The Ultimate Guide on Compare and Contrast Essay: Topics, Outline, Example
Learning how to write a compare and contrast essay is a rite of passage for many college students, as this essay type is one of the most common assignments in college, especially in the first year. Writing a compare and contrast essay helps students develop and improve upon skills such as critical reasoning, scientific argumentation, and organized systematic writing. The best essays of this type have a clear purpose, such as shedding light on a complex idea or clearing up misconceptions about a difficult topic. Another purpose might be illustrating how one subject is better than another or perhaps highlighting a new approach to thinking about something. The individual assignment will vary, of course, and each should come with its rubric. Pay close attention to the rubric, since it will outline what your teacher is looking for, and make sure you understand the assignment before you begin. If you have a question about the essay assignment, do not be afraid to ask your teacher for help.
What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
The compare and contrast essay format is similar to that of other essay types . The writer must state a thesis in the introduction, argue the thesis in the body, and then form a conclusion. However, with a compare and contrast essay, the goal is to show how one subject is similar to another (i.e., compare them), as well as how it is different (i.e., contrast them). Such an essay requires upfront planning to ensure the writer has a firm grasp on both subjects. One way to plan for a compare and contrast essay is to create a Venn diagram to show how two subjects are similar and different, such as this one. Here’s an example:
You may find that you need to create several of these diagrams before you know what your thesis is and what your two subjects are. Be open to different possibilities. The first two subjects you diagram may not be the ones you want to compare and contrast in your essay, but creating that diagram may give you some useful ideas.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
According to our write an essay for me service professionals, it would also be a good idea to create an outline before you begin writing. The outline is like a template that you can follow to keep your essay on track throughout the writing process, and it should include the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
The standard compare and contrast essay format implies that the author should start a paper with a concise, to-the-point, and clear introduction. The good news is that the opening paragraph in this type of essay is not much different compared to other papers. It is a clause that introduces and outlines the general topic of the paper.
When writing a comparing and contrasting essay intro, you need to ensure it has the following elements:
- A hook and explanation of the general topic - The first sentence of your essay should be a hook that grabs attention and encourages readers to continue reading. Then follow general details related to the topic.
- Subjects of comparison - Next in your compare and contrast essay introduction, you should mention the specific subjects that will be compared and contrasted in the paper.
- Thesis - Finally, the opening paragraph should close with a clear and concise thesis statement.
Once you have dealt with the introduction, it’s natural to wonder how to write a body paragraph for a compare and contrast essay.
Let’s start with the length. The number of body paragraphs can vary depending on the general word limit and the number of criteria against which you will compare contrast your subjects. But, as a rule, there should be at least 2-3 paragraphs. Every paragraph should wrap around one specific criterion (either a difference or similarity) of the comparison.
As for the contents, each paragraph must have:
- Topic sentence;
- Details collected in the course of research;
- Substantial data, evidence, stats, etc. to support the claim;
- Transition to the next part.
Pro tip: Feel free to use connector phrases (e.g., both, likewise, compared to, in contrast, unlike, etc.) and words in your comparison to give your paper a logical flow and ensure the cohesion of all your points.
When you have your intro and body ready, you can move on to shaping your compare and contrast essay conclusion. As a rule, this is the simplest part to write. A conclusion in compare and contrast essay should wrap up everything discussed throughout the paper and give it a sense of completion.
Here are the main points on how to write a conclusion for a compare and contrast essay:
- Provide a summary of the key ideas/points - Start by recapping the main ideas from your body paragraphs, but keep it very concise and straight to the point.
- Give a general evaluation - Shortly analyze the outcomes of your comparison and give it a final evaluation (e.g., finalize whether the subjects have more differences or similarities).
- Emphasize the significance - In the end, restate your thesis and stress the importance of the overall topic, as well as your compare and contrast points.
Compare and Contrast Essay Structure
When it comes to the question of how to structure a compare and contrast essay, there are a few strategies that students can stick to. Namely, the two methods of organizing your paper are called a Point-by-Point Method and Block Method.
Let’s take a look at each method in detail.
As you can easily guess, this type of structure of a compare and contrast essay implies comparing and contrasting the subjects point by point. This method works best when you are planning to compare 2 or more subjects that are more or less similar or, on the contrary, different.
To help you grasp the idea, here is how a typical body paragraph should look if you use the Point-by-Point Method:
- Topic sentence
- Detail (point of comparison) 1
- Detail (point of comparison) 2
As you can see, using this method of organization, you will be reviewing all subjects by certain points within the same body paragraph, not dividing them. The key thing to remember is that all points within one paragraph should relate to each other, and there should be one general idea per paragraph.
Unlike the Point-by-Point Method that organizes a compare and contrast essay based on specific criteria of comparison, the Block compare and contrast essay structure implies organizing the paper based on your items. This approach will work best when the subjects of comparison are absolutely different and you have multiple criteria against which you will be contrasting them. In this case, every paragraph in the essay body will focus on a specific item.
Here is how the body of your paper should look like if you choose this comparing and contrasting essay format:
- Body paragraph 1 (Item 1)
- Criteria for contrasting 1
- Criteria for contrasting 2
- Criteria for contrasting 3
- Body paragraph 2 (Item 2)
- Body paragraph 3 (Item 3)
As you can see, each body paragraph investigates a single item, spanning all the criteria that make it different from other items. If you pick this method, the main rule to stick to is to only mention one item per paragraph and always use connectors to ensure smooth transitions from one item to another.
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay?
End your introduction with a thesis sentence . It will allow readers to grasp your opinion of the compared subject matters, and it will logically draw their attention to the main idea.
In the thesis, provide one idea or a statement that unites both subject matters. Even if you have discovered more differences than similarities between your subject matters, you should be able to find at least one element that they have in common and include it as part of your main idea.
In the body, present as much support for your thesis as you can. Support can come in the form of statistics, research results, interviews, or other sources. Some writers prefer to mention the evidential base in the thesis, but others prefer to wait until the body of the essay.
Draw a conclusion at the end of your essay based on the similarities and differences you have presented throughout the paper. The conclusion should not introduce any new ideas but should bring closure to the paper.
Choose Your Topic
The subjects of a compare/contrast essay can vary from some physical objects to historical figures and events. The core thing to remember when choosing compare and contrast topics is that the subjects you will compare must be different. But, at the same time have some common features. For example, you may compare Democrats and Republicans, Extroverts and Introverts, etc.
Brainstorm Similarities and Differences
If you are wondering how to start a compare and contrast essay, the answer is simple - with some brainstorming. Once you define the subjects, the next thing you need to do is to brainstorm what similarities and differences they have.
To get things right, look at your two subjects separately and analyze them. Then, make two lists, one for similar points and the other one for differences, where you will be writing down all points that come into your mind.
Pro tip: If you are wondering how to compare and contrast your subjects, making lists is definitely helpful. But, if you are more of a visual person, you may find it more convenient to map out your ideas using a Venn diagram, where you’ll have two overlapping circles, one for each of your subjects, with similarities written where the circles overlap and differences written on the other sides of circles.
