How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay: Guides

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay: Guides


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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

July 17 , 2018 , by Patricia Jenkins

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

We often draw an analogy of different subjects in our lives but very rarely do it in a written form. One might say, the university and college are the only places where you share such opinion on the paper. The compare and contrast essay is the common kind of academic assignments with its unique peculiarities. Even if you are great with the spot comparisons, learn more about essay’s structure and requirements before set to writing.

What is Comparison and Contrast Essay?

Comparison and contrast essay may be an independent task or just a part of more large paper. For example, thesis often includes many paragraphs with such elements. An appropriate definition of this kind of paper:

It is the essay in which the student reveals the similarities and differences between two or more things and reinforces his or her findings by arguments.

Professors frequently ask students to compare both abstract notions (such theories, methods or historical periods) and specific things (book characters, personalities, countries, etc.). There are few guidelines to follow during crafting this type of articles.

1. Develop an Argument for the Paper  

Before you start a writing process, you brainstorm your topic and find some outstanding characteristics of two objects. Those things have to be contrasting enough to be compared. The title of your future essay may sound like “Apple vs. Microsoft” or “Differences and similarities in ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian myth”.

You should explain why it is interesting to reflect on these particular objects and pick strong arguments. In the essay, you may prove why Apple, in your opinion, is better than Microsoft. Or, tell how the contrasts of various ancient myths determined the future of each civilization.  

In practice, do not forget to write down the features you found meaningful on the paper. Every thought can be important, so note everything that comes to mind and move on to the next step.

2. Create the Compare and Contrast Essay Structure

The standard template for all essays is a basic scheme Introduction – Main Body – Conclusion. In the introduction, you form a thesis of your essay and present the subject of a further discussion to your audience. This part must be compelling enough to motivate people to read the main body. Therefore, you need to create a hook at the beginning of your article. This can be:

  • interesting fact,
  • personal experience,
  • joke or anecdote,
  • provoking question,
  • bold claim.

Even though the main body usually consists of 3 paragraphs, in some cases you may write more. Here you provide the arguments chosen before and complete a bulk of comparing job.

Contrast Essay Structure

At the end of the research, you conclude all the arguments and repeat your thesis . One paragraph is enough for this part, it shouldn’t be voluminous.

3. Consider the Essentials of Compare and Contrast Essay Format

Whereas it is everything clear about introduction and conclusion, the main body in those papers may be organized using three methods:

✏ Topic by topic

You start with describing one object and allocate its distinguishing points in the beginning. After that, you turn to the second thing and write down everything you know about it in the last paragraphs. This layout is considered to be smooth and understandable. However, it looks more like a list of points than the comparison. It is the most noticeable shortcoming of this setup.

✏ Point by point

The main purpose of this method is an evaluation criterion. For instance, you can assess Microsoft and Apple by innovations, cost of their software or the popularity of key products. Dwelling upon each point, you are gradually revealing the features of both objects at the same time.

✏ Common and different separately

Here you organize your essay in the format "start with the comparison, end with contrast." The order may be reversed if you want to emphasize the common features instead of differences.

4. Outline the Paper

Outlining is 50% of success. If a student does not find it important and disregards this process, he or she spends much more time on writing. Once you create the outline, the paper will compose itself alone. There are various useful techniques  – family tree, rough draft, schemes, and tables.  Outlines mean planning the structure, sketching the approximate variant of essay and organizing of main points in a particular order – the actions which make writing more simple.

5. Verify the Essay using Samples  

If you are not sure whether your essay complies with general requirements, check the examples on the web or ask your professor to provide you with them. It also depends on the university: rules for articles may vary in each.

Seek for a sample on the reputable website you can trust. A ready essay is also a great option which will explain to you how to write a good paper on practice.

6. Use Graphical Elements

The information is being better absorbed in visual form. Dilute the text with images, graphics, tables, diagrams and other elements. However, it is possible only if you type the assignment on your PC. On the lesson you should present the information in an interesting way without any pictures, so structure, hooks, and indisputable points are your best friends.

10 tips to writting great essay

Picture source

Bonus Tips: How to Write Comparison and Contrast Essay Quickly

  • Don’t skip planning. Allocate at least 10 minutes on it.
  • Use brainstorming techniques to come up with decent ideas faster.
  • Always outline.
  • Write the main body first. Students often stumble upon the introduction and don’t know how to start. To avoid such a delay develop the arguments before first and the last parts of the paper.
  • Give the result to your friend for revision. He or she will assess your essay with a fresh pair of eyes and find the mistakes quicker than you.

If you can’t cope with your assignment urgently or don’t have much time on it, ask for assistance in a writing service. Experienced authors will provide you with a sample paper on your topic and may write assignments for you.

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Beef Up Critical Thinking and Writing Skills: Comparison Essays

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Beef Up Critical Thinking and Writing Skills: Comparison Essays

Organizing the Compare-Contrast Essay

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Melissa Kelly
Updated September 24, 2018

The compare/contrast essay is an excellent opportunity to help students develop their critical thinking and writing skills.  A compare and contrast essay examines two or more subjects by comparing their similarities and contrasting their differences. 

Compare and contrast is high on Bloom’s Taxonomy of critical reasoning and is associated with a complexity level where students break down ideas into simpler parts in order to see how the parts relate.

For example, in order to break down ideas for comparison or to contrast in an essay, students may need to categorize, classify, dissect, differentiate, distinguish, list, and simplify.

