firing are typically conducted using comparison and contrast. Comparison and contrast could be used to evaluate companies, departments, or individuals.
Brainstorm an essay that leans toward contrast. Choose one of the following three categories. Pick two examples from each. Then come up with one similarity and three differences between the examples.
- Romantic comedies
- Internet search engines
- Cell phones
Brainstorm an essay that leans toward comparison. Choose one of the following three items. Then come up with one difference and three similarities.
- Department stores and discount retail stores
- Fast food chains and fine dining restaurants
- Dogs and cats
The Structure of a Comparison and Contrast Essay
The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader. Take the following thesis as an example that leans more toward contrasting.
Thesis statement: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.
Here the thesis sets up the two subjects to be compared and contrasted (organic versus conventional vegetables), and it makes a claim about the results that might prove useful to the reader.
You may organize compare-and-contrast essays in one of the following two ways:
- According to the subjects themselves, discussing one then the other
- According to individual points, discussing each subject in relation to each point
See Figure 10.1 “Comparison and Contrast Diagram” , which diagrams the ways to organize our organic versus conventional vegetables thesis.
Figure 10.1 Comparison and Contrast Diagram
The organizational structure you choose depends on the nature of the topic, your purpose, and your audience.
Given that compare-and-contrast essays analyze the relationship between two subjects, it is helpful to have some phrases on hand that will cue the reader to such analysis. See Table 10.3 “Phrases of Comparison and Contrast” for examples.
Table 10.3 Phrases of Comparison and Contrast
Create an outline for each of the items you chose in Note 10.72 “Exercise 1” and Note 10.73 “Exercise 2” . Use the point-by-point organizing strategy for one of them, and use the subject organizing strategy for the other.
Writing a Comparison and Contrast Essay
First choose whether you want to compare seemingly disparate subjects, contrast seemingly similar subjects, or compare and contrast subjects. Once you have decided on a topic, introduce it with an engaging opening paragraph. Your thesis should come at the end of the introduction, and it should establish the subjects you will compare, contrast, or both as well as state what can be learned from doing so.
The body of the essay can be organized in one of two ways: by subject or by individual points. The organizing strategy that you choose will depend on, as always, your audience and your purpose. You may also consider your particular approach to the subjects as well as the nature of the subjects themselves; some subjects might better lend themselves to one structure or the other. Make sure to use comparison and contrast phrases to cue the reader to the ways in which you are analyzing the relationship between the subjects.
After you finish analyzing the subjects, write a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and reinforces your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample compare-and-contrast essay.
Many business presentations are conducted using comparison and contrast. The organizing strategies—by subject or individual points—could also be used for organizing a presentation. Keep this in mind as a way of organizing your content the next time you or a colleague have to present something at work.
Choose one of the outlines you created in Note 10.75 “Exercise 3” , and write a full compare-and-contrast essay. Be sure to include an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, well-defined and detailed paragraphs, and a fitting conclusion that ties everything together.
- A compare-and-contrast essay analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
- The purpose of writing a comparison or contrast essay is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two subjects.
- The thesis should clearly state the subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and it should state what is to be learned from doing so.
There are two main organizing strategies for compare-and-contrast essays.
- Organize by the subjects themselves, one then the other.
- Organize by individual points, in which you discuss each subject in relation to each point.
- Use phrases of comparison or phrases of contrast to signal to readers how exactly the two subjects are being analyzed.
Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
8 Step-By-Step Guide On How To Write A Comparison Essay
Writing a comparison essay is a difficult task for many students because it requires a lot of effort and plan. Students have to write in-depth details about the topic they are comparing.
A comparison essay is a type of academic writing in which students analyze the differences and similarities between two topics. The introduction is the first step in writing a comparison essay.
Weather they are comparing historical events, literature, a well-written comparison essay will provide insights into the relationships between the topics or concepts they are analyzing.
It should grab the reader’s attention, provide background information on the topic, and present a thesis statement that clearly states what you will be comparing and contrasting.
But many students are not able to write a comparison essay because they don’t know how to write. That’s why we have created this blog to provide best steps on how to write a comparison essay.
If you want to compare two topics effectively, then you have to follow the right steps. Here we have provide the best steps that will help you with this. So let’s get started.
What Is Comparison Essay?
Table of Contents
A comparison essay (also known as a Compare and Contrast essay) is a typical writing assignment in high school and college classrooms ranging from art to science. You should critically study any two subjects in a comparison essay, locating and pointing out their parallels and differences.
Such essays might be comparative only (looking at similarities), contrasting only (calling out contrasts), or both comparative and contrasting, depending on your assignment.
What Makes A Good Comparison Essay Topic?
Many students don’t know how to write a comparison essay. What you exactly write in your paper can decide the success or failure of your essay. Like any other academic work, a good comparison and contrast essay will have a purpose that offers value. Consider subjects that are relevant to the field of study. Effective comparison and contrast subjects should expand the scope of knowledge or provide evidence for valid statements that have yet to be proven. The following are a few examples of possible topics:
- Economics : Fiscal vs. Monetary Policy – An study of the Great Depression and the Stagflation Era
- Political Science: Barack Obama vs. George W. Bush: Inspiring orator vs. modest disposition
- Literature: Faulkner and Hemingway: A Prose Paradox
- Philosophy: Utilitarianism and Existentialism
- Law: When it comes to property, Common Law vs. Statute Law
When you start college, you may be assigned to create a decent application comparison essay in addition to these academic areas. These subjects could be lighter, such as comparing your youth to your adolescent years or contrasting two close friends.
Comparison Essay Structure
One of the most critical aspects of success is to think about the structure of your essay. The only way to properly outline and compose an essay, paragraph by paragraph, from beginning to end, without errors, is to follow a recommended essay structure.
There are 2 recommended patterns for a comparison essay: the point-by-point (“alternating”) pattern and the subject-by-subject (or “block”) pattern.
“Point-by-point comparison” is another name for the alternating pattern. Your essay will have five paragraphs if you use this style of comparison.
You’ll have to compare and contrast each of the similarities and differences in the following subjects to complete it:
- Your thesis is stated in the introduction.
- Then, for each point of comparison and contrast, you explain both of your topics together.
- You repeat the thesis and briefly summarise your essay in conclusion.
“Subject-by-subject comparison” is another name for the block pattern. The body of your compare and contrast essay will be divided into two parts according to this structure.
The first half of the body will be devoted to the first subject, while the second half will be focused on the second:
- You start with the first topic.