Write An Introduction
To start a compare and contrast essay, you will need to write a solid introduction that transitions into a clear and specific thesis sentence. The introductory paragraph should outline the topic you want to cover and provide insight into your main idea. It should mention what matters—the people, ideas, events, or other subjects you are going to compare and contrast in the body of your essay.
In the introduction, include the necessary background information. Your introduction should be brief, but exhaustive. Before stating your thesis, you should provide a preview of your supporting arguments and positions, as your reader needs to understand why your subject matter is worth comparing and contrasting.
Pay attention to the structure of your essay, and make sure it is balanced. For instance, if the whole essay will be three pages long, you should not spend two of them on the introduction.
Develop a Thesis Statement for Your Compare and Contrast Essay
The thesis statement is one of the key elements of contrast and compare paper. Its purpose is to introduce the topic and formulate a focused argument.
To create a powerful compare and contrast thesis, replace a vague, general topic (for instance, the comparison of democracy and republic ideologies) with something more specific and detailed. For example, it may sound like, “The ideas of Republicans and Democrats vary significantly in terms of plans and policies on gun control, death penalty, and other major issues, but they do agree on certain points”.
Note how this sample compare and contrast thesis statement gives you the scope for showing both similarities and differences inherent in the ideas of these two parties. But, at the same time, the statement is not 100% concrete in terms of similar and contrasting points, so it also leaves you some space to alter your comparison.
To make your statement stronger, it is also important to answer several questions such as: “ So what? ” and “ Why do you choose to compare these particular parties? ”.
To answer these questions, be sure to add some background info concerning your topic. For example, stress that Democrats and Republicans are the two largest opposing parties.
Decide on Compare and Contrast Essay Structure
Unlike other types of essays, a comparison/contrast essay doesn’t imply using the same structure. In fact, there are a couple of ways to organize your work:
Choose any of these methods. The two things that remain unchanged are the introduction with a thesis statement and a conclusion, which have to be included regardless of the chosen structure.
Write A Body Paragraphs
Start a compare and contrast paragraph with a clear but concise topic sentence that defines one point of comparison (e.g., shape, look, etc.) against which you will compare your subjects. Then say a couple of words about each of your subjects concerning the chosen point. And, finally, highlight similarities or differences using compare and contrast words.
Use the same tactic for the following body paragraphs. Remember to focus on a single point of comparison in every paragraph to retain the integrity and logical flow of your paper and, at the same time, unfold your subjects to the fullest extent.
Write Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion
As you saw in the example above, the conclusion of an essay should help the reader understand the writer’s point of view. In other words, the best essays have a conclusion that reminds the reader of the thesis and shows, through a summary of the paper’s findings, how the thesis is correct. The example compare and contrast essay, about energy drinks, uses the thesis that energy drinks are overused and can be seen as either mind boosters or “soft drugs”. The conclusion sums up the findings from the body of the essay and then uses those findings to provide an opinion, a direct answer to the thesis question of whether energy drinks help boost the mind or inhibit it like a drug.
Once the final draft of your compare/contrast paper is ready, be sure to read it several times and eliminate any grammar, punctuation, and other mistakes.
To make proofreading simple, make use of these tips:
- Let it rest for a few hours or, even better, a day or two;
- Use grammar and spell-check tools;
- Ask a friend to cast a fresh pair of eyes on your paper to make sure that there is nothing you may have missed.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
A good compare and contrast essay topic often includes words such as “versus” (vs.) or “or”, and these words may be useful in the essay’s title as well. Below is a list of potential compare and contrast essay topics for college papers. Ten of these sample topics have “vs.” in the title, and ten have “or”, clearly indicating that the resulting essays will either compare and contrast two completely different subjects or clarify two positions on the same subject.
Here is the list of possible topics for compare and contrast essay:
Energy Drinks: Mind Boosters or Soft Drugs
- International Monetary Fund: Economic Investments or a Debt Pit
- Abortion: Life Saver or Death Sentence
- Online Courses: Waste of Time or a Key to Better Future
- Cell Phones: Vital Gadget or a Deadly Threat
- Homeopathy: Self-Deceptiveness or Real Treatment
- GMO: Famine Problem Solution or Poison
- Online Communication: True Friendship or Illusion of Emotional Bond
- Religion: Vestige of the Past or Salvation of Nations
- Plural Marriage: Way Out of Underpopulation or Flashback to Barbarian Times
- Edward Snowden vs. Julius Caesar
- Putin vs. Obama
- Orwell vs. Huxley
- Dita Von Tease vs. Bettie Page
- Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris
- Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Sylvester Stallone
- Napoleon vs. Kutuzov
- Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates
- Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Eddison
- Jesus vs. Thor
Compare and Contrast Essay Sample
Compare and contrast essay example.
This example compare and contrast essay clarifies two positions on energy drinks. Notice that it does so by comparing and contrasting energy drinks with other types of caffeinated beverages. If you need more examples, you can order essay samples from our service.
Energy drinks in aluminum cans are relatively new for humankind, but stimulating substances were used centuries before aluminum cans were invented. Today, energy drinks seem to be a panacea for students during exams, white collar employees during deadline periods, night clubbers dancing all night long, athletes heading toward a record, drivers, and basically, everyone who is dog-tired and must stay awake and work hard. You drink a can, and then you are ready to go for several hours afterward.
The producers of energy drinks say that the stimulation effect of their products is ultimately healthy, so they carry on producing new energy drinks all the time. If these drinks were so safe, why would legislators be going after them? Energy drinks: mind boosters or soft drugs? Let us get this all straightened out.
- They enhance brain activity when needed.
- The energy-boosting effects of coffee last mere 1-2 hours, while those of energy drinks last 3-4 hours. Moreover, most of them are aerated, which makes them work faster, and coffee does not get the same treatment.
- The aluminum can allow you to consume an energy drink in almost any situation: in the car, on the dance floor, in the school library, and so on. Coffee and tea are not always so portable.
- You should drink no more than two cans of an energy drink each day. Drinking more than that increases your risk of elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, or both.
- It has been said that energy drinks fill you with energy, but that is simply not true. They work as a key to your inner energy reserves, helping you tap into your naturally stored energy. Later, you have to pay the price: insomnia, weariness, peevishness, and depression.
- The caffeine in energy drinks not only builds up an addiction if you drink more than two cans a day but also exhausts your nervous system.
What conclusion can be drawn from these pros and cons? Obviously, there is nothing healthy about energy drinks. Their contents do not differ much from everyday tea, coffee, and cocoa. Moreover, they exhaust the energy reserves of our bodies. When the stimulating effect is over in three or four hours, a person goes for another can, turning into an energy drink addict, losing the ability to restore energy in a natural way. To my mind, the cons of energy drinks outweigh the pros. My verdict is that energy drinks are mind boosters in some critical situations, but you should not drink them on a regular basis, as they can take on a drug like quality and become soft drugs.
