How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

November 9, 2018
HandMadeWritings Staff

You have been assigned a compare and contrast essay but what is it and where do you even begin?
The purpose of this type of essay is to focus on two or more topics examining them for subtle differences and unexpected similarities. These topics can be closely related, say a zebra and a horse, or they can be vastly different, like a pizza and salad. The focus of a compare and contrast essay is to bring to light something unknown, show whether one is superior to another, argue a point with supported facts, or clear up a misunderstanding.  

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How to write a compare and contrast essay

WWI and WWII. London and Paris. “Gone with the Wind” and “The Thorn Birds.” What do these things have in common? Or how do they differ?

This is a compare and contrast essay in a nutshell. Its main focus is on either spotting the similarities or differences. But there’s more to it. So, let’s look into all the details.

Compare vs contrast

What is a compare and contrast essay?

A compare and contrast essay is a piece of academic writing focused on finding similarities or differences between several objects.

“Well,” you might think, “it’s the easiest paper ever. Why even bother looking for samples and examples?” Is that what you’re thinking? Then we’ve got a surprise for you.

Even though it all seems pretty self-explanatory, a compare and contrast essay can be a real challenge to compose. Especially if you don’t know all the pitfalls to pay attention to.

You can always choose to seek the assistance of a good essay writing service like HandMade Writings. With us, you don’t have to spend long nights working on a piece like this. However, we guarantee that we’ll cover all the bases in this guide and you’ll be able to craft a decent compare and contrast essay in the end.

Of course, the essence of this type of writing lies in finding common or different characteristics of two objects, places, events, or people. However, the piece can look differently depending on the approach a student considers to use when working on it.

While still on the subject, let’s look into different approaches to writing a compare and contrast essay.

How to write a Compare and contrast essay outline

how to write a compare and contrast essay outline

An outline will serve as a roadmap for your project. It will be the lighthouse you will keep your eyes on amidst all the arguments and ideas you want to mention in a piece.

Besides, it will help you keep your thoughts organized and well-structured. So, what should an outline for this type of essay look like?

  1. An introduction.
    An attention getter (“a hook”).
    Several sentences developing the main idea of a hook.
    A thesis statement.
  2. Main body.
    • Paragraph #1: A sentence with the main argument.
      Several pieces of evidence supporting it.
      A conclusion.
    • Paragraph #2: A sentence with the main argument.
      Several pieces of evidence supporting it.
      A conclusion.
    • Paragraph #3: A sentence with the main argument.
      Several pieces of evidence supporting it.
      A conclusion.
  3. A conclusion.
    Restated thesis statement.
    A reminder of the evidence.
    Call-to-action / question / challenge.

Now take this scheme and adjust it to your own essay. Remember that an outline is only a blueprint: no need to go into numerous details at each section. Simply mention what you will talk about in each section and mark what sources you will use to back up your ideas.

Once you craft an outline, you’re all set to start your essay.

The structure of a compare and contrast essay

There are three approaches to writing this type of essay:

  • Point by point method
  • Venn diagram
  • Block structure

Approaches to writing a compare and contrast essay

Point-by-point method

This method focuses on comparing or contrasting various points of the same object. This being said, we find it essential to add that you can only choose two objects which you can really compare.

Thus, it is a great idea to compare two books of the same genre, but it makes no sense to compare a basketball and a soccer team: they’re completely different.

To demonstrate what this method is about, let’s try to compare public and private education in the USA. We will focus on three main aspects: the cost of such education, quality of education (based on the results and achievements of graduates), and the workload.

The author should mention these aspects in an introduction saying that he will compare or contrast two different options of obtaining a degree based on these points.

Next, come the main body paragraphs. Each of them is dedicated to only one point.

Example

Topic: Public and private education comparison

Introduction.