- Then you move on to the second topic.
How To Write a comparison essay and Compare Essay?
Here we will tell you how to write a comparison essay. A proper essay outline and organizational framework are required for comparing and contrasting essays.
When writing a decent compare and contrast essay, keep the following ideas in mind.
Selecting the Objects
The selection of the objects to compare is the first stage, and they should be distinct but belong to the same category. Instead of reaching an artist to a politician, a writer could compare two separate artists. This is the first step on how to write a comparison essay.
Identify the Differences and Similarities
In the second phase, a writer must pinpoint the Differences and Similarities. This approach is generally aided by drawing a Venn diagram with two overlapping circles, and it helps with the organization of data. This is the second step on how to write a comparison essay.
Create a Thesis Statement
The goal of this essay is to use similarities and contrasts to create a thesis statement. The thesis statement aids in the development of a focused argument and the creation of a road map for the reader. Determine what your essay will say about the topics. This is the third step on how to write a comparison essay.
Select an Appropriate Organizational Structure
It’s critical to pick a framework that makes sense for your core point. Choose one of the appropriate structures from the list above and write your essay appropriately. By following a strict format, the entire essay will remain on track. This is the fourth step on how to write a comparison essay.
Craft an Outline
Create an outline for your essay based on your organizational structure. An article typically includes an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If you have a lot of information to cover, you can always increase body paragraphs.
You can explore the similarities and contrasts in a single paragraph if you use a point-by-point structure. If you use the block structure format, each subject gets its paragraph. This is the fifth step on how to write a comparison essay.
Provide evidence to back up your thesis statement
Support your argument with extra evidence. Evidence can be gathered by extensive research, reading, or firsthand observation. When comparing two types of cats, for example, it is acceptable to utilize personal thoughts. In this approach, your argument will make a great impression on the reader’s mind. This is the sixth step on how to write a comparison essay.
Use Strong Transition Words
To ensure a smooth transition from one statement to the following, powerful transitional words should be used. When comparing, use words like both, likewise, and similarly. This is the seventh step on how to write a comparison essay.
Do not read your article right after you finish it. Proofread for at least an hour or a day. It helps in the detection of more grammatical and spelling errors.
You can also use an online spell-check tool to help you. Additionally, have someone else read your article and point out any flaws. This is the eighth step on how to write a comparison essay.
How to Begin a Comparison Essay
In a comparison essay, you should assess two subjects and bring out their similarities so that the reader may create an informed opinion about them.
The manner you begin a comparison essay has a significant impact on your readers. It is critical to remember that the nature of your introduction impacts whether or not your readers will become interested in your article or abandon it.
As a result, here’s a rundown of some of the techniques you might use to grab your audience’s interest.
- Give your readers a brief history of your issue to assist them in grasping it.
- Begin with a narrative to attract the reader to learn more about your topic.
- Make a terrific remark, either happy or shocking.
- Use statistics to show the scope of the problem.
Comparison Essay Outline Example
An outline is helpful for organizing your thoughts and ideas before you begin writing your comparison essay. Here is an example of an outline for a comparison essay:
- Background information on the topic
- Brief overview of the items or concepts to be compared and contrasted
- Thesis statement that clearly states what will be compared and contrasted
- Compare and contrast point 1
- Evidence and examples for topic or concept 1
- Evidence and examples for topic or concept 2
- Analysis of how point 1 relates to the overall comparison and contrast
- Compare and contrast point 2
- Analysis of how point 2 relates to the overall comparison and contrast
- Compare and contrast point 3
- Analysis of how point 3 relates to the overall comparison and contrast
- Summary of main points
- Restatement of thesis
- Final thoughts and insights on the comparison and contrast
This is a basic outline example and you can modify it according to your requirements and the specific demands of the essay. The important thing is to have a clear structure that allows you to present your comparison and contrast points in a logical and organized way.
In this blog, you have learned about how to write a comparison essay. I hope you have understood how to write a comparison essay easily. A comparison and contrast essay is critical for assisting readers in making educated selections when deciding between two objects or situations. To determine what to choose, a reader must first read the article, consider its various elements, and then settle in favor of one. Contact us for Top Quality Essay Writing Help if you don’t know how to write a comparison essay and contrast essay. how to write a comparison essay
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
In compare and contrast essays, what are the most regularly utilized transition words.
The following are the most typical compare and contrast essay transition words: In the same way In like manner Likewise Similarly By the same token
What does a compare and contrast essay serve?
The main goal of a compare and contrast essay is to show how two items are alike and dissimilar, and they also necessitate the application of critical thinking skills. A good comparison essay can teach readers about current events, political candidates, vacation places, and items.
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- A Research Guide
- Writing Guide
- Essay Writing
How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide
- What is comparative essay
- Structure and outline
- Tips how to start
- Step-by-step guide
- Comparative essay format
- Comparative essay topics
- Comparative essay example
What is a Comparative Essay?
How to write a comparison essay: structure and outline.
- The topic sentence should introduce the reader to what the paragraph handles.
- A discussion of the aspect is done in the middle of a paragraph.
- The last part of the paragraph should carry a low-level conclusion about the aspect discussed in the paragraph.
- The paragraph should present enough information, as too much or too less may render it meaningless.
- Every paragraph should handle a single aspect, e.g., it is quite unreasonable to compare the size of one object to the color of another .
Tips on How to Start a Comparative Essay
Step-by-step writing guide to write a comparative analysis, step 1: identify the basis of the comparison..
- For example, a question may ask you to compare capitalism and communism and write the arguments. This question has a clear objective; hence you don’t have to go the extra mile.
- Another case may be to compare any two political ideologies. It is a general question, and you have to figure out the various political ideologies and then identify any two that you can compare. Such instances require the author to develop the basis of comparison by themselves and write it down.
Step 2: Develop the content of the essay.
Step 3: come up with a thesis., step 4: develop the comparative essay structure., step 5: write your compare essay..
Comparative Essay Format
- Gives more details about the item in comparison, making it easy to handle two different points;
- Produces a well-analyzed and integrated paper.
- Cases where detailed comparison is needed;
- When the points of comparison are not related.
Mixed paragraphs method;
- gives the issues equal weights in terms of comparison;
- the reader gets to identify the comparison factor easily.
- When dealing with a long comparative essay;
- When dealing with complex topics that need close attention.
