How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay is one of the first types of essays students are asked to write in their academic careers.
Kelly Spancer
14
min read
Mar 2, 2021

That doesnt mean that they are easy though! It means that they teach fundamentals. Writing a good compare and contrast essay requires critical thinking, good research skills, as well as solid writing ability. Dont worry! Though it may seem daunting to write about multiple concepts, this article will teach you everything you need to know.

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

A simple compare and contrast essay definition - it is a type of essay that asks the student to analyze similarities and differences between two concepts. These concepts are usually connected in some way, after all, it is difficult to write compellingly about the similarities or differences between two topics that are completely disconnected.


These types of essays are assigned all the way from middle school to university, of course, with varying difficulties and expectations. This is because they teach students to think analytically, but can get very complex, sometimes requiring a subtle and nuanced understanding of concepts, and require the ability to find credible supporting arguments and evidence. At higher levels, a compare and contrast essay isnt simply about pointing out similarities and differences, its about analyzing why things are similar or different as well as making meaningful observations based on your research.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Choosing What to Compare

Choosing a good topic is important for any writing assignment, but it is especially crucial for a compare and contrast essay. After all, the topics being compared are what the paper is all about! The trick is finding a balance between subjects to analyze that arent so similar that there is little to contrast or so different that there is nothing to compare. Choosing subjects you find interesting will both make the research more enjoyable as well as make the writing easier, so try and find something youre passionate about!

Some Useful Tips to Brainstorm Topics

Here are some ways to come up with some fun topics for your essay.

  • Choose two things that dont seem to be similar on the surface but are connected interestingly. Coal and diamonds look very dissimilar, are used for vastly different things, and one costs a lot more than the other, but they are both formed under high pressure in nature and are just alternate forms of carbon.
  • An easy way to make sure that there are enough similarities and differences is by choosing two things in the same category. Compare two sports, or two singers, or two historical figures of the same time period.
  • There are also ways of comparing a single topic but from different viewpoints. For example, you can write an essay about the difference between the animated version or the live-action version of a series like Avatar. You could also choose a topic like climate change activism and compare the situation in two different cities, countries, or even age groups within a country.
  • Keep in mind that it isnt enough to just have two topics and make a list of how they are similar or different. Choose subjects that benefit from being compared. The goal is to create a new and deeper understanding of the two concepts because they have been compared to each other.
  • Read some compare and contrast essay examples for inspiration

Some Compare and Contrast Essay Ideas

Heres are some topic ideas to spark your imagination!
Are superhero movies modern fairytales?
Is a hotdog a sandwich?
How different is life today than 200o years ago
Benefits of eating vs skipping breakfast
Compare two of your favorite tv shows
Similarities between traditional and modern medicine
Compare Instagram vs Tiktok
Spending time with family vs friends
Compare Indian cuisine to Mexican cuisine
What would make a better pet? A snake or a tarantula?

How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay

Once youve spent some time brainstorming a few topic ideas and have settled on what to write about, you can start the planning process. Though you may feel tempted to skip a pre-writing phase, these types of essays become much easier to write, not to mention quicker, if you spend some time planning.

The Similarities and Differences

The first step should be identifying the similarities and differences between the subjects. There are two ways to do this that will be covered here. A visual representation using Venn diagrams and a list format.

Venn Diagram

Using a Venn diagram is a great way to visualize how two things are similar or different. Draw two overlapping circles, each one representing a single subject. Note down things that are similar in the overlapping section and note things that are unique to each in the other sections. This will help organize your information and you will be able to identify things at a glance.

Lists

Using a list structure will help you see the similarities and differences in specific aspects between two subjects. Make a column for each of your subjects and each row will compare them on a specific attribute. For example, if you are comparing manga and anime your rows could be, art style, cost, emotional appeal, etc.

Cutting Down

Youll probably end up with a lot more similarities and differences than you can cover in one essay. Deciding which ones to focus on is the next step in the process. Remember that the goal of the essay isnt just to list differences and similarities, rather, its to deepen the understanding of both subjects through analysis.