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What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay? Simple Examples To Guide You
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If you’ve ever gone clothes shopping and wondered at the merits of a warm yak wool sweater compared to a cool and breezy denim jacket, you’ve already gone through phase one of a compare and contrast essay. With just a document and some extra research, you could have a fully built essay about outerwear. But what is a compare and contrast essay, and how do you write a good one?
What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
A compare and contrast essay is a type of analytical or informative essay that explores the similarities and differences between two subjects, hopefully leading to some larger insight about the two.
That can seem pretty basic, but the real key is to make connections between the subjects that aren’t obvious. Greater insight in compare and contrast essays comes from looking at subtle, nuanced, or surprising similarities and differences.
Unlike argumentative or critical essays , compare and contrast essays aren’t really intended for you to make some sort of argument or state an opinion. That’s not to say you can’t state a claim about what you hope a reader should learn from comparing the two subjects, but this is very much about analyzing the subjects, not criticizing them.
Compare and Contrast Essay Template: General Format and Structure
The structure of a compare and contrast essay will depend largely on your subjects and the amount of space and time that you have, which might not always fit a five-paragraph essay assignment .
In its most basic form, a compare and contrast essay could look like:
- An introduction that provides background context and a thesis stating what you’re comparing and why
- A body paragraph discussing the similarities between the two subjects
- A body paragraph discussing the differences between the two subjects
- A conclusion that restates the thesis and looks at further potential questions for consideration
The biggest variation here will come in the body paragraphs. Aside from the above general structure, you could approach the similarities and differences using the block method, wherein you discuss all the information about one subject before discussing all the information about the second subject.
You can also use the point-by-point method. This involves dedicating one paragraph to each point of comparison. For example, you can spend one paragraph talking about how both the yak wool sweater and denim jacket will keep you warm, though to different degrees.
Examples of Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
Coming up with what to actually compare and contrast is half the battle, partly because you can potentially compare and contrast nearly anything. Use your brainstorming skills, figure out what interests you, and otherwise have fun with it.
If you need to get the cogs turning in your noggin, it doesn’t hurt to look at some example topics.
- American English vs. British English : What's the Difference?
- Android vs. iPhone: Which Has the Best Bang for Your Buck?
- Aphrodite or Hercules: Which Greek God Possessed More Power?
- Border Collies vs. Labrador Retrievers: Which Breed Is Better for Young Families?
- Coffee vs. Tea: Which One Is Healthier?
- Commuting or Dorming: What's the Best Way to Enjoy College?
- Facebook or Instagram: Which Will Help Your Business Grow?
- Irish and Scottish Mythology: What Themes Do They Share?
- Liberal Arts or the Sciences: Which Degree Program Offers More Job Prospects?
- Music and Poetry: Which Is More Personal?
- Music from the 1950s and the 1970s: Who Rocked It Out Better?
- PC vs. Mac: Which Computer Lasts Longer?
- The Bible vs. the Quran: What's the Difference?
Compare and Contrast Essay Example
You have a pretty solid idea of how to write a compare and contrast essay , but it doesn’t hurt to see what a compare and contrast essay could look like. We can’t write your essay for you because you might have some amazing, nuanced, and surprising insights on similarities and differences that we just won’t notice. Besides, we wouldn’t want to take that opportunity away from you anyway.
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Sample Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction
A compare and contrast essay’s introduction doesn’t have much variance from intros in other essays, so don’t skimp on the details here. Include a good hook and some basic background context. End with a thesis statement that discusses what you’re comparing and why the comparison even matters.
When people think monster , they might recall blood-draining vampires, brain-hungry zombies, or boogeymen under the bed. Few might consider the terrors of an amphibious puppet and a lonely ogre. While these two strange creatures might not have much in common, Fremont the Toad and Gerf (from the animated film series of the same name) present interesting similarities that help to understand both of them as deeper characters and closer to human than the audience may realize.
Compare and Contrast Essay Body Paragraph Examples
Body paragraphs for compare and contrast essays will see a lot of variance, maybe more so than any other essay type. This comes down to how you frame your comparison, what you want to focus on with your subjects, and countless other factors. In general, you’ll be highlighting the similarities and why they matter and highlighting the differences and why they matter.
Fremont and Gerf have some significant differences that set them apart in both goals and personalities. Fremont is a musical toad with big show business aspirations. In contrast, Gerf is an ogre with a self-imposed isolationist view. Fremont’s aspirations mean that he is constantly in interaction with others, from strangers to friends, as a means of learning and making connections to further his dreams. On the other hand, Gerf possesses no such dreams and instead prefers keeping others away as both a safety measure and defense mechanism. In spite of their differences, Fremont and Gerf do share some similarities. Aside from both being a similar shade of chartreuse, Fremont and Gerf share a similar home environment: the swamp. This flooded, damp biome acts as a place of hiding and solitude for both of them. This might run counter to Fremont’s big dreams, but to this talented toad, the swamp is a space to get away from the spotlight, to find himself. Gerf, however, must venture outside the swamp to understand himself better.
Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion Example
You should always make your conclusions matter. It’s your opportunity to get a little cheesy, draw on other questions, and consider the “why” of your entire essay. Even if it’s the “last part” of your essay, your conclusion can inform the rest of your essay, so give it some extra thought.
Both Fremont the Toad and Gerf the ogre are mysterious creatures with some distinctly different aspirations. However, they both have a deeper need to connect to themselves while connecting to others. In other words, these two strange creatures may be more human than what viewers initially think, creating a deeper reading of their characters beyond the superficial.
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Expert Tips on How To Write a Compare and Contrast Essay Successfully
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Have you ever been at the grocery store, looked at the two bins of sweet potatoes and yams, and wondered, "What’s the difference?" Congratulations! You’ve done a mini version of the compare and contrast essay. Granted, compiling all those thoughts about starchy tubers into words poses its own challenge, but don’t worry. With a few simple tips, you’ll be comparing and contrasting with the best of them.
Understand What “Compare” and “Contrast” Even Mean
Before you even get to your starch-based analysis, it’s worth understanding what people (i.e., your instructors) even mean when they talk about comparing and contrasting.
Compare is a verb meaning “to speak of or represent as similar; to liken,” while contrast means “to set in opposition to show different qualities and characteristics.”
In layman’s terms , it’s analyzing the similarities and differences in two like subjects, though it’s also more than just that. For example, if you were to “compare” two people by saying:
They both have eyes. They have hair. They have skin. They require food, oxygen, and water. They have legs.
That’s not particularly interesting or incisive, nor is it much of an analysis. You just described two mammals.
A compare and contrast essay requires deeper thought. Physical features might factor into that, sure, but the more important thing to consider is “Why does it matter?” Consider how similarities or differences might have informed intent, artistry, or life journeys. Those considerations can hopefully deliver some sort of greater insight about life, humanity, and art. That’s the whole purpose of the compare and contrast essay.