- When dealing with short essays;
- When dealing with simple topics;
- Cases where there is no clear relation between items of comparison of point one and point two;
- When you want to build the ideas of question two from those highlighted for question one;
- When dealing with many issues.
Comparative Essay Topics
- Compare and contrast the GDP figures of the US and Australia.
- A comparative essay on World War I and World War II events.
- Comparison between political ideologies such as capitalism and communism.
- Positions on issues, e.g., Healthcare in the US and Australia.
- Comparison between various Sports teams.
- Different Systems of Government.
- Comparison between various influential people.
- A comparative essay on religion, e.g., Christianity and Hinduism,
- Comparison between various texts,
- Comparison in technology, such as comparing different cars,
Comparative Essay Example (Clarified)
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How to Write a Comparison Essay
24 Jul 2021
As we navigate our lives, we can’t help but notice the elements in our environment, whether it’s the latest car, a fashion trend, or even some experiences. Think about your favorite Mexican restaurant, then visit another; automatically, you’re likely to size them up to each other. So when your professors assign you homework to compare two samples in a case study, it may seem natural.
But at the college level, something happens, our natural ability to compare vacates us. You may be stuck wondering how to write a comparison essay. This is a common dilemma many students face. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to walk you through the perfect paper's construction steps. Below, you’ll find:
- A comprehensive guide on how to write a comparison essay, outlining its purpose, how to choose relevant topics for comparison, and the structure for presenting the content effectively.
- That the comparison essay requires the writer to analyze two objects, events, or theories and identify their similarities and differences, supporting findings with empirical data.
- For a successful comparison essay, it's essential to choose relevant subjects, have a clear and precise thesis statement, and employ an effective structure, depending on the subjects and purpose of the essay.
So read on to learn how the pros from Papersowl suggest writing a compare and contrast essay.
What Is a Comparison Essay?
As it sounds, your comparative essay should analyze two objects, events, or theories and determine the similarities and differences . The overall goal of the paper is for the reader to clearly identify how the studied criteria are the same and where they diverge. In a marketing class, you may evaluate two similar products and develop a plan to demonstrate their features and benefits. Or, in a psychology class, you may have an in-depth look at two therapy techniques and then evaluate the results of a particular case study.
Your paper's critical component is that you must ensure your findings are backed up with empirical data. While you may feel one subject is “better” than another, giving examples to prove your position is important. Information that can be weighed or measured, such as a device's performance or the results of a process, is strong evidence to support a claim.
Choosing a Great Topic for a Comparison Essay
What you write about could make or break your paper. As in any academic work, a good compare and contrast essay will have a purpose that adds value. For this, consider topics that are helpful in your discipline. Effective compare and contrast topics should expand the universe of knowledge or valid claims that have not yet been proven. A few examples of topics include:
- Economics : Fiscal Policy vs. Monetary Policy – An Analysis of the great depression and the Era of stagflation
- Political Science : Obama and Bush – Inspirational speaker vs. humble demeanor
- Literature : Faulkner and Hemingway – A Paradox of Prose
- Philosophy : Existentialism and Utilitarianism
- Law : Applications of Common Law vs. Statue Law Regarding Property
In addition to these academic subjects, you may be tasked to write a good application comparison essay when entering college. These topics could be more light-hearted and include comparing your youth with your adolescent years or comparing two close friends.
The pre-writing stage is an indispensable phase in the essay-writing process, laying the foundation for a well-organized and insightful piece. Before diving into the actual writing, this preparatory stage allows you to explore, organize, and refine their thoughts. For compare and contrast essays, this often involves researching the chosen subjects to uncover detailed information, nuances, and perspectives. Techniques such as brainstorming can help identify key points of similarity and difference, while tools like Venn diagrams visually map out where subjects overlap and where they diverge. This visual representation can be particularly invaluable in determining the essay's structure and focus. Additionally, the pre-writing stage is an opportune time to formulate a tentative thesis statement, which will provide direction and purpose as the essay evolves. By dedicating time to this initial phase, writers can ensure a clearer, more coherent essay, minimizing potential roadblocks and revisions later in the writing process. In essence, the pre-writing is akin to blueprinting; it's where the groundwork is laid for the construction of a compelling narrative.
The thesis statement is the anchor of any well-structured essay, offering readers a concise snapshot of what to expect. In a compare and contrast essay, the thesis not only indicates the subjects to be compared but also the focus and purpose of the comparison. Begin by pinpointing the main similarities or differences you want to highlight. For instance, if comparing apples to oranges, your thesis might read: "While apples and oranges both provide essential vitamins and are popular fruits, they differ in texture, taste, and cultural significance." This statement not only sets the subjects of comparison but also guides readers on the specific aspects being compared.
Crafting an effective thesis requires clarity and precision. It should avoid vague language and ensure that readers can anticipate the direction of the discussion. Remember, a strong thesis statement acts as a roadmap, helping to steer both the writer and the reader through the essay's argumentative landscape.
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Structure for a Compare and Contrast Essay
When setting out to write a compare and contrast essay, one of the initial and fundamental decisions you'll need to make is regarding the essay's structure. Your choice of structure can have a profound impact on the clarity and effectiveness of your presentation. Here's how you can determine the best structure for your essay:
Understand Your Subjects:
- Before choosing a structure, you need a clear understanding of your subjects and the points of comparison. Are there numerous similarities and differences, or just a few major ones?
Purpose of the Essay:
- Are you trying to highlight the stark differences between your subjects, shed light on unexpected similarities, or do both? Your purpose can guide the structure.
- Think about your readers. If your subjects are very unfamiliar to your audience, the block method might be better because it allows for a more in-depth exploration of each subject before contrasting.
Two Predominant Structures:
Block Method: In this structure, you discuss all relevant points related to one subject and then move on to the next subject. This approach can be particularly useful if you want your readers to have an in-depth understanding of each subject before highlighting the contrasts.
✏️ Example: If you're comparing apples and oranges, you would first discuss everything about apples and then everything about oranges.
Point-by-Point Method: This is a more integrated approach. For each point of comparison, you alternate between the two subjects. This method keeps the comparison and contrast front and center and can make direct contrasts clearer.
✏️ Example: Discuss the color of apples and then the color of oranges, followed by the texture of apples and then the texture of oranges, and so on.
Whichever structure you choose, your primary goal should be clarity. Ensure that your points of comparison are clear and that readers can easily follow your reasoning. Remember, while these are the two primary structures, they are not set in stone. Depending on your topic, you might find it effective to blend these structures in some sections.