Preparing to write the Essay

First, students need to select pick comparable objects, people, or ideas and list their individual characteristics. A graphic organizer, like a Venn Diagram or top hat chart, is helpful in preparing to write the essay:

  • What is the most interesting topic for comparison? Is the evidence available?
  • What is the most interesting topic to contrast? Is the evidence available?
  • Which characteristics highlight the most significant similarities?
  • Which characteristics highlight the most significant differences?
  • Which characteristics will lead to a meaningful analysis and an interesting paper?

A link to 101  compare and contrast essay topics  for students provides opportunities for students to practice the similarities and differences such as

  • Fiction vs. Nonfiction
  • Renting a home vs. Owning a home
  • General Robert E. Lee vs General Ulysses S. Grant

Writing the Block Format Essay: A, B, C points vs  A, B, C points

The block method for writing a compare and contrast essay can be illustrated using points A, B, and C to signify individual characteristics or critical attributes.


A. history
B. personalities
C. commercialization

This block format allows the students to compare and contrast subjects, for example, dogs vs. cats, using these same characteristics one at a time. 

The student should write the introductory paragraph to signal a compare and contrast essay in order to identify the two subjects and explain that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences. The thesis statement must include the two topics that will be compared and contrasted.

The body paragraph(s) after the introduction describe characteristic(s) of the first subject. Students should provide the evidence and examples that prove the similarities and/or differences exist, and not mention the second subject. Each point could be a body paragraph. For example, 

A. Dog history. 
B. Dog personalities
C. Dog commercialization.

The body paragraphs dedicated to the second subject should be organized in the same method as the first body paragraphs, for example:

A. Cat history.
B. Cat personalities.
C. Cat commercialization.

The benefit of this format is that it allows the writer to concentrate on one characteristic at a time. The drawback of this format is that there may be some imbalance in treating the subjects to the same rigor of comparing or contrasting.

The conclusion is in the final paragraph, the student should provide a general summary of the most important similarities and differences.  The student could end with a personal statement, a prediction, or another snappy clincher.

Point by Point Format: AA, BB, CC

Just as in the block paragraph essay format, students should begin the point by point format by catching the reader’s interest. This might be a reason people find the topic interesting or important, or it might be a statement about something the two subjects have in common.  The thesis statement for this format must also include the two topics that will be compared and contrasted.

In the point by point format, the students can compare and/or contrast the subjects using the same characteristics within each body paragraph. Here the characteristics labeled A, B,  and C are used to compare dogs vs. cats together,  paragraph by paragraph.

A. Dog history
A Cat history

B. Dog personalities
B. Cat personalities

C. Dog commercialization
C. Cat commercialization

This format does help students to concentrate on the characteristic(s) which may be may result in a more equitable comparison or contrast of the subjects within each body paragraph(s).

Transitions to Use

Regardless of the format of the essay, block or point-by-point, the student must use transition words or phrases to compare or contrast one subject to another. This will help the essay sound connected and not sound disjointed.

Transitions in the essay for comparison can include:

  • in the same way or by the same token
  • similarly
  • in like manner or likewise
  • in similar fashion

Transitions for contrasts can include:

  • and yet
  • nevertheless or nonetheless
  • but
  • however or though
  • otherwise or on the contrary
  • in contrast
  • notwithstanding
  • on the other hand
  • at the same time

In the final concluding paragraph, the student should give a general summary of the most important similarities and differences.  The student could also end with a personal statement, a prediction, or another snappy clincher.

Part of the ELA Common Core State Standards

The text structure of compare and contrast is so critical to literacy that it is referenced in several of the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards in both reading and writing for K-12 grade levels.  For example, the reading standards ask students to participate in comparing and contrasting as a text structure in the anchor standard  R.9 :

“Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.”

The reading standards are then referenced in the grade level writing standards, for example, as in W7.9  

“Apply grade 7 Reading standards to literature (e.g., ‘Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history’).”

Being able to identify and create compare and contrast text structures is one of the more important critical reasoning skills that students should develop, regardless of grade level.

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How to Start a Compare & Contrast Essay Comparing Colleges

Jake Shore

Compare and contrast essays can be difficult to write. Often, the elements being compared are numerous and complex, which means the writer must be organized and focused to approach this task. High school teachers and college professors alike assign compare and contrast essays, and one issue that can be examined and sustain such an essay is which colleges are best, worst and why.


A compare and contrast essay must provide its reader with a comprehensive look at a particular subject but remain focused. For the topic of choosing a college, a typical academic paper doesn’t have the length to compare every college in existence. Narrow the scope and choose colleges to compare that are relevant to the course, the assignment, and are schools that you find particularly interesting and intriguing. For example, it is manageable to focus your compare and contrast essay on community colleges in the state of Rhode Island.

Similarities & Differences

The core of a successful compare and contrast essay examines similarities and differences. It may be helpful to make a Venn diagram or chart to map these out. When comparing colleges, elements such as location, price, majors, minors and other essential characteristics of each college are fine points to examine.

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Central Argument

The main objective of a compare and contrast essay is to provide the reader with a well rounded view of a particular topic, and like many thesis-driven essays, your central argument is the dominant thread that unites the entire paper. In analyzing (through comparison and contrast) the elements of different colleges, your purpose is to come to a decision as to whether a school is a good or bad fit for you, and why.


Have an idea of how you’re going to organize the body of your paper. Each point that you make will compare and contrast various elements of particular colleges, and even though each point stands on its own, your compare and contrast paper is one, holistic piece. A successful compare and contrast paper possesses points that work together in harmony. Build one point off the other to reach thought provoking and engaging conclusions.


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About the Author

Jake Shore is an award-winning Brooklyn-based playwright, published short story writer and professor at Wagner College. His short fiction has appeared in many publications including Litro Magazine, one of London’s leading literary magazines. Shore earned his MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.

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