Focus More on Framing, Less on “Like Subjects”
Figuring out “like subjects” to compare and contrast comes with its own challenges. You probably wouldn’t write an essay looking at the similarities and differences between your grandfather and a baked potato, but what about two artists who worked in different mediums? Or a video game character and a character from a movie?
In reality, you could compare and contrast whatever you wanted (maybe even Grandpa and a baked potato), but a lot of it comes down to framing. If you want to compare artists of different mediums, maybe they worked within the same movement or tradition, like retrofuturism. How do themes of retrofuturism influence the two artists?
If you want to compare a video game character to a film character, even if they’re from different mediums, consider how that difference affects how you interact with or interpret those characters.
Simplify Your Topic Selection
Thinking more about framing is definitely the key to figuring out how to get into your writing, but choosing a topic is understandably daunting. As you're choosing a topic, use the K.I.S.S. method and keep it simple.
The main things to consider:
- The two subjects need to have some sort of demonstrable overlap.
- Figuring out differences is almost always easier than finding similarities.
- Even similarities/differences that seem obvious to you might not be obvious to a reader.
Start With a Simple Brainstorm
Before you even think too hard about the overall structure of your compare and contrast essay, it's helpful to start with a good old-fashioned list. Take a sheet of paper; draw a vertical line down the center; and list the similarities and differences between the two subjects. This is basically a Venn diagram but in list form.
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For example, if you’re writing an essay about two famous painters, start with their similarities. Perhaps they both painted with acrylics or were drawn to similar subjects. Once you've covered as many similarities as you can, move on to their differences. Monet started studying at an early age, while Van Gogh started in pastoral studies before developing an interest in art in his 20s.
Much like any part of your essay, you can change this, add new similarities and differences, and otherwise make this list useful to you.
Choose an Outline Structure Based on Your Subject and Assignment
Now that you’ve constructed a list of things to compare and contrast, you can start building out the structure of your essay with (you guessed it) an outline . The introduction and conclusion of your essay will largely be similar to other essays , but the body paragraphs are where compare and contrast essays really set themselves apart.
Obviously, the body is where you’ll do the actual comparing and contrasting, but there are a few different ways to actually approach that. None of these methods is wrong or “better,” but you might change your approach based on your topic or the amount of time that you have.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Quick and Focused
This is maybe the most basic structure for a compare and contrast essay. With this method, you write one body paragraph with all the similarities of your two subjects and one body paragraph covering all the differences.
Given our example about Van Gogh and Monet, that outline might look like:
- Background context about Van Gogh and Monet
- A thesis statement about what you’re comparing and contrasting regarding Van Gogh and Monet and why
- Body paragraph #1: Similarities of Van Gogh and Monet’s artistic styles
- Body paragraph #2: Differences between Van Gogh and Monet's artistic styles
- Restating the thesis
- Summing up the importance of Van Gogh and Monet in their similarities and differences
It’s not the most ideal for in-depth analyses (unless you want extremely large, unwieldy paragraphs). However, if you’re focusing on a single comparison point or writing a timed essay , this can be an easy, effective, and succinct method to organize your thoughts.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: The Block Method
The block method involves grouping all your points about your first subject together into a block of paragraphs and grouping all of your points about your second subject into a block of paragraphs (while analyzing similarities and differences).
- A look at Van Gogh’s life
- Van Gogh’s artistic style
- A look at Monet’s life (and how it compares to Van Gogh’s)
- Monet’s artistic style (and how it compares to Van Gogh’s)
This method of comparing and contrasting works better on shorter papers or more focused topics. With more in-depth analyses, things can easily get confusing. For example, if you’re talking about Van Gogh’s art, his most famous paintings, his legacy, and his importance to artistic canon, a reader might forget about Van Gogh’s biography by the time you even get to writing about Monet’s life.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: The Point-by-Point Method
The point-by-point method can give you a little more flexibility, whether you’re writing a five-paragraph essay or a longer paper with more in-depth comparisons. With this method, each body paragraph covers a specific point about both subjects, including the similarities and differences.
- Van Gogh’s life
- Monet’s life
- Monet’s artistic style
- Van Gogh’s legacy
- Monet’s legacy
This method keeps things close together, so you know exactly what is being compared between your two subjects.
Follow the Evidence
Finding some credible sources to backup your essay points serves two important purposes. First, the evidence you find can inform new similarities and differences. Maybe it turns out that the two artists grew up in similar environments. Maybe new discoveries about Grandpa show that he has the same inner warmth as a baked potato. These are all things you might have overlooked without the right research.
Second, once you're comfortable with your topic and the direction of your essay, use evidence to support your points. In these types of informative or analytical essays , statistical evidence is helpful. This includes:
- Facts and stats
- Scholarly articles
- Expert opinion from known critics and academics
- Personal encounters
- Writing for Success: Compare/Contrast
This section will help you determine the purpose and structure of comparison/contrast in writing.
The Purpose of Compare/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.
The Structure of a Compare/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
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.
Phrases of Comparison and Contrast
Writing an Compare/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.
Compare/Contrast Essay Example
Comparing and Contrasting London and Washington, DC
By Scott McLean in Writing for Success
Both Washington, DC, and London are capital cities of English-speaking countries, and yet they offer vastly different experiences to their residents and visitors. Comparing and contrasting the two cities based on their history, their culture, and their residents show how different and similar the two are.
Both cities are rich in world and national history, though they developed on very different time lines. London, for example, has a history that dates back over two thousand years. It was part of the Roman Empire and known by the similar name, Londinium. It was not only one of the northernmost points of the Roman Empire but also the epicenter of the British Empire where it held significant global influence from the early sixteenth century on through the early twentieth century. Washington, DC, on the other hand, has only formally existed since the late eighteenth century. Though Native Americans inhabited the land several thousand years earlier, and settlers inhabited the land as early as the sixteenth century, the city did not become the capital of the United States until the 1790s. From that point onward to today, however, Washington, DC, has increasingly maintained significant global influence. Even though both cities have different histories, they have both held, and continue to hold, significant social influence in the economic and cultural global spheres.
Both Washington, DC, and London offer a wide array of museums that harbor many of the world’s most prized treasures. While Washington, DC, has the National Gallery of Art and several other Smithsonian galleries, London’s art scene and galleries have a definite edge in this category. From the Tate Modern to the British National Gallery, London’s art ranks among the world’s best. This difference and advantage has much to do with London and Britain’s historical depth compared to that of the United States. London has a much richer past than Washington, DC, and consequently has a lot more material to pull from when arranging its collections. Both cities have thriving theater districts, but again, London wins this comparison, too, both in quantity and quality of theater choices. With regard to other cultural places like restaurants, pubs, and bars, both cities are very comparable. Both have a wide selection of expensive, elegant restaurants as well as a similar amount of global and national chains. While London may be better known for its pubs and taste in beer, DC offers a different bar-going experience. With clubs and pubs that tend to stay open later than their British counterparts, the DC night life tend to be less reserved overall.