In conclusion, the structure you choose for your compare and contrast essay will significantly shape your argument's presentation. While the block method allows for a deep dive into each subject separately, the point-by-point method maintains a tight focus on the comparison throughout the essay. Evaluate your subjects, your purpose, and your audience, and choose the structure that most effectively communicates your points.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
A good essay outline will contain, at a minimum, the three core sections – introduction, body, and conclusion. Often times the intro can be the most difficult to write, and it should be reserved for last. Once you have all your ideas laid out, hammering out a solid beginning is much easier to inform the reader what is to follow. You can pick out an interesting fact in your paper to write a strong hook to lure your readers in. Also, you’ll be able to tighten up your compare-and-contrast thesis to give a stronger impression.
Comparison Essay Outline Example
In this example, we’ll compare and contrast the essay point by point. In our comparison essay structure, we’ve elected to speak about similarities and follow up with differences and apply an extended conclusion with analysis and then the actual concluding paragraph for the scope of the paper.
In our comparative essay outline example, we’ve put together a basic template of what the paper should look like. Mind you, this is an informal template for an introduction to compare and contrast essay . If your course requires you to submit a formal outline in APA or MLA style, be sure to draft one according to the latest style guide.
You can use this comparative essay outline template to draft your paper as a means to get your ideas out on paper. Like many students, you could be short on time or not have the ability to complete your paper. In this case, you can use our writing service, and we’ll draft a perfect custom text for you to meet any deadlines you have.
We all have our opinions and curiosities, and sharing them with the world is a fun experience. And you can through an effective contrast and comparison paper. Just be sure to pick subjects that can be analyzed and back up your conclusions with data, and you’ll be well on your way to unlocking the world's inner workings. Sometimes you may find a lack of inspiration for a topic or are stressed to get a high grade. We are here to help 24/7/365 to get you out of a jam and write your papers for you in your time of need. So reach out to us, and we are here to help.
Tips to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
If you’re wondering how to write a comparison essay fast, there are a few tricks to make the most of your time. Follow these steps professional writers use, and you’ll get your paper done to meet the tightest deadlines.
- Brainstorm on a scratch pad : You may be used to using your computer for everything, but for organizing your ideas, old-fashioned scratch paper works best. Draw a side-by-side chart and start listing out the characteristics of your subjects. Mention all the pros and cons, physical characteristics, as well as processes and applications that each possesses.
- Make sure to choose comparable subjects that will make sense to the reader.
- Ensure that the thesis statement is strong and to the point.
- Do good research and ensure that your arguments are clearly stated.
- Build your outline of compare and contrast essay : You can start to compare and contrast essay outline with your data table. Check the required length of your paper and start building a paragraph structure that will meet any bullet points and suffice the word count. Be sure to start off with your most interesting points to keep the reader engaged.
- Draft your paper : Be sure to include a catchy title that is on point with the contents of your work. As a general rule, try not to go over 12 words in your title. Also, note that the thesis statement for the comparison and contrast essay should relate to every section of your text.
- Use transitional words to make it easier for the reader to follow the arguments presented in your essay.
Transitional words and phrases are the connective tissues of an essay, ensuring the flow of ideas is seamless and readers can easily navigate the content. Especially crucial in compare and contrast essays, these transitions aid in clarifying comparisons or highlighting disparities. Words like "similarly," "likewise," and "equally" signal similarities between subjects, guiding the reader's understanding of how two things align. Conversely, phrases such as "on the other hand," "however," and "in contrast" denote differences, emphasizing the distinct characteristics of each subject.
- Review your work : Now, it’s time to smooth out some rough patches in your initial draft and fine-tune some sections. Pay special attention to retaining your paper’s focus and meeting all the task requirements. Many students get stuck in this phase and, while they’ve met the requirements, are not happy with the final product. In this case, a comparison essay to buy is a great alternative. Hiring a specialist in your subject is the best way to get a good grade.
There are various factors to consider, such as structure, format, and even finding the right resources. Fortunately, cheap essay writing services such as PapersOwl make the process much easier. Simply provide your instructions, and their professional writers will create an original paper for you.
Comparison Essay Format
Universities are real sticklers for formatting. This may seem like an annoyance for many students, but academic work should be consistent across disciplines to aid analysts in efficiently referencing work and applying it to their own studies. Depending on your course, you may be required to write a comparison essay in MLA format or APA. So armed with the latest style guide of your choice, let’s get down to how to write a good comparison essay outline.
Bringing It All Together
Comparing and contrasting is an intrinsic part of our daily decision-making. From choosing restaurants to assessing products, we inherently evaluate based on similarities and differences. Yet, when tasked with a formal compare and contrast essay in academia, many students falter. This guide aims to simplify the process, providing structure and clarity. Emphasizing the importance of a solid thesis, structured format, and the use of transitional phrases, it offers a blueprint for effective essay writing.
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I am a proficient writer from the United States with over five years of experience in academic writing. I comfortably complete given assignments within stipulated deadlines and at the same time deliver high-quality work, which follows the guidelines provided.
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Comparative Analysis Essay Writing Guide
This kind of academic assignment is quite widespread in colleges or universities. It aims to show students how to review different types of materials, divide them into separate parts, and analyze each element in turn. Every comparative analysis essay requires in-depth research on the subject, the author's ability for critical thinking, and support for the position indicated in the material analyzed. Preparing the academic paperwork, you should make it fascinating and intelligent for your readers. Any comparative analysis paper may be a complicated task, but if you follow all the steps mentioned in our guidelines, the writing process will become much easier!
What Is a Comparative Analysis Paper?
In order to know what you can expect from the task, fully understanding the comparative analysis concept is vital. A comparative analysis is one of the most popular types of assignments that are often given in colleges or universities. In such paperwork for college or university, you should compare and oppose two different things. Those can be two texts, historical figures, scientific processes, theories, etc. These papers are very popular as college assignments because they are pretty universal: no matter what subject you study or what field you are working in - there are always things that can be compared. A "classic" version of a comparative analysis essay is when you select two similar things with a few critical differences. Or, it can be vice versa: two entirely different things have some similarities which may not even be noticed. Comparative analysis essays help students gain useful expertise, develop analytical thinking, improve their writing skills, the ability to highlight essential information, and, in the end, compare things and support your opinion with relevant facts and actual examples.
