It’s your ultimate guide on how to write a compare and contrast essay. But first, the question:
Why do that?
- To make your work sound more argumentative.
- To help readers understand the topic: The tactic allows you to “visually” represent concepts in the audience’s minds. It’s easier to imagine and understand something when “seeing” it next to another related subject.
In this article, I’ll tell you about the whys of compare and contrast writing and how to structure such papers. Students often get this assignment in middle school and college, so let’s learn how to craft it.
What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
A compare and contrast essay is a paper displaying the similarities and differences between two concepts, ideas, or subjects.
The purpose is to describe unobvious and unexpected similarities or subtle differences between elements of the same category . When speaking of one subject, you refer to another.
Compare and contrast essays help you:
- Explain complex concepts by comparing them to something readers know better.
- Build arguments with illustrative examples.
- Prove your thesis using a framework the human brain understands best.
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
Below are your steps to compare and contrast writing.
1. Choose a Topic
When choosing subjects for your essay, consider those related and share a connection. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to find points to compare, and the reader won’t understand the idea behind such a comparison.
In plain English, it’s logical to compare two poets. But what’s the point of doing that with a poet and an engineer?
Big chances are that you’ll get an essay topic from your teacher. With no particular topic assigned, choose yours, but ensure it relates to the discipline: sociology, literature, history, psychology, etc.
Ensure the subjects you cover in essays are of the same category. Focus on their non-obvious similarities and unforeseen differences to engage the audience and perform your thesis.
2. Research Similarities and Differences
With a topic and subjects to compare, it’s time to research and find references. What items will you compare; which ones will you contrast?
When researching, create a table:
Specify the categories you’ll compare about both subjects and write down related characteristics to see the similarities and differences. This tactic works best when you write an essay on marketing and compare two products.
Another tactic is a Venn diagram. Write down the differences for each subject along the diagram, and specify similarities in the center. It will help you see all the characteristics and understand how to structure your essay to represent all of them.
3. State a Thesis
How to write a thesis statement for a compare and contrast essay?
When you have a topic, subjects to describe, and a list of their similarities and differences at hand, you can see all the connections between them and start formulating your thesis.
A thesis is a must in academic writing. Remember that your essay is NOT about merely enumerating two subjects’ similarities and differences:
You use this approach to describe and prove your thesis for readers to better understand your point.
Answer the questions:
- What’s the ground for the comparison you’ll use in the essay? What do you want to say about it?
- Why do you choose these particular subjects to compare and contrast?
- What point do you want to make?
Combine the answers in one sentence describing the relationship between the subjects as your argument representation. This sentence will become your thesis statement to write in an introduction.
Below are a few compare-and-contrast essay thesis examples for you to get the idea:
4. Think About How to Compare and Contrast
Before you start writing, decide on the structure of your paper. I’m talking about structuring your compare-contrast paragraphs:
It stands to reason that you’ll write an introduction, a paper body, and a conclusion. There are two ways to organize comparison in the body: block and point-by-point.
- A block structure, aka subject-by-subject, is when you first discuss everything about one subject and then move to discuss the same points about the second subject. Like this:
- A point-by-point structure is when you discuss the criteria of both subjects simultaneously, one by one. Like this:
While the block structure is more straightforward, the point-by-point is more engaging for readers.
5. Outline Your Essay
Write an outline for your compare and contrast essay. Think of it as a skeleton, or a plan, of your future content asset: It will ease the process and help you complete the draft faster.
Outlines organize all the points and see if they look argumentative and logical.
Compare and contrast essays have a standard structure to outline:
- Introduction (1-2 paragraphs; remember to mention writing hook and a thesis).
- Body (3-4 paragraphs, depending on how many subjects and points you compare).
- Conclusion (1 paragraph).
What to mention there? Consider this outline template, and feel free to adjust it to your topic and the guidelines you have from a professor:
6. Write a draft
It’s time to write a draft! Follow the outline and craft your paper step by step:
1) Start with the intro paragraph. Grab attention with a good hook (use a question or a rare fact), introduce your topic, and don’t forget to state a thesis.
2) Paragraph by paragraph, use similarities and differences to explain the thesis for readers to understand your topic. Back up all the points with evidence: Use references like facts, books, statistics, scientific journals, etc.
Please use genuine language, logic, and clear transitions to showcase the relations between points .