Main body paragraphs #1: The cost of education

  • Higher at privately help institutions (e.g. provide a range of tuition fees across one specialization)
  • Lower (yet not completely free) at public educational establishments (e.g. offer a list of things an average student pays for at a public institution)

Main body paragraph #2: Quality of the education

  • Typically higher at private institutions (e.g. smaller classes, a more dedicated teacher-student approach, access to necessary materials, etc.)
  • Typically lower with exceptions (e.g. offer examples of statistical data which proves that public education can be just as effective)

Main body paragraph #3: The workload

  • Heavier at private colleges where tutors get more one-on-one time with each student. As a result, students have less time for extracurricular activities.
  • Might be lighter than at a private institution.

Conclusion.

This is what a point-by-point approach looks like. Now, let’s check out the other two.

Venn diagram

Venn diagram is “a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of different sets.” It is an excellent tool to visualize the content and brainstorm ideas.

If you ever decide to use this tool for one of the compare and contrast essay topics, here is what it would look like:

Simply draw two or more circles (depending on the number of objects you’re comparing) and write down things they have in common inside the intersection of these circles leaving the differences on the outside.

Let’s see how students can use this approach to crafting a compare and contrast essay outline.

Example

Topic: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy

Introduction.

Main body paragraph #1: They were both presidents.

  • Lincoln was the 16th, while Kennedy – the 35th.
  • Lincoln served for five years, and Kennedy for three years.

Paragraph #2: They were both assassinated on Friday (share the story and background of each of these cases).

  • Kennedy was killed on the 23rd of November, 1963, by Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • Lincoln was shot dead on April 15th, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth.

Paragraph #3: They were commemorated by being posted on the US money.

  • Tell about Kennedy’s half-dollar.
  • A five-dollar bill with Abraham Lincoln.

Paragraph #4: Differences

  • Kennedy was a Democrat, while Lincoln was a Republican.
  • Lincoln fought in the Civil War and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, while Kennedy focused on civil rights, foreign policies, and a space mission.

Conclusion.

Finally, let’s see what a block structure approach will look like in practice.

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Block structure

This approach allows the students to compare different objects based on a particular writing pattern. A benefit of using this method lies in the structure and level of organization of your piece.

The author takes the first object and describes it in the first paragraph. Then he proceeds to describe the second object in the second paragraph. Features or qualities are looked into step by step.

Let’s see what it would look like on an example.

Example

Topic: Cats and dogs: Who makes a better pet?

An introduction.

Paragraph #1: Cats

  • Don’t need their master to walk with them.
  • Take care of their own hygiene.
  • Require minimum training.

Paragraph #2: Dogs

  • Need regular walks with their masters to exercise.
  • Can’t wash themselves.
  • Need the training to maintain proper behavior.

Conclusion.

These are the three main methods used to craft a compare and contrast essay. Just choose the one that you feel most comfortable using and move on to the actual writing part.

Alternatively, you can look for help from a professional custom writing service like HandMade Writing. It’s your chance to shave hours off your week and end up having an A+ in no time!

How to write a compare and contrast essay

Knowing all the approaches is one thing. But there is much more you need to know about this type of writing if you want to succeed.

A compare and contrast essay writing is based on an in-depth analysis of two or more objects and practical findings of them (don’t confuse it with a reflective essay which allows you to focus on your own reflections rather than solid facts). That is why every student must start with finding proper credible sources and reading them carefully. As you read, don’t forget to take notes: your goal is to find whether similarities between the objects outweigh the differences or vice versa. But, of course, this is only true if you were given a choice either to contrast or compare the notions.

Next, take your time to craft a decent outline. Yes, you heard it right: you need it way before you dive into the first draft creation. Wondering how to write an outline? Here are several useful tips.

How to start a compare and contrast essay

The first thing a reader should see in your essay is an attention grabber. What can serve as one?

  1. A quote by a famous person.
  2. A literary quote.
  3. An anecdote.
  4. An interesting definition.
  5. A little-known fact.
  6. An open-end question.
  7. A beautifully painted scene.

These are the basic ideas on how to make your audience sit up and listen from the very first moment. Later on develop this hook into a thesis statement.

A thesis statement

A thesis statement presents your argument to the readers. It invites the audience to dispute your position and encourages a discussion around the topic of your choice.

The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill states that a thesis statement “tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. It’s also a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.”

The secret of a good thesis statement is in its length. It shouldn’t be longer than one sentence.

