An essay that compares and contrasts two or more subjects is called a compare-and-contrast essay. It is useful for showing how related concepts or things are separated and related, especially when they are often confused for each other or unfairly grouped together.
In comparing and contrasting essays, you can find many similar things as well as differences – and that’s the meaning behind the term! Using the other subject as a frame of reference, the reader is better able to see the differences and similarities between the subjects.
This guide describes how to write a comparison essay, along with a few examples and advanced tips. To begin, let’s take a broader view of the benefits of comparison essays. To do that, let’s first examine how to structure your points and how to frame your thesis.
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A comparison and contrast essay’s purpose
As an example, you may want to write an essay about the value of renewable resources, but describe the ways fossil fuels work extensively. In order to fully appreciate renewable resources, readers need to know about their alternative, fossil fuels, but in your essay, they and renewable energy are treated equally, as if they are two separate topics.
Comparative and comparative essays work best in those circumstances. You can better explain two topics that are related or define one another by highlighting their similarities and differences. Additionally, when conflated or confusing topics are clarified, readers benefit when someone explains the similarities and differences between them.
The purpose of compare-and-contrast essays is to compare and contrast a variety of topics instead of focusing on one. There is the downside that they often do not elaborate on the individual topics as much as single-topic essays do. These assignments are also common for college essays, as they demonstrate your understanding of both subjects.
The best way to write a comparison/contrast essay
You should first determine what your thesis statement is (what the topic is) and the way you intend to structure your compare-and-contrast essay.
The first thing you have to do is decide which subjects you will compare. I know it’s tricky to pick the subjects on your own, especially when you have to pick them yourself.
Following are a few comparison/contrast essay examples to serve as inspiration:
- A category of options that have opposing views
- Renewable energy and fossil fuels
- Coca-Cola and Pepsi
- Culture or art movements related to each other
- The Girl in the Pearl Earring and the Mona Lisa
- Music from the ’80s punk rock era and from the ’90s grunge era
- The similarity, the connection, or the association between two people
- Thomas Edison and Elon Musk
You can start generating ideas as soon as you decide on your subjects. To begin with, you should list all the ways in which your subjects are alike and different. After you have all of your points written down, you can start making connections and selecting a structure.
Creating a Venn diagram will help you if you get stuck. Visually showing your subjects’ shared and exclusive characteristics is a great way to keep yourself organized.
The thesis can then be decided by looking at your lists. Consider the following questions before writing your compare and contrast essay: What is it that you are trying to illustrate? In your opinion, what is the most important thing they should take away from your article? Are you trying to prove that Elon Musk is the modern-day Thomas Edison, or are you arguing that they are entirely different people?
The structure of a compare-and-contrast essay follows our own recommendation. You should follow a simple format of beginning, middle, and end for your compare-and-contrast essay, which you can find in the linked guide:
- Introduction: Describe what you plan to discuss in your essay.
- Body: Your subjects should be compared and contrasted in this section; this is the longest.
- Conclusion: summarizing what you have said.
A thesis statement should be included in the introduction, usually in one or two paragraphs, to tell the reader what can be expected in the rest of the essay. In your introduction, be sure to mention all your subjects, just as you would in other kinds of essays. Similar to the introduction, the conclusion of an essay can also be written based on standard rules and good practices.
The body of a compare-and-contrast essay is where it gets tricky. When do you write about both subjects simultaneously, or do you alternate between them? Let’s talk more about this below.
How to structure a compare-and-contrast essay:
Writing a compare-and-contrast essay is challenging because you have to know when to discuss which topic. There are three basic options you can choose from:
- This method is called the block method (subject by subject) in which you discuss one topic thoroughly before moving onto the next.
- Method (point-by-point) each person analyzes a different aspect, followed immediately by the viewpoint of another person.
- You introduce the similarities between your subjects, followed by the differences, or vice versa (first the differences, followed by the similarities).
What matters is that you pay special attention to topic sentences, regardless of which option you choose. When writing compare-and-contrast essays, paragraphs can get complex, so it is vital that each paragraph has a clear topic or introduction.
The writing process for compare-and-contrast essays
Are you looking for a step-by-step guide on completing a compare-and-contrast essay? In the same way that all essays are written, comparison essays are written in a similar way:
- Idea Generation: The list of similarities and difficulties mentioned above should be summarized; creating a Venn diagram is an effective way to display this information.
- The Preparation: Think about how you can structure your brainstorming list best to emphasize the point, by alternating, or by focusing on similarities and differences.
- The Rough Draft: You write your rough draft here; this is the most time-consuming and difficult part.
- Revisions: Your chosen structure works, right? Upon finishing the first draft, you’ll be able to identify any areas that require fixing, revising, or rewriting.
- Reviewing: Last but not least, you want to make sure you have corrected all spelling and grammatical errors. The process of writing a research paper is simplified with the help of a writing assistant like Grammarly.
We have a comprehensive guide explaining this process in more detail in our Essay Writing guide.
Here are some tips for writing compare-and-contrast essays
In addition to knowing the full process of writing a compare-and-contrast essay, it is also helpful to learn a few tips that will make it shine.
Related topics to choose from:
If your essay is all contrasting, there will be no comparison; choose topics that have many commonalities. A compare-and-contrast essay typically compares related topics, such as two people with similar careers or two products from the same category.
A reader without this unifying thread may wonder, “Why must these two things be compared?”?As a result, you’ll be unable to come up with points to write about, not just confuse your audience. Choose your subjects carefully at the beginning of the term to solve these problems before they arise.
Clarify your writing:
When there are two or more subjects involved, it becomes even more difficult to write an essay. Compare-and-contrast essays can be challenging to write because you have to clearly communicate which points pertain to which subject, and how the essay builds to a conclusion.