How to write a conclusion for a compare and contrast essay?
3) Complete your draft with a final paragraph where you’ll restate the thesis about the similarities and differences of the discussed subjects. Be persuasive, and finish the essay with the results of your comparison.
7. Proofread and Edit
Once your draft is ready, don’t hurry to submit it! Pay attention to the last stage of compare and contrast essay writing:
Now you need to edit the draft
Self-editing can be tricky, but it’s not that challenging. You’ll read the draft several times to ensure it’s free of spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Also, check its readability, word choice, and stylistic devices. Ensure you have disclosed all planned points and arguments.
Compare and Contrast Essay Example
This proper example will help you understand the nature of compare and contrast writing better. Please use it for informative purposes only. It’s here to motivate you to craft an original, A-worthy essay on alternative topics.
|Discuss the lifestyle, opportunities, and challenges of urban vs. rural living|
|Living in an urban area versus a rural setting presents distinct lifestyles, opportunities, and challenges that influence an individual’s daily experiences and choices. Both environments offer unique advantages and drawbacks, catering to different preferences and needs.|
Urban living offers a bustling atmosphere, high population density, and many amenities and opportunities. Cities boast diverse cultures, extensive entertainment options, and advanced infrastructure. The lifestyle in urban areas is fast-paced, providing access to various educational institutions, job prospects, and career advancement. The availability of public transportation, numerous dining options, cultural events, and diverse communities contribute to the vibrancy of city life.
Conversely, rural living embodies a tranquil, close-knit community lifestyle, often surrounded by nature and characterized by a slower pace. Residents in rural areas experience a stronger connection to nature, enjoying open spaces, cleaner air, and a peaceful environment. This setting offers a sense of community and often fosters a simpler lifestyle. Opportunities in rural areas may revolve around agriculture, natural resource-based industries, and a focus on local businesses. The pace of life is typically more relaxed, promoting a stronger sense of belonging and a closer relationship with neighbors.
The opportunities in urban areas encompass many industries and services, presenting diverse career paths and educational institutions. Individuals residing in cities have access to job opportunities, specialized services, and cultural experiences. Moreover, the urban environment fosters innovation and entrepreneurship, with greater exposure to technological advancements and diverse networking opportunities.
However, urban living comes with challenges, like higher living costs, increased competition, traffic congestion, and a potentially stressful lifestyle. The fast-paced nature of cities may lead to a lack of personal space and a diminished sense of community for some individuals.
On the contrary, rural living may present challenges related to limited access to amenities, healthcare, and career options. Rural areas might also face issues with infrastructure development and connectivity, leading to isolation from mainstream opportunities.
In conclusion, both urban and rural living offer distinctive lifestyles, opportunities, and challenges. The choice between the two environments depends on individual preferences, career aspirations, and the desired quality of life. Urban living provides a dynamic and diverse environment with plentiful opportunities, while rural living offers a more serene lifestyle and a strong sense of community. Each setting has its merits, and the decision ultimately rests on one’s values and priorities in life.
Bonus: Compare and Contrast Essay Topics Ideas
Below are several ideas on what to compare and contrast in essays if a teacher didn’t assign any particular topic:
1. Compare the benefits and drawbacks of traditional education and online learning. 2. High School vs. College Life: Explore the differences in academic workload, social life, and responsibilities. 3. Analyze the environmental impact of renewable energy and fossil fuels energy sources. 4. Fiction vs. Non-fiction Literature: Compare the styles, purposes, and impact of these two types of writing. 5. Discuss the lifestyle, opportunities, and challenges of urban vs. rural living. 6. The American Revolution vs. the Civil War: Compare causes, outcomes, and impacts on the world's history. 7. Analyze approaches, effectiveness, and acceptance of traditional vs. alternative medicine. 8. Classical Art vs. Modern Art: Compare techniques, themes, and significance of artworks from different periods. 9. Contrast the economic systems, ideologies, and societal implications of communism and capitalism. 10. Traditional Office Work vs. Remote Work: Compare the benefits, challenges, and impacts on productivity and work-life balance.
Over to You
So, here it goes, your guide on how to write a compare and contrast essay. This approach to writing is efficient: By comparing similarities and differences of a few subjects within the same category, you help the reader understand your topic and thesis.
Follow the above steps and writing tips — and you’ll craft an informative and engaging paper worth high grades.