Every student should have some skills to write a quality comparative analysis paper. It's challenging and requires a lot of additional elaboration of the materials, but the result you get in the end is worth it. With the help of the comparative analysis approach, you can see how different some similar things might be and vice versa. It takes much time and a lot of effort to prepare an excellent academic assignment, but following the guide below will assist you in achieving the best results!
How To Do a Comparative Analysis
As we mentioned earlier, the comparative analysis paper is a bit tricky when discussing its primary concept. If you have to convince your audience, you should find real similarities and differences based on a specific comparison type. Here comes the challenge - you should analyze both principles you compare. In order to highlight those main commonalities and differences, your task is to learn the subject. Therefore, our advice for everyone who faces creating a comparative analysis paper is to study, explore and read a lot. The best thing is to expand the expertise in the chosen topic. It will serve you to prepare the assignment without any difficulties because everything you need to do after the analysis follows the basic structure guideline and sums up everything you've found on your topic. Those who do everything haphazardly, without any preparation whatsoever, might face problems during the actual writing. Let's take a closer look at some structural aspects of such essays.
The Structure Outlines
Apart from general standard parts like an introduction, primary part, results, discussion and conclusions, which you should include in your paperwork, some other structural characteristics are specific for a comparative analysis assignment.
You can choose among the two ways to build the textual structure:
- Point-by-point method. Choosing this type, you need to compare two subjects (let's name them A and B) using the ABABAB structure. Thus, after selecting the criteria for comparing these two concepts, you first discuss this criterion regarding subject A and then use the same approach for subject B. For example, if comparing the World War I and World War II, the essay's body structure might look like this:
- A Paragraph 1 - military strategies used in World War I
- B Paragraph 2 - military strategies used in World War II
- A Paragraph 3 - weapons and new technologies in World War I
- B Paragraph 4 - weapons and new technologies in World War II
- A Paragraph 5 - scale and duration of World War I
- B Paragraph 6 - scale and duration of World War II
- Block method: Subject-by-subject pattern. Here, you should discuss all aspects of subject A and then move to subject B. This method has the following structure of the body part:
- A Paragraphs 1-3 - The discussion of particular aspects of World War I
- B Paragraphs 4-6 - Discussing the same categories but reviewing the World War II events
In addition to those methods, we recommend building a comparative analysis assignment outline as we did with the essay's body. Outlining the whole paperwork will assist you in organizing your views and opinions and planning out the paper's structure beforehand. Write down all paragraph headings, the key questions you have decided to review and provide all necessary details you want to mention in the academic task.
Good Examples for Comparative Analysis Paper Topics
Everything begins with a subject, so it's one of the most critical aspects of a comparative analysis assignment. Do not be hasty when considering different topics and choose the best one that will be fascinating for your audience. Let's look at some examples:
- Fascism and Nazism: Different or the Same?
- World War I and World War II: The Difference in Events
- Coffee and Tea: The Effects of Both
- Working in the Office or Being a Freelancer?
- Education or Professional Career: What Is Easier and What Is More Difficult?
- Online Dating vs. Real-Life Relations
- Anorexia Nervosa and Obesity: What Is More Dangerous?
- Life and Death: Philosophical Views
Choose a good topic, follow the guideline and try to enjoy the writing process as much as you wish! Great results won't keep you waiting if you like what you're doing. We hope that our guidelines will come in handy to build top-notch paper!
If you think that the mission of comparative analysis assignment is close to impossible, you can always entrust this task to our professionals and get some rest!
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How to write a comparative essay
A step-by-step guide with instructions, outlines, and samples
Writing a great comparative essay means highlighting the similarities and differences between two things in a systematic manner. Start by choosing the parameters (items) to compare, write an outline, and fill in the details for each section. Make sure to have an introduction and conclusion.
The comparative essay is one form of document that you will probably be expected to write at some point over the course of your college career. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a thorough overview of the comparative essay. Specific things that will be addressed include:
Purpose of the comparative essay
Explanation of comparative models, how to analyze subjects, elements of a good comparative essay, how to write a great comparative essay.
- Best practices and advice
- Additional information
By the end of this article, you should feel more confident about your own knowledge of what a comparative essay is and the best ways to go about writing one (if you haven't decided to buy a comparative essay from Ultius ).
The fundamental purpose of a comparative essay is to elaborate the similarities and differences between two things in a systematic manner.
An effective comparative essay will leave the reader with much greater clarity about the natures and properties of the things that have been compared.
This could potentially serve as a basis for making a decision in favor of one or the other thing.
A comparative essay is different from, for example, an argumentative essay in that the comparative essay does not make a case for either of the two things under comparison. Rather, the point is to simply set up the comparison so that the reader will have as much information about the two things as possible.
Why are comparative essays important?
The comparative essay is an important form of document because when you have to make a decision or choose a side in an argument, you will want to know as much as possible about the two options under consideration—and a good comparative essay on the subject can bring out both the similarities and the differences between the options, thereby clarifying the stakes at play.
For example, a comparative essay could address the similarities and differences between any of the following pairs:
- The Republican Party and the Democratic Party
- Christianity and Marxism
- The Big Bang and creationism
- The Light or Dark side of the Force from Star Wars
- The revolutionary and the reformist perspectives on social change
By developing a comparative essay on any of these pairs, you can not only understand each item of under comparison is a more thorough way, you can also get closer to figuring out which item you prefer.
For example, a solid comparative essay on revolution vs. reformism could not only help you understand what each of these items entails, it can also help you figure out whether you would rather be a revolutionary or a reformist. Likewise, if you only have time to binge watch one show, then a comparative essay could help you figure out whether you would prefer to go with Game of Thrones or Westworld .
When writing a comparative essay, there are several models you can use in order to ensure that you set up your comparison as effectively as possible.
The Venn diagram is a classic, and surely, you're familiar with it. This is the model of two overlapping circles, where each circle belongs to one item of comparison: features shared by both items (similarities) go in the overlapping middle zone, whereas features that are not shared go in the outer areas. For example, here is a Venn diagram that compares humans against gorillas.
When using the Venn diagram model, it is important to note that the differences must be symmetrical. In other words, every difference you list on one side of the comparison must be matched by a difference on the other side.
For example, if you were comparing Apple and Amazon, then for the parameter of "founder," you can list "Steve Jobs" in one circle and "Jeff Bezos" in the other. But it wouldn't make sense if you just listed one or the other: you must list something for each of the items of comparisons under the selected parameter of comparison.
In the Venn diagram above, the first parameter is "language," so for humans it is listed that we have a capacity of language, whereas for gorillas it is listed that they do not.
