Student life is oversaturated with various essay types. Depending on subjects, you are likely to write one essay over another. Research papers, literature reviews, coursework, and case study are only some of the projects you will have to complete within your studies.
A compare and contrast essay is among the most often-assigned tasks in academia. Not only does it require a different approach to the topic, but you can also write it in several ways. This article will deep-dive into the topic, answering the question of “how to write a compare and contrast essay” and casting light on how to do it well.
To learn more about general essay definitions and characteristics, read our different guide: What is an Essay?
What is a Compare-Contrast Essay?
A compare and contrast essay is a paper that requires the writer to compare and analyze two subjects within one work and provide a comprehensive and clear conclusion regarding the comparison. Such compare and contrast essays can be about any topic, starting from concepts, subjects, physical goods, and abstract things and ending with dog breeds, written works, feelings, and places.
Comparing and Contrasting in Writing
Compare and contrast writing is a frequent task when it comes to school. Professors tend to assign compare and contrast essays for several reasons. First and foremost, they aim to develop a student’s critical thinking skills. The main point is to focus on two subjects and find their similarities and differences. Such an analysis helps identify the findings and approach objectivity.
Besides, it helps students brush up on their writing abilities. It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. Comparing and contrasting demands the writer to come closer to the topic and analyze two subjects from different angles. This examination requires using diverse language to explain two different points and draw relevant conclusions. Finally, comparing and contrasting intends to make students sound reasonable and decide on the most plausible and compelling subjects and arguments when writing the piece.
As with any paper, a compare and contrast essay also relies on a pre-writing strategy. Yes, you can omit this stage and proceed to write a compare and contrast essay itself. But, in such a case, you won’t know how to write a compare and contrast essay not only quickly but efficiently. And the odds are high that you will get stuck because of a lack of ideas.
Not having a general plan and outline will also make you worse off. In turn, if you complete fundamental pre-writing steps, you will boost your productivity and reduce the time writing the essay. So, before actually writing a compare and contrast essay, pay attention to the following stage.
If you’re free to choose a topic
Teachers are impressively innovative these days. To encourage you to study, they provide students with freedom of choice and let them write about anything their heart desires. Thus, they can base their compare and contrast essays on different topics. If you are in the same situation, you can benefit from it. However, keep in mind that the subject you come up with has to pertain to the compare and contrast essay’s requirements. You must be sure the items of your choice can be compared and contrasted clearly and, most importantly, reasonably.
Furthermore, things should be comparable. That is, in no way should you write a compare and contrast work about two subjects that are completely different. Writing about laptops and smartphones is by no means a great point simply because they are two different systems. Instead, think of subjects that relate to one group. For instance, finding similarities and differences of political regimes, religions, artistic styles, architecture styles, or food would be great examples of a good compare and contrast essay subjects. You don’t have to follow this step if your teacher has already assigned you the topic.
If you have no idea what to write about, glance at different subjects to get some inspiration:
- Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. War poetry: its similarities and differences.
- World War I and World War II: the focal differences and similarities.
- 90s music in the UK and US: the main differences and similarities.
- Education in Australia and the United States.
- Karate and Boxing: differences and similarities between two sports.
- Computers and Laptops: two similar and different gadgets.
- Traditional Books and E-Books.
- Mac OS and Linux: differences and similarities.
- Thesis and Dissertation: two different and similar documents.
- Being in a relationship versus being single: two similar and different concepts.
When you choose the topic to write a compare and contrast essay on, you have to analyze the ideas to develop within your essay. This step is called brainstorming, which aims to flex your brain muscles and find the best ideas for the compare and contrast analysis. There are several brainstorming methods you can use. The most effective ones are mind-mapping, listing, and freewriting. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
If you like working with visual items, mind-mapping is for you. The main purpose is to come up with the most accurate ideas by designing a map and trying to connect things to the topic. You automatically make your thoughts organized and tightly connected, which ensures the paper’s coherence. To make the process more plentiful, try using a Venn diagram.
Listing is a more time-effective technique compared to mind-mapping. All you need to do is start writing a list and spawn possible ideas for the essay. You can write thoughts in any order. The idea is to build an exhaustive list of main points and start analyzing whether they are too general or not. Choose one subject over another and repeat the same procedure until you have three main arguments. Don’t worry if you need to do this more than once.
Freewriting can be called a pure stream of consciousness with a single difference. When following this strategy, you simply write a compare and contrast analysis of two aspects related to the topic, paying no attention to mistakes and typos. It might be the most time-consuming way of generating ideas. However, you are likely to come up with exciting and unparalleled subjects when using this technique.
Forming the Argument
Once you know about the main points you will include in the paper, you have to think about your thesis statement. A thesis statement is arguably the most critical part of every paper. It demonstrates the arguments your essay will advance and explain. On top of that, it shows in which order these arguments will appear.
When writing the thesis statement, make sure it is condensed and is neither too specific nor too general. You should find the golden mean and make the audience enticed enough to keep reading the paper. Check out these two sample thesis statements:
Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were both outstanding and talented poets, but the more sentimental, revealing, and thought-provoking Wilfred Owen makes himself a more readable and emphasized artist of the decade.
Traditional books and e-books aim at enlightening people, but the advanced user-friendliness, accessibility, and size of e-books make them more preferable by keen readers.