Focusing

Think about and choose some of the most important similarities and differences that your Venn diagram or list identified. For example, if youre comparing pizza and burgers, it may be true that pizzas usually have more cheese than pizzas, but that information doesnt add any useful analysis. On the other hand, noting that both pizzas and burgers became popular in the United States because of European immigration can be an interesting similarity to explore. This is a good time to also think about what your specific thesis may be.

Writing a Thesis for a Compare and Contrast Essay

A thesis is the main argument you are making in an essay. This could be showing why one thing is better than the other, pointing out interesting similarities or differences, or showing how things are more or less similar than they might first appear.

Here are some example thesis statements.

It is just as possible to develop healthy social bonds through online gaming as it is through traditional sports.
It is more difficult to be a teenager now than it was 30 years ago because young people have access to information at a younger age due to the internet.
Though Superman may be objectively more powerful than Batman, Batman is a more relatable superhero because of his limitations.

Struggling with your Compare and Contrast Essay Homework?

Get your assignments done by real pros. Save your precious time and boost your marks with ease.

Get expert help

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline and Structure

The next step is creating an outline. Outlines help you come up with the structure of your essay and are crucial for good planning and ensuring logical and persuasive flow through your essay. Unless otherwise specified dont feel limited to follow the typical 5 paragraph format of essays. There are 3 main compare and contrast essay templates. Youll find descriptions and outlines for all of them down below.

Subject By Subject

Also known as the block structure, this approach presents all the information about the first subject together, and then all the information about the second subject together. This method is easier to write and is less confusing for the reader, but because it leaves all the analysis for the end, it can come across as a list rather than an essay. Here is an example outline. Keep in mind that you should use as many body paragraphs as you need to properly go over all the main elements you want to discuss.


Introduction

  • Catchy Hook - Why study alone when you can study with friends?
  • Briefly introduce your topic - With more and more students attending classes online, many are missing in-person interaction, but are there some advantages?
  • Thesis Statement - While there are many benefits to studying with friends, studying by yourself enhances focus and gets you through the material quicker.


Body Paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence about the first subject - Benefits of studying alone
  • Argument 1 - Enhances focus
  • Argument 2 - Fewer distractions
  • Argument 3 - Work at your own pace


Body Paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence about the second subject - Benefits of studying in a group
  • Argument 1 - People who can help
  • Argument 2 - Makes it more fun
  • Argument 3 - Gives an opportunity to learn through teaching


Body Paragraph 3

  • Topic sentence analyzing both subjects - The benefits of studying alone outweigh the benefits of studying in a group
  • Analysis 1 - Analyze the similarities
  • Analysis 2 - Analyze the differences


Conclusion

  • A quick recap of the main points
  • Answer the thesis

Point by Point

In a point by point compare and contrast essay, each body paragraph compares and contrasts a specific element of both subjects. This is more challenging to write but does a better job of highlighting the similarities and differences between the subjects. Here is an example outline. Use as many body paragraphs as you need to build your case!


Introduction

  • Catchy Hook - Why study alone when you can study with friends?
  • Briefly introduce your topic - With more and more students attending classes online, many are missing in-person interaction, but are there some advantages?
  • Thesis Statement - While there are many benefits to studying with friends, studying by yourself enhances focus and gets you through the material quicker.


Body Paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence about the first aspect - There are differences in how much time is spent.
  • Statement for the first subject - Studying by yourself takes less time because of fewer distractions
  • Statement for the second subject - Studying in a group has more distractions


Body Paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence about second aspect - How you get help is different
  • Statement for the first subject - You can check for answers online quickly
  • Statement for the second subject - You can ask your study mates


Body Paragraph 3

  • Topic sentence about the third aspect - How much do you remember
  • Statement about the first subject - Studies show that studying alone boosts memory
  • Statement about the second subject - More fun doesnt mean better recall


Conclusion

  • A quick recap of the main points
  • Answer the thesis

Compare Then Contrast

This approach is best suited when you want to highlight the differences between the two subjects being compared. You start with how the two are similar and then end with how they are different and how that makes one of them better.