Both cities also share and differ in cultural diversity and cost of living. Both cities share a very expensive cost of living—both in terms of housing and shopping. A downtown one-bedroom apartment in DC can easily cost $1,800 per month, and a similar “flat” in London may double that amount. These high costs create socioeconomic disparity among the residents. Although both cities’ residents are predominantly wealthy, both have a significantly large population of poor and homeless. Perhaps the most significant difference between the resident demographics is the racial makeup. Washington, DC, is a “minority majority” city, which means the majority of its citizens are races other than white. In 2009, according to the US Census, 55 percent of DC residents were classified as “Black or African American” and 35 percent of its residents were classified as “white.” London, by contrast, has very few minorities—in 2006, 70 percent of its population was “white,” while only 10 percent was “black.” The racial demographic differences between the cities is drastic.
Even though Washington, DC, and London are major capital cities of English-speaking countries in the Western world, they have many differences along with their similarities. They have vastly different histories, art cultures, and racial demographics, but they remain similar in their cost of living and socioeconomic disparity.
- 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.
- Provided by : Lumen Learning. Located at : http://lumenlearning.com/ . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
- Successful Writing. Provided by : Anonymous. Located at : http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/successful-writing/s14-07-comparison-and-contrast.html . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
- Comparing and Contrasting London and Washington, DC. Authored by : Scott McLean. Located at : http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/successful-writing/s14-07-comparison-and-contrast.html . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
- Table of Contents
Instructor Resources (Access Requires Login)
- Overview of Instructor Resources
An Overview of the Writing Process
- Introduction to the Writing Process
- Introduction to Writing
- Your Role as a Learner
- What is an Essay?
- Reading to Write
- Defining the Writing Process
- Videos: Prewriting Techniques
- Thesis Statements
- Organizing an Essay
- Creating Paragraphs
- Editing and Proofreading
- Matters of Grammar, Mechanics, and Style
- Peer Review Checklist
- Comparative Chart of Writing Strategies
- Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism
- Formatting the Works Cited Page (MLA)
- Citing Paraphrases and Summaries (APA)
- APA Citation Style, 6th edition: General Style Guidelines
- Definitional Argument Essay
- How to Write a Definition Essay
- Critical Thinking
- Video: Thesis Explained
- Effective Thesis Statements
- Student Sample: Definition Essay
- Introduction to Narrative Essay
- Student Sample: Narrative Essay
- "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell
- "Sixty-nine Cents" by Gary Shteyngart
- Video: The Danger of a Single Story
- How to Write an Annotation
- How to Write a Summary
- Writing for Success: Narration
- Introduction to Illustration/Example Essay
- "She's Your Basic L.O.L. in N.A.D" by Perri Klass
- "April & Paris" by David Sedaris
- Writing for Success: Illustration/Example
- Student Sample: Illustration/Example Essay
- Introduction to Compare/Contrast Essay
- "Disability" by Nancy Mairs
- "Friending, Ancient or Otherwise" by Alex Wright
- "A South African Storm" by Allison Howard
- Student Sample: Compare/Contrast Essay
- Introduction to Cause-and-Effect Essay
- "Cultural Baggage" by Barbara Ehrenreich
- "Women in Science" by K.C. Cole
- Writing for Success: Cause and Effect
- Student Sample: Cause-and-Effect Essay
- Introduction to Argument Essay
- Rogerian Argument
- "The Case Against Torture," by Alisa Soloman
- "The Case for Torture" by Michael Levin
- How to Write a Summary by Paraphrasing Source Material
- Writing for Success: Argument
- Student Sample: Argument Essay
- Grammar/Mechanics Mini-lessons
- Mini-lesson: Subjects and Verbs, Irregular Verbs, Subject Verb Agreement
- Mini-lesson: Sentence Types
- Mini-lesson: Fragments I
- Mini-lesson: Run-ons and Comma Splices I
- Mini-lesson: Comma Usage
- Mini-lesson: Parallelism
- Mini-lesson: The Apostrophe
- Mini-lesson: Capital Letters
- Grammar Practice - Interactive Quizzes
- De Copia - Demonstration of the Variety of Language
- Style Exercise: Voice
- Plagiarism checker Do The Check
- Academic editing Ask For Help
- Samples database View Samples Base
How To Start A Compare And Contrast Essay?
10 Feb 2022
❓Definition Of This Type Of Essay
✅Tips For Your Writing Process
✍️Steps In Writing An Essay
While getting an education, students must complete different tasks and overcome various academic challenges. One of such challenges is the writing process of a comparison essay. If you are wondering how to start an introduction for a compare and contrast essay or just want to know how to write one well, you first need to understand its purpose. A compare and contrast essay is an academic paper that is used for analyzing two different subjects to determine their differences and similarities.
In a compare and contrast essay, students must think critically and look at topics from different perspectives. These types of papers can be comparative, where they show similarities between subjects. They can also only require students to contrast. In this paper, it is appropriate to use easily comparable subjects. This is so you don’t have to work too hard to find the similarities and differences between the two topics. Below, you will find methods to start writing your college-level compare and contrast essay.
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What Is A Compare And Contrast Essay?
These are complicated papers that have a task to compare two subjects or show the contrast between them. Keep in mind that these papers can show both at the same time. It is important to add that these essays must reveal small and not obvious differences between two subjects or must show similarities between the two subjects that are not obvious and not something you can see at first sight. Yes, you need to know how to write a compare and contrast essay in order to get the best grade due to the fact these papers are common in college.
You need to know that comparing means you will have to be focused on the similarities between the two. On the other hand, we have contrast, which is looking at the differences between the two subjects. For example, you may have to provide similarities and/or differences between college education and long-distance learning. As you can see, these two do have some same or similar results, but they are done in different ways, and the differences are massive. There is no need to add that compare and contrast essay introduction has a huge role in all of this.
Tips On How To Make Your A Compare And Contrast Essay Perfect
There is no need to tell you that compare and contrast essays are common, and you will have to work on a few of them during your education. What this means is that you need these tips. They can help you get a paper that is just perfect and the one that will have the best grade ensured. A good thing here is that all the tips are simple and straightforward. On the other hand, they do have a huge effect on your paper and on the outcome. Yes, you will have to use all of these tips for all papers of this kind you write, and there must be no exception.
- Choose a great topic Before you start with similarities and differences, you need to choose a topic. In some cases, this is possible, while in others, it is not. But, if you can, always choose a topic you are passionate about and the one you like. This will make the whole research and the whole process much easier and more appealing. At the same time, it won't make a paper annoying to work on. When students are interested in something, they will invest more time and effort and get a better result. The best thing here to keep in mind is that some topics are simple, while others are complicated. However, if you are more interested in a complicated topic, go for it.