You don't need to worry about this kind of symmetry when it comes to the similarities, since you will list the same thing for both items of comparison (which means you only have to list it once, in the overlapping zone). In the example, above, the fact that both humans and gorillas are mammals is thus listed just once in the middle.
The dialectical method
The dialectical method is important within the discipline of philosophy, and it has been used to great effect by thinkers such as Socrates and Hegel and Kierkegaard.
This involves holding two ideas or items in tension with each other, to better clarify not only the ideas themselves but also the dynamic relationship that exist between the ideas. The first idea is called the thesis , and the second idea is called the antithesis .
For example, Romanticism could be dialectically compared against the Enlightenment that came before it, because Romanticism was in some ways a rejection of the previous worldview.
Need help? Essay writing services from Ultius can help you produce a great sample compare and contrast essay.
So, by setting up a comparison between Romanticism and the Enlightenment, it becomes possible to see both the continuities (or similarities) between the one and the other, as well as the contradictions (or differences) between them.
Berlin, Isaiah. The Roots of Romanticism . Princeton: Princeton U P, 2013. Print.
From the table above, it is clear that we are able to understand both Romanticism and the Enlightenment better if we set them up in terms of dialectical contrast.
Clearly, they are different in some important ways (logic vs. passion, for example), but we can also see that they are in continuity with each other (both happened in Western Europe and responded to previous developments). This comparison also leads one to wonder about whether it would be possible to make a synthesis that takes the best from both the thesis and the antithesis
A good comparative essay can lead one to ask such questions and pursue such lines of inquiry.
To analyze your subjects for a comparative essay, you need to identify clear parameters, or axes, in terms of which your two selected items can be compared. For example, in the table above, Romanticism and the Enlightenment were compared along the axis of " epistemology ". But that axis won't be relevant to all subjects.
Your job when preparing to write a comparative essay is to identify the specific axes that are relevant for the items that you are comparing. Why is the comparison interesting, and what insights are you trying produce? The answers to those questions will determine how you decide to frame your comparison.
For example, we could compare the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) against the Democratic Party in terms of the axis of membership. This would reveal that the DSA has far fewer registered members than does the Democratic Party.
We could also compare them on the axis of healthcare policy, where it may be found that the DSA and the Democratic Party agree about the importance of universal coverage. When we look at the axis of economics, though, we may find that the DSA is much more radical in its proposals than the Democratic Party.
The problem of identifying relevance
In principle, any one thing in the world could be compared with any other thing in the world. For example, you could compare your shoe with the moon, and conclude that one similarity is that they both exist within the Milky Way galaxy.
But this would be a meaningless point (even if it may make for some interesting poetry). It is important for you to figure out what exactly you are trying to determine through your comparative essay. What is your purpose for writing it?
This will help you choose two items where setting up a dialectical contrast between them will produce actual insight, and it will also help you to choose the proper parameters by which to compare those items.
For example, suppose that you are running a business, and there are two expansion options open in front of you. It would be logical for you to compare and contrast these options, since this will help ensure that you are making your decision with as much knowledge and insight as possible.
Likewise, one parameter that you are sure to consider is: which option will make your business the most money? If you pick parameters that are meaningless, then you will obtain no real insight that can help you make the important decision.
Using a rubric
Once you have identified both the two items of comparison and the axes along which they will be compared, you can proceed to analyze the items by applying the axes in the form of a table or rubric.
This is what has been done, for example, in the tables that have been developed above in this article. In the left-most column, list the parameters you have selected in order to compare your items. Then, in the top-most row, list the items.
Then go ahead and list the relevant details for each parameter for each of the two items. This will produce a table where you can see how each item measures up against the other for each parameter.
The important thing is to be systematic when you are making your comparison: it should not seem random or arbitrary. Thus, it is important to carefully select both the items and the parameters for comparison, and then to proceed to address each item/parameter combo in turn.
There are several elements that are a part of any good comparative essay.
Effective selection of items
A strong comparative essay has well-chosen items for comparison, with the comparison producing actual insights of value through the juxtaposition of the two items. If the items appear to be chosen for no apparent reason, or if the comparison does not in fact produce insight, then the comparative essay would be quite weak (or at any rate pointless).
The comparative essay is not meant to make an argument in favor of one thing or another, but it is meant to produce knowledge and insight about the two things under comparison. In order to compare and contrast items in an effective way, the two items must be different enough from each other, but they should also not be so different that it just feels absurd to even compare them at all.
Effective selection of parameters of comparison
A good comparative essay not only includes well-selected items of comparison, it also includes well-selected parameters of comparison. Between any two selected items, you could theoretically make an endless number of comparisons.
But a good comparative essay identifies parameters of comparative in terms of salience , or the reasons why anyone would be interested in the comparison in the first place. This can be difficult, because in principle, any comparison could be interesting, depending on the audience of the comparative essay and the intended purpose of the essay.
For example, one could use the parameter of zodiac sign to compare Romantic artists against Enlightenment artists.
This could be very interesting to people who are very serious about the zodiac, but it would probably seem ridiculous to just about everyone else.
But if you were writing for an audience of zodiac fanatics, then this comparison could actually be a success.
So, there is no parameter of comparison that is "inherently" bad. Rather, the point is to find parameters that highlight specific salient aspects of the selected items.
For example, when comparing Romanticism against the Enlightenment, core values would be a solid parameter of comparison, because that will surely help produce insights about how worldviews changed from the one paradigm to another.
Strong organizational structure
If you want your comparative essay to be a success, then it absolutely must have strong organizational structure . This is because an effective comparison must be easy for your reader to follow. It can't just jump all over the place at random, which not only be confusing but could also result in the reader forgetting what the point of the comparison was in the first place.
In general, there are two ways in which you can organize your comparative essay. In the first format, each of the parameters would be considered in the section for similarities and the section for differences.
In the first format the comparative essay is organized in terms of similarities and differences, whereas in the second format the essay is organized in terms of parameters of comparison.
In the second format, both similarities and differences would be considered within each of the parameter sections.
Both these are formats are good, and a strong comparative essay could be built around either one.
The important thing is to have a clear system and to not make your comparisons random.
There needs to be an organizational structure that your reader can easily follow.
There are steps you can follow in order to ensure that your comparative essay has all the elements that will be required in order to make it great.
Ask yourself about your intention
If you have selected two items for your comparative essay, then you should start by asking yourself why you selected those two items. What is it about the two items that made you think it would be a good idea to compare them? (Or if you were assigned the two items, then why do you think those items were selected by your professor?)
