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What is Compare and Contrast Essay – The Guide to Writing

Compare and contrast essays are a common task in high school or college. But what are these essays about? What is their purpose? Let’s take a look.

What is Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay explores two or more topics with the goal to analyze their similarities and differences. Some essays may only focus on comparing, while others only consider contrasting.

Teachers often assign this type of essay to teach students comparative analysis. Such essay is the most frequent task during literature classes when students are asked to compare two characters from one book or two works of the same author.

There are a few other reasons why this type of essays are beneficial for students:

  • Comparative analysis develops flexible thinking. Flexible thinking, or cognitive flexibility, is the ability to switch your attention in response to unexpected situations, which can come in handy in stressful situations.
  • Students become more detail– When comparing and contrasting two phenomena, students have to explore their nooks and crannies, focusing closely on every detail.
  • Compare and contrast essays teach how to structure information. Students learn how to organize the information in a logical order to present each phenomenon as a whole.

The purpose of a compare and contrast essay goes far beyond instruction. This essay type also teaches students important cognitive skills and helps them see the problem not as black and white but from several different angles.

How to Find Topics for Compare and Contrast Essays

Whether you’ll be giving an essay to your students or will write one yourself, it’s essential to choose the right topic. But before you pick one, consider your goals. Whether you want to exercise a certain skill or deepen the knowledge of a certain subject, think about how the essay will help you achieve that.

When you have your goals defined, it’s time to search for compare and contrast essay ideas. Here are a few solutions to find the right topics:

  • Think about what you’re teaching/studying right now. Pick two phenomena with striking similarities and/or differences and use them to compare in an
  • Consider your passions and interests and how they can be related or opposed to each other.
  • Browse through books and magazines. A recent newspaper describing current events in the world can also be a great idea for comparative analysis.
  • Go through recent research and studies. This is a great way to find topics for a compare and contrast essay thesis.
  • Pay attention to your environment. If there are people or objects around you with striking similarities and/or differences, you can contemplate them in your essay.

Any phenomenon can become a potential topic for this special essay. The key point here is to choose the topic you are interested in.

Which is the most effective topic for a compare and contrast essay?

If you are still hesitating, which topic to choose for your essay, here are a few ready-made compare and contrast essay ideas for you:

  • Living in a big city vs. rural area: main perks and pitfalls
  • High school vs. university: how does student life differ?
  • Do classic and rock music have the same influence on a person’s learning abilities?
  • 1984 vs. The Handmaid’s Tale: key similarities and differences
  • The Lord of the Rings Heroes: Boromir and Faramir

Consider these few ideas if you’re planning to write a compare and contrast essay thesis:

  • Nuclear vs. fossil energy: which one is the way to a cleaner future?
  • Disputable scientific discoveries: a comparative analysis
  • The advantages and disadvantages of the online world for mental health
  • Gassy giants: how did the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn form?

The most effective topic for this type of essay is the one that resonates with you and allows you to practice critical thinking and objective analysis.

Compare and Contrast Essay Structure and Outline

When you’ve decided on the topic of an essay, it’s time to consider its outline and structure. This essay type should follow a very strict outline because its goal is to present the similarities and differences in the logical order.

Compare and contrast essay outline

A compare and contrast essay outline usually follows the typical introduction-body-conclusion pattern, but there are several methods you can use to organize it:

  • The block method. You divide all your arguments into blocks and then compare these blocks with one another. To preserve the right narrative flow, organize all the points in each block in the same order.
  • The point-by-point method. The idea is to discuss each point separately and then compare them with each other. This method is more suitable for longer essays.
  • Objective-based method. This compare and contrast essay outline approach presents all the pros and cons and then analyzes them in relation to a particular objective. This method can be helpful when writing an essay thesis.

Your outline will depend on the topic of your essay and whether the goal is to compare or contrast or both. The length of the essay matters as well – the block method suits shorter assignments more than lengthy essays.

Structure of a Compare and Contrast Essay

When the outline is ready, it’s time to put together the compare and contrast essay structure. Here are a few essential points to consider:

  • Create a mind map of your essay topic. On the right, put the similarities, and on the left, make a list of differences of the phenomena you’re comparing.
  • Prepare a thesis statement. This statement will lay the foundation for the introductory part of your essay.
  • Write an extended outline. Try to extend each argument with a few sub-arguments – it will help you explore the topic deeper.