- Do a proper research This is something you have to do for all papers, and there is no other way. Yes, you will need a lot of time to invest in research, which sometimes means days or even weeks. You need to have all the details in order to present all the similarities. Some of these details are not easy to find. Others are confusing, so you will need even more time to analyze them. As such, it is always better to start as soon as possible and do slow and detailed research.
- Use Venn Diagram You can see this diagram all over the web. It has two circles that interlay in the middle. You will assign one circle to one subject. In the middle, where you can see the two circles overlap, you will see the similarities between the two subjects. The diagram is ideal when comparing two subjects, and you want to make things easier and more effective. Yes, it actually works, and it can make a massive difference.
- Find and present evidence and proper sources When comparing and contrasting, you still need to provide evidence that will prove your claims. The goal here is to make your paper as accurate as possible. For that, you need actual sources and accurate ones. You also need to present these in your paper, so a teacher will know that you did your research. Once again, we can see that all of this does take time, so you will need to start as soon as possible.
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Steps In Writing A Compare And Contrast Essay
1. choose the topic of your text.
Before you start writing your compare and contrast essay, you need to compare and contrast essay ideas that can showcase your writing and analytical skills. Therefore, try to pick topics that are easy to compare.
2. Think of Your Text’s Structure
You must decide how many paragraphs your essay will have. This depends largely on the length of your text. If you are going to write about 4000 words, you need to create many paragraphs. However, if the text is going to be brief, you don’t need that many paragraphs in it. Your structure can vary widely.
The standard structure is to include an intro, a paragraph about one topic, a paragraph about another topic, and a conclusion paragraph. Alternatively, you could start with an intro, then write a paragraph that discusses the similarities between the two subjects, then a paragraph that explores the differences between the two subjects, and then finally end with a conclusion. While essay planning, you can freely modify this structure.
3. An Essay Introduction
You should begin your essay with a strong intro that catches the readers’ attention and clearly introduces your topic. When starting a compare and contrast essay, it is good to begin with a question you will answer in your work and a fact that will draw in your audience.
4. Be Creative
Try to be as original as possible in your work. For example, do not write "I’ll inform you about this and this in my work". Instead, pique your reader’s interest by asking two questions on each subject: "What draws people to travel? Why do some people prefer not to travel?”. You can also use this in your thesis statement within your intro; it is common here.
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5. Add Some Facts or Humor
In the intro, you should provide a compare and contrast essay outline . This gives your readers a full understanding of the topic you are writing about. It is also a good idea to give a brief historical overview, to start with a story or a joke, or to use a provocative statement in your intro.
6. Body Paragraphs
Before you begin your essays, do research on your topic to become more knowledgeable about your writing topic. While researching, you need to gain a thorough understanding of your topics. A good strategy to use is to make two lists for the subjects and then write down the information in the correct categories. This graphic organizer will allow you to clearly see the similarities and differences between the two things you are comparing. It’s also important to utilize good transition words when writing your compare and contrast essay . While researching, search for uncommon knowledge so that your readers will want to read your compare-and-contrast essay with greater interest.
In your conclusion, you need to wrap up the text that you have written with a clear summary of your paper that emphasizes the main ideas.
A conclusion should not be too long. When you write it, you can repeat something from the compare and contrast introduction. However, it should not be repetitive and it should bring a new perspective on what you have initially discussed in your introduction. Other than the introduction for compare and contrast essay, your conclusion is the most important part of your paper.
After you have finished writing your paper, check for spelling and grammatical errors. You should also check to make sure that your paper flows nicely and that there are no awkward transitions or topics that come out of the blue. Be sure also to check the style and the format of your essay, since the text should be written in one style and format.
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9. Final Organization
Do not forget to organize your citations and references, in the end, to ensure that you have done your title page and other sections according to the academic standards that your professor or teacher expects you to follow.
10. The Final Review
It’s also a good idea to give yourself time to step back from your paper. This way, you can review it with a clearer head than if you are rushing to meet a deadline at the last second. These helpful hints and pieces of advice can help you to write a good essay at the college level. Comparative and contrast essays are often assigned to teach students how to think critically. Students learn to analyze information on two different subjects, allowing them to synthesize information and present an evidence-based argument.
By utilizing the tips, tricks, and hacks for writing essays in this article, you are sure to have a much easier time writing your compare and contrast essay.
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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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How to Write a Compare-and-Contrast Essay
A compare-and-contrast essay is a style of essay that points out the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. It’s ideal for showing what separates and unites related things or concepts, particularly if the subjects are often confused for each other or unjustly lumped together.
Compare-and-contrast essays have a lot in common with other essay types, but differ in many ways, too—and that’s the heart of comparing and contrasting! By seeing the differences and similarities, the reader better understands each of the subjects by using the other subject as a frame of reference.
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In this guide, we explain how to write a compare-and-contrast essay, including some advanced tips and examples. We discuss how to structure your essay and how to frame your thesis , but first, let’s take a broader look at why comparison essays are so useful.
Purpose of a compare-and-contrast essay
Let’s say you want to write an essay about how great renewable resources are, but you spend a lot of your time explaining how fossil fuels work. To truly understand why renewable resources are so amazing, your reader needs a little background on their alternative, fossil fuels—but the essay’s attention is divided so equally that it’s like there are two topics.
That’s when compare-and-contrast essays function at their best. If two topics relate to each other or define each other, you can better explain them both by showcasing their similarities and differences. That goes double for topics that are often conflated or confused for each other; it helps readers when someone points out exactly what’s the same about them and what’s different.
Unlike argumentative essays or persuasive essays , compare-and-contrast essays deal with multiple topics instead of focusing on one. The downside is that they don’t describe the individual subjects as much as single-topic essays. They’re also a common assignment for college essays since they show the instructor how well you grasp both subjects.
How to write a compare-and-contrast essay
When writing a compare-and-contrast essay, it helps to figure out two things: what your thesis is (the subject matter) and how you plan to structure it.
First things first: You need to choose which subjects you’re comparing. This isn’t always easy, especially if you have to pick the subjects on your own.
For inspiration, here are some compare-and-contrast essay example topics:
- fossil fuels and renewable resources
- Coca-Cola and Pepsi
- Mona Lisa and The Girl with a Pearl Earring
- ’80s punk rock music and ’90s grunge music
- Elon Musk and Thomas Edison
- London in the 1600s and London now
- the LGBTQIA+ community before and after Stonewall
- Roman Empire and Greek Empire
- loop quantum gravity and string theory
- evolution and creationism
- liberalism and conservatism
- fascism and despotism
Once you’ve settled on your subjects, you can begin generating ideas. It helps to first list all the similarities and differences between your subjects . When you see them all written down, you can start formulating connections and decide what structure to use for your compare-and-contrast essay.
If you’re stuck, try making a Venn diagram . This is a visual aid that helps you understand which characteristics your subjects share, and which ones are exclusive.
Looking at your lists, you can then decide on the thesis. To do so, ask yourself a few questions: What are you trying to show in your compare-and-contrast essay? What do you want your reader to take away? For example, do you want to emphasize that Elon Musk is a modern-day Thomas Edison, or that they are tey two very distinct individuals?