The point here is that the items selected for a comparative essay are non-random. They are selected because that specific comparison should be able to yield interesting insights (unlike research papers ).
For example, if you are writing a comparative essay on the dogs vs. cats, then are you writing this from the perspective of evolutionary biology? Or are you perhaps writing it in order to inform potential pet owners who are debating whether they want a dog or a cat?
The purpose of your essay will determine what parameters you will select in order to compare your two items. This means that you should have an intended audience in mind, and you should also have specific questions you would like to know more about.
In short, in order to develop effective parameters for your comparative essay, you have to ask yourself why you are writing it and who would be interested in the insights produced by the essay. This can help ensure you select both appropriate items and appropriate parameters for comparison.
Develop a structural outline
It is very important that you do not just jump into your comparative essay and start writing it without a plan. That is a recipe for disaster, and the comparisons will almost certainly turn out random and confusing. Rather, you should begin with a solid outline .
A good outline will do three main things:
- 1. Identify the selected items of comparison in the introduction/thesis
- 2. Utilize one of the two organizational formats described above
- 3. Provide a roadmap for how you intend to systematically follow through on the comparison
For example, here is how an outline could look for a comparative essay on Romanticism vs. the Enlightenment.
In this sample outline, the format that is used dedicates a paragraph to each of three parameters of comparison, and both similarities and differences are addressed for each of those parameters.
This is the kind of logical flow that you will need to have in order for your comparative essay to turn out great.
Write in a systematic way
A comparative essay is not a place to get too creative with your writing, whether in terms of organization or in terms of style.
Rather, you should focus on simply carrying out your comparison, point-by-point and in a way that is easy for your reader to follow. This can get a little tedious, so if that is a problem for you, then you should make sure that you set aside enough time to work on your comparative essay little by little.
For example, if your essay has three parameters, then you could write a section on the first parameter today, the second parameter tomorrow, and the third parameter the next day.
The important thing is for you to ensure that you consider each of your two selected items in terms of each of your selected parameters. This needs to be done in a smooth and logical manner, such that your reader knows where you are in the comparison. There should be no jumping around, and there should be no departure from the basic format or structure.
Example comparative (compare/contrast) essay
We have now arrived at the end of this guide, and you should have a much better idea of what makes a comparative essay successful and how you can go about writing one. It may be helpful to now summarize some of the main points that have been addressed here.
Let's address five main points.
1. Ensure that you select appropriate items for comparison
The two items that will be compared in your comparative essay should be carefully selected. The items should have some shared features and be in the same "class" of items, but they should also have substantial differences to which you are trying to call attention. If the items are too similar, then there would be no point in the comparison, but if they are too different, that can also make the comparison meaningless.
2. Select effective parameters of comparison
Your comparative essay shouldn't compare anything and everything between your two items; rather, the parameters should be specifically selected to highlight specific, salient similarities and differences. In order to determine what parameters would be effective, you have to ask yourself why you are writing your comparative essay and what sort of insights you intend to produce about the items being compared.
3. Use tools and models in an effective way
The Venn diagram is one tool that can be very helpful in conceptualizing your comparative essay, especially if you are a more visual kind of learner. Tables, rubrics, and outlines will also work to help ensure that you are developing a strong backbone of logic and systematic reasoning for your comparative essay. These and other tools may even help you reconsider your initial choices of items and parameters, if you realize that significant insights are not being produced.
4. Choose an organizational format, and stick with it
There are two main ways in which to structure an effective comparative essay, which have been described above. You can dedicate one section to similarities and one section to differences; or, you can dedicate a section to each of the parameters of comparison. This second option is usually more effective, especially if you are new to comparative essays. But either way, it is crucial that you stick to your chosen format and do not jump around and confuse the reader.
5. Seek assistance if you need it
If you are still uncertain about how to write a successful comparative essay, then Ultius is here to help. Our writer help section has many tools like this one available on various types of essays; we have a huge writer help section that contains all sorts of information on pretty much any writing-related questions you may have; and we also have elite professional writers who can produce a sample comparative essay for you on any subject of your choosing. We are here for you, and if you have any further questions about how to write a comparative essay, then you should feel free to reach out.
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Learn How to Write a Comparative Essay with Examples
Table of Contents
In a scholastic career, writing a comparative essay is one of the most common assignments. Generally, to write an engaging comparative essay, you should first pick two topics with enough similarities and dissimilarities, and then compare them in a meaningful way. Moreover, your essay should be well-organized and should have valid comparisons with supporting facts. On the whole, the content should also captivate your readers. In case, you are unsure of how to write a successful comparative essay, check this blog post. Here, we have explained how to write a comparative essay effectively with examples.
What is a Comparative Essay?
What is a Comparative Essay? A Comparative Essay is an essay that contains paragraphs explaining how the two subjects of discussion are either similar or different. It mainly focuses on various ‘compare and contrast’ aspects of the two subjects. Compare will describe the similarities between the subjects while contrast will highlight the differences.
For example, if you are assigned a task to write the Comparison between the Indian Cricket Team and the Australian Cricket Team, then you should do proper research about the two sports teams and discuss the similarities and differences both the teams share in the form of a specific essay structure.
To write a comparative essay, the two topics need not have a close relation, it can also be different. Furthermore, in a comparative analysis essay, you can choose to discuss the similarities and differences of ideas, places, items, views, events, concepts, etc.
What is the Purpose of a Comparative Essay?
The main purpose of a comparative essay is to
- Systematically, present the similarities and differences.
- Give clarity to the readers about the subject of discussion.
- Analyze two things and highlight their advantages and disadvantages.
Know How to Write a Comparative Essay
So, how to write a comparative analysis essay? Simply jumping directly to the topic and generating ideas is not an effective way of writing a compare-and-contrast essay. To address the comparison in a meaningful way, remember to follow the comparative essay writing steps mentioned below.
Analyze the essay topic
If you are given an essay prompt or a question, then, first try to understand what is stated in the question by marking the important words or key phrases. The question for a comparative essay usually contains keywords such as “compare, contrasts, similarities, and differences” with which you can easily identify what you need to present in your essay.
Your essay topic can be specific or general too. For example, if you are asked to compare the Indian Cricket Team and the Australian Cricket Team, then you need to specifically focus only on these two teams. But if your question says, to compare any two International Cricket Teams, then you can research various teams and pick any two ideal teams for your discussion. In the case of general topics, you need to build the basis of comparison by yourself.