The more extended your compare and contrast essay structure is, the better. Here’s an example of how it should look like:

Topic: Community college vs. university: pros and cons

Introduction: thesis statement on why this research question is viable.

Community college pros:

  • lower cost of a degree
  • smaller class sizes
  • effortless application process

Community college cons:

  • no competitive sports teams
  • absence of on-campus housing
  • the curriculum is not elaborate enough

University pros:

  • in-depth curriculum suitable for a specific career path
  • university graduates earn more
  • you can get scholarships, grants, internship opportunities

University cons:

  • expensive tuition
  • no guarantee of a job
  • difficult application process and huge competition

Discussion: compare and contrast the perks and pitfalls of studying at a university vs. community college.

Conclusion: results of the comparative analysis.

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay. Basic Steps:

Once you have your outline and structure prepared, consider the resources you have to support your claims. This kind of essay can be about your points of view, but its main goal is to look at things objectively. So, create a list of credible resources to provide evidence for your arguments.

Now, let’s learn how to write a compare and contrast essay step-by-step.

  • Start with an introduction. The introductory part sets the tone for the entire essay.
  • Provide facts and theses. Follow up with an explanation, why your topic is viable and present the thesis for your essay.
  • Touch upon developing arguments. Start reviewing each phenomenon one by one. Discuss their advantages or highlight the similarities between them.
  • Introduce refuting opponent’s arguments. Then, reveal the cons of each phenomenon. Or, if you’re discussing two different points of view, present the opponent’s arguments.
  • Give supporting evidence. Mention credible resources that speak for or against a certain argument.
  • Wrap up with a conclusion. Finalize your essay with results based on the comparative analysis and the evidentiary support.
  • Proofread carefully. Edit your essay to find possible grammatical or stylistic mistakes.

Be ready to revisit your essay several times before submitting. It’s possible that you’ll come across more evidence or discover new similarities and differences worth mentioning in your essay.

How to start a compare and contrast essay

Now that you know the general rules of how to write a compare and contrast essay, let’s talk about the specifics. We’ll start with a few recommendations on how to craft a solid introduction for your essay.

  • Watch the length of your introduction. The length will depend on the overall word count of your essay, but try keeping it within three to five sentences.
  • Include a hook. Craft your introduction in a way that would attract the reader’s attention right away. It can be a question, a reference, research, or statistics.
  • Connect the introduction with the first body paragraph. You can end the introduction with the main points you’ll be touching upon in your essay and then transition to the first of them in the first paragraph.

The introduction should give a sneak peek of your essay but not give crucial details away. Think of it as a movie trailer.

How to end a compare and contrast essay?

The conclusion of your essay is as important as the introduction. It gives the general outcomes of your analysis and provides an objective overview of the topic.

Here are a few recommendations on how to write a solid conclusion:

  • Paraphrase the thesis statement. Remind the reader what your essay was originally about.
  • Give your opinion as an author. Outline the main similarities and differences and list some arguments that provide their viability.
  • Draw the conclusion. Wrap up with an objective point of view on the similarities and differences between the two phenomena.

Your conclusion should not be too long as well, but it can be a bit lengthier than an introduction. It’s also a good practice to give your subjective point of view as an author.

What if You’re Stuck? Ask Professionals at A-Writer!

Even though it may seem straightforward at first, writing such a type of essay is not an easy job. Here are a few main reasons why students usually get stuck when writing these essays:

  • poor knowledge of the subject
  • lack of writing skills
  • the topic requires time-consuming research
  • you don’t have the resources to complete the essay

If you recognize yourself here, you can always ask for custom essay writing help at A-Writer. Our writers specialize in various academic topics and can craft an outstanding compare and contrast essay in no time. We are also committed to delivering only 100% original tasks, so you shouldn’t worry about plagiarism at all!

Let’s Summarize

Compare and contrast essays are among the most common tasks for students. They can help develop critical thinking skills, research skills and teach comparative analysis, which can come in handy on a student’s career path.

That being said, this kind of essays can also be quite challenging, especially if you don’t have the writing skills necessary to craft a good essay or lack the resource to support your arguments with evidence.

In this case, you can always go to A-Writer for help. With us, you’ll enjoy:

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