Here is an example of a good thesis statement:

“If it weren’t for Abraham Lincoln’s wisdom, excellent diplomatic skills, and patriotism, he could have been the last President of the existing and prospering United States of America.”

How to organize the main body paragraphs

We’ve already mentioned briefly what the main body paragraph should really look like. Now, let’s come a step closer and look into each nuance in greater detail.

  1. An argument.
    The first sentence of every paragraph of your comparative essay should present the argument that supports the thesis statement. Keep it short and to the point. And only use the arguments you can actually back up with sufficient evidence.
  2. Evidence.
    Next, provide at least one (but better two or three) piece of evidence that supports your argument. We encourage college students to use only credible sources at this point. This will add credibility to your writing and definitely get you a better grade.
  3. A conclusion.
    Summarize the argument and the evidence for it in one sentence. Keep it short and to the point, but don’t underestimate the importance of this part of your paragraph: it’s often the only part your audience will remember from the whole piece.

College students get to choose how many main body paragraphs they want to have in their piece. The word count plays an important role here: you can’t have six main body paragraphs if you only have 500 words. There won’t be enough space for all the essential parts of the paragraph. And you’ll end up crafting an incomprehensive and poorly-structured essay. We’re begging you to be wise not to lose good grades to not thought-through writing process.

By the way, if you aren’t a college student yet, but are going to enter a college or university soon, don’t forget to check out our complete guide to writing a scholarship essay. It’s your chance to stretch a buck by getting the financial help from college!

How to end a compare and contrast essay

Finally, get ready to compose a top-notch closure for the piece. Even though it comes last in your essay, it must be nothing short of perfect.

Studies show that conclusions are your last chance to impress a reader. The structure of this last section is quite standard.

  1. Restate that thesis statement to remind your audience of what your whole article centered around.
  2. Go over the pieces of evidence you used along the way.
  3. Finish with an open question, a call-to-action, or a challenge for the audience.

See? It’s not as difficult as you might have thought it will be. Still, you have to take your time to polish it and make it count.

Good compare and contrast essay topics

Well, now that you know everything you need about the process of writing such papers, it seems like you’re simply destined to grab readers’ attention and keep them interested from the start.

And though we would really want to tell you it is really so, it won’t necessarily be true.

There is one more secret you can’t miss: a good essay requires an engaging topic.

We know that finding excellent good topics sentence might difficult, so we’ve gathered a short list of thing we think you might find exciting to write about.

However, you can find127 great compare and contrast essay topics in our recent guide. They’re all unique and interesting. Don’t hesitate to take a look and pick something to write about.

  1. Greek vs. Roman mythology: Differences and similarities.
  2. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Compare the techniques, history, and professionalism of the players in these two football clubs.
  3. Veganism vs. Vegetarianism: Differences in the dieting styles.
  4. American English vs. British English.
  5. Public vs. private education: The good, the bad, and the ugly.
  6. Being a freelancer vs. being self-employed.
  7. Christianity in Europe vs. Christianity in Asia in the 21st century.
  8. Traditional vs. Unconventional cancer treatments around the globe.
  9. Breastfeeding vs. infant formula: Which is a better choice both for the mother and the baby?
  10. Car-sharing vs. Hitchhiking: Which would you choose to travel the world?

Transition words

Transition words are your key to the smooth reading experience. Here are two lists of transition words students should use when crafting this type of paper.

Transitions words

Transitions in a comparison essay:

  • In the same way
  • Similarly
  • Likewise
  • By the same token
  • As well as
  • Coupled with
  • In addition
  • Identically
  • Correspondingly
  • Moreover
  • Together with
  • Also
  • Again
  • Comparatively

Contrast transitions:

  • Nonetheless
  • However
  • Yet
  • Though
  • In contrast
  • Notwithstanding
  • On the contrary
  • On the other hand
  • But
  • At the same time
  • After all

We tried to cover all the information a student might need when working on a compare and contrast essay. Use this guide step by step for the best results. Don’t fall victim to the idea that you need no assistance in composing this type of academic writing. It might be tricky. And it’s in your best interest to use professional assistance.

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