How to Structure a Comparison Essay
There are three main ways of structuring a compare and contrast essay. Such flexibility makes this essay type diverse and generally appreciated by professors. Even though a compare and contrast essay follows a common structure, such as the introduction, the main part, and the conclusion, the means of unveiling similarities and dissimilarities are unique and unusual to a regular essay. Here are the three possible ways of structuring this written piece.
If you want to read more about general essay structure and writing stages, check our comprehensive guide: How to Write an Essay.
Method 1: Subject-based structure
A subject-based structure focuses on describing one subject item at a time. For instance, you write about similarities and differences between PCs and laptops. Then your main body will have this sequence:
- The PC’s first argument
- The PC’s second argument
- The PC’s third argument
And then go laptops with their three consecutive paragraphs. This structure may have a substantial pitfall, though. When sticking to it, your main section will comprise six to seven paragraphs. Not every professor will allow students to have such an extensive body part, so consult your tutor first.
Method 2: Point-based structure
Employing this method, you compare and contrast one attribute of both goods within one body paragraph. When writing about the PCs and laptops, you will have three paragraphs that compare and contrast every attribute of these two subjects.
Method 3: Compare-first structure
Compare-first is a rare method. Still, if you decide to use it, you will have to showcase the dissimilarities at first. But stay away from describing many differences, as this way also results in more than three body paragraphs, which might be rather undesirable for some professors.
The pre-writing stage’s last but not least component is outlining. Outlining is a way of writing down a shortened version of the paper before working on the essay itself.
An outline is a roadmap for your essay. It helps you remain organized and make sure you don’t include any unnecessary subjects in the essay. Usually, professors do not ask to write this layout. As a result, students are highly unlikely to compose it because it—according to them—is time-consuming and tedious.
Be that as it may, this plan is an excellent way to boost your productivity. Since you don’t have to submit it to the teacher, you don’t necessarily need to follow a certain formatting style and structure. However, it would be best to adjust it to at least a simple structure to make sure every point is readable and handy.
To learn more about the formats, purpose, and making of outlines, you can read our special guide with examples: How to Make an Outline for an Essay.
Compare and Contrast Outline Example
Because there are several structures, outlines can be different. But let’s stick to the most common one, a point-based structure.
Task: Comparison and contrast between English and German. Explain the similarities and dissimilarities between the two languages.
- I. Introduction
- A. Hook (start with a statistic of how many people speak those two languages)
- B. Provide brief information about those two languages to help the audience get a clearer picture of the subject of the compare and contrast essay.
- C. Thesis statement (Even though many people consider English and German completely different languages, they share many common things)
- II. The Main Part
- A. The first body paragraph
- 1. Similarities:
- a) Basic vocabulary
- b) Sentence structure and word order
- 2. Differences:
- a) Alphabet
- b) Phonology
- 1. Similarities:
- B. The second body paragraph
- 1. Similarities:
- a) Pronunciation
- b) Inflection
- 2. Differences:
- a) Grammar
- b) Syntax
- 1. Similarities:
- C. The third body paragraph
- 1. Similarities
- a) Outside impacts
- b) Relate to the same language group
- c) Word order in subordinate clauses
- 2. Differences
- a) Many false friends (cognates)
- b) General word order
- c) German has more cases than English
- 1. Similarities
- A. The first body paragraph
- III. Conclusion
- A. Final links to the thesis
- B. Brief encapsulation of similarities and differences
- C. Robust closing sentence
Structuring Body Paragraphs
The body paragraph also consists of crucial elements. That is, every body paragraph comprises:
- Topic Sentence
Apart from that, it is essential to deploy useful phrases, such as transitions, to make an essay smooth and cohesive.
Using proper transitions
Transitions aim to glue different paragraphs and subjects together and boost the essay’s overall readability. These transitions are as follows:
- On the contrary
- As well as
- Aside from
- Other than
- In fact
Some of the usage examples might be:
Aside from releasing a statement, the president organized a press conference.
The two subjects are vitally important to the country’s well-being. Yet the second one is more beneficial.
Penury is so severe that the state can’t afford to buy the vaccine for everyone. However, the International Monetary Fund is ready to provide a low-interest loan for supplying everyone with the relevant dose.
When you finish the first draft, it is good to put away the essay and get back to it after some time. Changing your focus will improve your concentration and thus help edit and proofread the piece more efficiently.
Editing and proofreading are two crucial post-writing steps to ensure the paper is polished to shine. To complete these steps, you are encouraged to:
- Reread every point out loud and evaluate whether everything sounds natural.
- Highlight the words, phrases, and sentences that you don’t like.
- Utilize two different tools, like Grammarly and Thesaurus Dictionary, to perfect the essay.
- Ask peers, colleagues, friends, or family members to proofread your work.
- Check whether your structure and formatting style is correct.
- Plagiarism-screen the essay to eliminate any signs of academic dishonesty.
Key Points to Remember
To summarize our overview of how to write a compare and contrast essay, look at these key points:
- A compare and contrast essay is detailed and requires an in-depth analysis of two items.
- The pre-writing stage can be instrumental during the process.
- Mind-mapping, listing, and freewriting are the primary brainstorming methods you can use.
- Subject-based, point-based, and compare-first are the main ways to structure the body part of the essay.
- An outline is crucial to improve your concentration and accelerate the writing process.
- Transitions make your compare and contrast essay more coherent and clear.
- Editing and proofreading are two essential ingredients to refine your work.