Introduction

  • Catchy Hook - Why study alone when you can study with friends?
  • Briefly introduce your topic - With more and more students attending classes online, many are missing in-person interaction, but are there some advantages?
  • Thesis Statement - While there are many benefits to studying with friends, studying by yourself enhances focus and gets you through the material quicker.


Body Paragraph 1

  • Topic sentence about the similarities - Studying alone and studying in a group are similar in a few ways.
  • First similarity - They both have ways of getting help quickly
  • Second similarity - They both have the same end goal


Body Paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence about a difference - How you get help is different
  • Statement for the first subject - You can check for answers online quickly
  • Statement for the second subject - You can ask your study mates


Body Paragraph 3

  • Topic sentence about the third aspect - How much do you remember
  • Statement about the first subject - Studies show that studying alone boosts memory
  • Statement about the second subject - More fun doesnt mean better recall


Conclusion

  • Recap why one subject is better than the other
  • Answer the thesis

Did you like our inspiring Compare and Contrast Essay Guide?

For more help, tap into our pool of professional writers and get expert essay editing services!

Get expert help

Tips for Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay

Keep these tips in mind when writing your essay!

Compare and Contrast Essay Format

Choosing the right format can make your essay both easier to write and easier to understand. This is crucial for getting a good grade!

  • Ask yourself what the goal of your essay is and choose between the subject by subject, point by point, or compare then contrast format
  • Subject by subject is best if you just need to list similarities and differences or if you are using one subject to highlight a second subject (sometimes called a lens comparison)
  • Point by point is the most common format and is well suited for various types of analysis
  • Use the compare then contrast format when you want to highlight one subjects superiority over the other

Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction

The introduction is your first opportunity to engage the reader and can make your essay stand out amongst a stack of hundreds.

  • Read a compare and contrast essay example for inspiration
  • Use a catchy hook to grab the readers attention from the get-go
  • Give the reader a taste of what to expect without giving away too much
  • Make sure your thesis is clear

Transition Words

Transition words are essential to give your essay a good sense of flow. They are especially important in this kind of essay.

  • When comparing use terms like: the same as, likewise, at the same time, similarly, just like, accordingly
  • When contrasting use terms like: conversely, on the other hand, however, whereas, dissimilar from, on the contrary

Supporting Evidence

Any arguments made in an essay need to be supported by evidence. Especially if youre making a claim about one thing being better than another.

  • Make sure you back up each claim you make with well-researched evidence
  • Dont shy away from using personal or anecdotal evidence
  • Explain why the evidence and the point it is being used to support is important

How to Write a Conclusion for a Compare and Contrast Essay

A powerful conclusion can tie your essay together and leave the reader more inclined to agree with your perspective.

  • Dont introduce new information in your conclusion
  • Recap your main points and repeat your main argument
  • State your insights and leave the reader with the main takeaway


How to End a Compare and Contrast Essay

No essay is complete without a thorough revision. Yes, it may have been a long process, but spending a few extra minutes to go over our paper will improve your grade.

  • Make sure your thesis is clear
  • Make sure your essay flows well and is easily understandable
  • Make sure you have similarities and differences for each aspect of each subject
  • Check for spelling grammar and punctuation mistakes
  • Ask a friend or family member to give your essay a once over

Wrap Up

Writing a compare and contrast essay can be a simple assignment meant for a middle schooler or a complex assignment for university students, but as long as you have a clear idea of what you are comparing and identify the most important elements to include, youll be fine.


This guide has covered how to come up with topics, what makes a good topic, ways to organize key similarities and differences, the different formats to use, outlines, and tips, so you should be all set. If you do need any more help with homework, editing or proofreading service, however, the experts at Studyfy are always around to lend a helping hand.

Table of contents
Get help with Compare and Contrast Essay