List out the key points
If you are clear with your essay prompt, then go ahead and find out what points need to be included in your essay. The content should contain all the similarities and differences. So, list out the main points that you wish to speak about in your essay. The hints you have noted will act as your essay plan with which you need to develop the content. Ignore the less significant points and consider speaking only about the points that add value to your comparison.
Create a Thesis Statement
No matter whether your essay topic is specific or general, you need to create a thesis statement. To build a clear thesis statement, first, analyze the key points you have listed and spot whether your topic is more inclined towards similarities or dissimilarities, and then based on that develop a simple thesis statement. Your thesis statement should highlight the comparisons in a crispy way.
Develop and Structure the content
After creating a thesis statement, develop the key points you have noted and structure the essay by adding paragraphs. The content should be written in a simple manner. Most importantly, your readers should be able to understand what you have discussed in your comparative essay.
Standard Structure of a Comparative Essay
When you write a comparative essay, make sure to structure the essay in an easy way to deliver the key points of your comparison. Generally, you can write an essay in many different structures.
Here are some important methods that you can use to structure a comparative essay.
Mixed paragraphs methods, block method.
The alternation method focuses on the discussion of one aspect of comparison in one paragraph. That means, at first you need to pick one item of comparison in relation to the first subject and explain that in detail in the first paragraph. Then, followed by that paragraph, you need to explain the same item of comparison in relation to the second subject. The third and fourth paragraphs will deal with another aspect of comparison in relation to the first and second subjects respectively. Sequentially, explain your comparative points until the end of your essay.
Example: Compare Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro and Samsung Galaxy M31
Paragraph 1: Display Features of Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
Paragraph 2: Display Features of Samsung Galaxy M31
Paragraph 3: Camera Quality of Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
Paragraph 4: Camera Quality of Samsung Galaxy M31
The alternating method helps to present a well-analyzed paper, and also with this method you can effectively handle two different subjects and explain your items of comparison in a deep and neat manner.
You can use the alternating method to structure your comparative essay if your topic needs a detailed comparison or when the comparison points of two subjects are not related.
Read more topic: What are Narrative Essay Topics?
In this method, one paragraph should be devoted to explaining the subject comparison in one aspect. That means you need to explain one item of comparison with respect to both subjects in a single paragraph.
Paragraph 1: Display Features of Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro/ Display Features of Samsung Galaxy M31
Paragraph 2: Camera Quality of Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro/ Camera Quality of Samsung Galaxy M31
The mixed paragraph method gives equal weight to the subjects in terms of comparison. In this method, the readers can easily find the comparison factor.
You can use the mixed-paragraph method to write a long comparative essay. Also, this method is effective to deal with complex subjects that need special attention.
The block method is one of the easiest methods in which you can divide the essay into two parts and then, discuss the first subject in one part and the second subject in another part. But here, all the items of comparison in relation to the first subject should be explained in a particular order. When you write the second paragraph, the comparison points should be presented in the same order as explained in the first paragraph.
Paragraph 2: Camera Quality of Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
Paragraph 3: Display Features of Samsung Galaxy M31
You can use the block method when dealing with a short essay, simple subjects, and multiple subjects. With this method, you can develop the ideas of subject two from the ideas listed in subject one. Also, you can use this method if there is no clear relation between the comparison items of both subjects.
How to Prepare a Comparative Essay Outline?
By now, you have gained an idea of how to structure a comparative essay with the methods such as alternating, mixed paragraphs, and blocks. But to effectively write a comparative essay, you should first create a good comparative essay outline in a specific format.
Discussed here is the Comparative Essay Outline Format. While sketching the comparative essay outline, remember to include the following essential components.
Like every other essay, the comparative essay should also begin with an introduction paragraph. In this paragraph, you need to give a glimpse of the essay to the reader in terms of the content. The introduction should be simple, and concise, and should have a clear thesis statement.
It is the heart of the essay where you need to compare and contrast the two subjects in a preferred structure.
End the essay by giving an overview of what you have discussed in the body paragraphs. Your conclusion should be based on the similarities and dissimilarities you have identified and should not be on a personal note.
Format of a Comparative Essay
Follow the below-mentioned format whenever you are asked to write a comparative essay.
Introduction General Statement (connected to the ideas in thesis – inarguable) Introduction to texts and authors (mention connection to key ideas) Background Information of the Topic Thesis Statement Body Paragraphs Topic Sentence [Abstract opinion] In each body paragraph, you can have up to 5 points. Point 1 [Connect Text with Abstract Opinion] Compare A and B Present Proof Transition statement leading to next point Point 2 Compare another element of A and B Present Proof Connection Statement (review all points and connect to THESIS) Conclusion Review topic Conclusion statement Restate thesis
Comparative Essay Example
For your better understanding, here, we have shared a sample of a Comparative Essay.
Example – A Comparative Essay on summer and winter
Summer and winter are two of the four important seasons in the world. Like winter, the view of plants is also beautiful in summer. Even though there are several similar points between summer and winter, they both have some differences when it comes to clothing, activities, and food.
In summer, because of the extreme hotness, people prefer wearing short pants or skirts. But in contrast, people love to cover their full bodies and protect themselves from the cold climate by wearing long pants, sweaters, scarf, and gloves.
Another difference between summer and winter is the activities. During summer, people like to take part in various activities such as surfing, spending time in the water park, visiting beaches, etc. But such activities are not convenient to do at the time of winter.
The final different thing between them is the food. In summer, because of the temperature, people prefer eating ice creams, watermelons, cucumbers, coconut water, and so on to keep the body cool. On the other hand, during winter, to keep the body warm, people eat hot pot.
Basically, these are the three common things between summer and winter. Besides clothing, activities, and food, a few other differences between them include temperature, daytime, and the views. Even though there are a lot of differences between summer and winter, one can still enjoy the season by doing many fun things.
By following the essential points discussed in this post, write an engaging comparative essay by addressing both the subjects and their items of comparison in detail. But after preparation, make sure to proofread the content and then submit the essay. In case, you are unsure of how to write a comparative essay, then quickly contact us. We have plenty of essay helpers from different educational backgrounds to offer you high-quality essay help services for all types of academic essays including comparative essays. Especially, based on the requirements you send us, our experts will prepare and deliver plagiarism-free essays deserving of top grades. Simply, book your order and get your work done on time with the support of our talented essay writers.
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