Compare-and-contrast essays follow our own recommended essay structure . While the linked guide goes into more detail, in a nutshell, your compare-and-contrast essay should follow a simple format of beginning, middle, and end:
- Introduction: where you explain your thesis or what your essay will discuss
- Body: where you actually list the similarities and differences of your subjects; the largest section
- Conclusion: where you wrap up and summarize your points
The introduction, usually one or two paragraphs, should include a thesis statement to show the reader what to expect for the rest of your essay. You can write your introduction following the same guidelines as other essay types, though be sure to mention all your subjects. Likewise, you can write an essay conclusion with the standard rules and best practices.
It’s the body where compare-and-contrast essays get tricky. Do you write about both subjects at the same time, or switch back and forth? Let’s talk deeper on this below.
How to structure a compare-and-contrast essay
The hardest part of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay is knowing when to talk about which subject. Essentially, you have three options:
- block method (subject by subject): You discuss one subject in full and then move on to the next subject.
- alternating method (point by point): You discuss one subject’s take on a certain aspect and then another subject’s take immediately afterward, followed by a new aspect.
- similarities and differences: You discuss all the similarities between your subjects and then all the differences, or vice versa (differences first and then similarities).
No matter which option you choose, you have to pay particular attention to topic sentences . Paragraphs in compare-and-contrast essays can get complicated, so it’s crucial to have a good topic or introduction sentence for each paragraph to make the flow of ideas clear.
Block method (subject by subject)
The block method is usually divided into paragraphs: a paragraph about one subject and then a new paragraph about another subject. Take the compare-and-contrast essay example When Nothing Lies Beyond the Mask: Comparing Moby Dick and The Raven . In the first paragraph after the introduction, the author talks only about Ahab from Moby Dick , but in the next paragraph talks only about the narrator from The Raven . Each subject gets its own paragraph.
Using the block method, you can go back and forth like this for pages, covering as many topics as you need. This approach is best for giving each subject its own attention but tends to slightly weaken the connection between the two.
Alternating method (point by point)
As another option, you can break paragraphs up by a specific topic and issue, and in each paragraph discuss both or all subjects. Let’s look at another compare-and-contrast essay example, The Reality of Science Fiction: Comparing Clarke to Cruise . Here, both subjects are discussed in the same paragraph, one right after another.
This approach works best when you want to emphasize the connection between your subjects, or lack thereof. In our example above, the author wishes to highlight just how different the aliens of Arthur Clarke are from those of other authors, particularly H. G. Wells. To emphasize this, the essay author juxtaposes the two points right next to each other in the same paragraph.
Similarities and differences
The third option is quite similar to the alternating approach, with each subject being discussed side by side in the same paragraph. However, the paragraphs aren’t divided by different topics, but instead by what the subjects have in common and what they don’t.
Take a look at the compare-and-contrast essay example Government by the People, for the People has Perished from the Earth , which compares the dystopias of George Orwell’s 1984 and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We . The first paragraph after the introduction discusses what the governments in the two books have in common, but the next paragraph explains how they differ.
This method works best if you want to focus on a particular similarity or difference between your subjects, or if you want to build up to a powerful conclusion or reveal at the end.
The writing process for compare-and-contrast essays
Want to know how to write a compare-and-contrast essay step by step? The writing process is the same as all essay writing, although adapted specifically for drawing comparisons:
1 Brainstorming — As mentioned above, brainstorming should involve listing all the similarities and difficulties; creating a Venn diagram is a useful method.
2 Preparation — Looking at your brainstorming lists, decide which structuring method would best get your point across: block, alternating, or similarities/differences.
3 Drafting — Here you write your rough draft ; this is the longest and toughest phase.
4 Revising — Does the structure you’ve chosen work? With the first draft finished, you can more easily identify any areas that need to be fixed, revised, or rewritten from scratch.
5 Proofreading — Finally, you want to make sure you corrected all the spelling and grammatical mistakes in your draft. With a writing assistant like Grammarly, this phase is a breeze.
If you want to learn more about this process, read our comprehensive guide on essay writing , which better explains the details.
Tips for writing compare-and-contrast essays
Beyond knowing the full process for crafting a compare-and-contrast essay, it helps to learn a few tips to ensure it shines.
Choose topics that are related
In other words, choose topics that have plenty in common, otherwise, your essay will be all contrasting and no comparing. Typically, subjects in compare-and-contrast essays share a strong connection, such as two people in the same profession or two products in the same category.
Without this unifying thread, the reader is left wondering, “What’s the point of comparing these two things?” Not only will it confound your audience, but you’ll also struggle more to come up with points when writing. Solve these problems before they start by smartly choosing your subjects at the beginning.
Write for clarity
Essays with only one subject can be confusing enough—imagine how complicated it gets with two or more subjects. One of the biggest obstacles with compare-and-contrast essays is communicating clearly so your reader knows which points relate to which subject, and what conclusion the entire essay is building toward.
But when you’re in the heat of a writing session, it can be difficult—and distracting—to stop and evaluate your work for clarity. Luckily, Grammarly offers suggestions to rewrite entire sentences in order to improve the clarity of your writing.
If the writing in your compare-and-contrast essay starts getting messy, Grammarly’s writing suggestions recommend alternative phrasings to clear things up. Just one click and your writing gets the professional editor treatment. Try Grammarly now and see how your writing improves.
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How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay
Last Updated: January 23, 2023 References
This article was co-authored by Stephanie Wong Ken, MFA . Stephanie Wong Ken is a writer based in Canada. Stephanie's writing has appeared in Joyland, Catapult, Pithead Chapel, Cosmonaut's Avenue, and other publications. She holds an MFA in Fiction and Creative Writing from Portland State University. This article has been viewed 434,184 times.
Compare and contrast essays are often assigned to students because they promote critical thinking, analytical reasoning and organized writing. A compare and contrast essay should look at a subject in a new way, with fresh insight, using the similarities and the differences between two topics or two perspectives on one topic.
Brainstorming Your Topic
- If your instructor has already given you your topic, you may be contrasting two things that could go into the same category, but are different from each other. For example, cats and dogs are both animals, but they are different from each other in many ways. The pro-life view on abortion, and the pro-choice view on abortion could both fit under the category of a human rights issue, but they are two very distinct views or positions.
- Try to write as many similarities and differences you can think of. For example: cats and dogs are both domesticated animals. But cats have different temperaments than dogs, and cats are known to be indoor pets, while dogs tend to need to be walked and played with outside on a constant basis.
- Think about at least one or two meaningful differences and similarities between the two subjects. For example, a compare and contrast between abortion rights could lead to meaningful notes like: The pro-life stance views fetuses are full formed humans and are often based in religious beliefs, while the pro-choice stance views fetuses as undeveloped eggs and are often based in scientific beliefs.
- To focus your list, choose categories (or possible supporting points for your paper) to classify the similarities and differences between the two subjects. For example, for the abortion rights topic, you may choose categories like: legal details, women's rights, scientific stance, and religious beliefs. You can then separate each item on the list into these categories.
- Once you are done listing 10-15 differences and 5-7 similarities, circle the most important items in each list. Then, match at least three opposites from one circle to the other circle.
- Review the list and look for three different categories that describe these traits. For example, for the abortion rights topic, you may have “scientific studies of the fetus” on the pro-choice side, and “belief in life of the fetus” on the pro-life side. One possible category could then be the debate of the life of a fetus.
- If you're compare and contrasting two historical periods or events, you may ask: When did they occur (the dates and the duration)? What happened or changed during each event? Why are they significant? Who were the important people involved? How did the events occur, and what consequences did they have later in history?
- If you're compare and contrasting two ideas or theories, you may ask: What were they about? How did they originate? Who created them? What is the central focus, claim, or goal of each theory? How do the theories apply to situations/people/things, etc.? What kind of evidence is used to support each theory?
- If you're compare and contrasting two pieces of art, you may ask: What does each piece of art describe or depict? What is their tone or mood? What themes do they address? Who created them? When were they created? How do the creators of the artworks describe their own work? Why do you think the artworks were created as they were?
- If you're compare and contrasting two people, you may ask: Where is each person from? How old are they? What, if anything, are they known for? How do they identify themselves in terms of gender, race, class, etc? Do the two people have any relationship to each other? What does each person do? Why is each person interesting? What are the defining features of each person?
- Your instructor may also ask for a discussion of more than one similarity and difference between the two topics or two perspectives. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and prepare to do research so you can better compare and contrast the two topics in your essay.
Creating an Outline
- Your thesis should note the key similarities and differences of both subjects. For example: “Dogs and cats are both seen as ideal, domesticated pets, but their temperaments and breeding set them apart.”
- Your thesis should also be able to answer the question, “So what? Why should anyone care about the positives and the negatives of owning a cat or a dog?” A reader may also wonder why you chose to look at cats and dogs, and not other domesticated pets like birds, reptiles, or rabbits. Your thesis statement is much stronger if you address these questions, and a stronger thesis can lead to a stronger essay.
- The revised thesis may look like: “Dogs and cats are both considered ideal, domesticated pets, and prove more popular than other domesticated animals like birds or rabbits, but the low maintenance and particular temperament of cats makes them better pets for a variety of households.” A more concise thesis, which allows for a more open discussion of both options, may look like: “Both cats and dogs make excellent domesticated pets, but an appropriate choice depends on the pet owner's lifestyle, finances, and living accommodations.”
- Introduction: Introduce the general topic, then introduce the two specific topics. End with your thesis, which addresses what is going to be covered in the essay.
- Leads into Aspect 1: Lifestyle, with at least two details. For example, how cats do not have to watched during the day, and are easier to get care if the owner travels or is often not home.
- Leads into Aspect 2: Cost, with at least two details. For example, how food and healthcare are less expensive for cats and how cats are less likely to cause property damage to the owner's home.
- Leads into Aspect 3: Living accommodations, with at least two details. For example, how cats do not take up a lot of space and they are less intrusive as they do not require daily walks or constant play.
- End the paragraph with a transition sentence.
- Body paragraph 2 will follow the same structure, with three Aspects and two supporting details for each aspect.
- Body paragraph 3 can follow the same structure as Body paragraph 2 and 3. Or it can be a paragraph that develops the comparison made in the previous two paragraphs. You can use scientific data, crowd sourced feedback, or a personal experience. For example, you may have been in a position where you had to compare and contrast adopting a dog or a cat and made your decision based on your lifestyle, finances, and living situation. This could serve as a personal experience to back up your previous arguments.
- Conclusion: Contains a summary of your main points, a restating of your thesis, an evaluation of your analysis and any future developments that may sway your compare and contrast to one topic over the other.
- Introduction: Introduce the general topic, then introduce the two specific topics. End with your thesis, which addresses what is going to covered in the essay.
- Leads into Topic 1, Aspect 1: Cats, with two details supporting cats in the argument. For example, how cats do not have to watched during the day, and are easier to get care if the owner travels or is often not home.
- Leads into Topic 2, Aspect 1: Dogs, with two details contrasting dogs to the previous argument. For example, how dogs are pack animals and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time, and how it can be difficult to find care for a dog when the owner is away.
- Ends with a transition sentence.
- Body paragraph 2 will follow the same structure, with a discussion of Topic 1 and Topic 2 in relation to Aspect 2, for example: “Cats are less expensive to own and care for.” There should be two supporting details for each topic.
- Body paragraph 3 will follow the same structure, with a discussion of Topic 1 and Topic 2 in relation to Aspect 3, for example: “Cats need less special house accommodations than dogs.” There should be two supporting details for each topic.
Writing an Introduction
- You should also avoid announcing your intentions in a straightforward and formal way. For example, skip statements like “In this paper, I will” or “The purpose of this essay is to”.
- Instead, your reader should be able to perceive the purpose of your essay through the first two sentences in your beginning paragraph.
- An interesting or surprising example: This could be a personal experience of when a cat proved to be a better pet than a dog, or a scientific study that shows the differences between cats and dogs.
- A provocative quotation: This could be from a source you used for your essay or one that feels relevant to your topic.
- A vivid anecdote: An anecdote is a very short story that carries moral or symbolic weight. Think of an anecdote that might be a poetic or powerful way to start your essay. You can also look through your research for your essay for any note worthy anecdotes.
- A thought provoking question: Think of a question that will get your reader thinking and engaged in your topic. For example: “Did you always wish you had a cat but ended up with a dog when you were growing up?”
- The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through certain points, and refine your thoughts. Writing or revising the introduction once you are done your essay will ensure the introduction matches the body of your essay.
- Ask a friend, advisor or classmate to read your introduction and thesis. Having someone provide feedback before you get into the body of your compare and contrast essay can help you ensure you have a well written, thorough and purposeful start to your paper. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://www.kellogg.edu/upload/eng151/chapter/writing-for-success-comparecontrast/index.html
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/comparing-and-contrasting/
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/comparing-and-contrasting/
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/compare-contrast/
- ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/10-7-comparison-and-contrast/
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/introductions/
About This Article
To start a compare and contrast essay, start by making a list of similarities and differences between your subjects. Once you have a clearer idea of how your subjects work in relation to each other, you can work on your introduction. Think about ways to hook or grab your reader’s attention with your opening, like giving a surprising or interesting fact or a vivid anecdote. You can also ask a thought-provoking question or use a provocative quotation. Then, introduce your general topic. Once you give your reader a bit of context, you can discuss your two specific subjects in a bit more detail before stating your thesis. Your thesis should note the main similarities and differences between both subjects. For example, “Dogs and cats are both seen as ideal domestic pets, but their temperaments and breeding set them apart.” To learn how to organize your compare and contrast essay, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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