What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
Unlike other types of essays (see top 10 essay types), a compare and contrast essay is used to explore both the similarities and the differences between two subjects by comparing and/or contrasting them against each other.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
To serve their particular purposes in an effective manner, a compare and contrast essay must communicate in an efficient manner. This means that compare and contrast essays should start with an opening paragraph, which will directly state what the writer is trying to say. Afterward, they can move onto the body, which will support the opening paragraph by providing supporting evidence. Once the supporting evidence has been listed, compare and contrast essays can conclude by reemphasizing their opening paragraphs in order to produce a lasting impression on the mind of the reader.
With that said, a compare and contrast essay cannot be completed without conducting a comparative analysis, which the writer can use to lay out their thoughts about the subjects before sorting them into a neat and organized form. Fortunately, this process is as simple as creating a Venn diagram (see below) before filling it with the characteristics of the subjects, while making sure to put shared characteristics in the overlapping area. Once the writer is satisfied with their brainstorming, they can sort through the characteristics for the ones with the most relevance to the point that they are trying to make, which is important because weaker arguments can actually drag down their stronger counterparts when placed in the same essay.
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
How to start a compare and contrast essay? Students are normally assigned a topic to write on, yet sometimes professors give their students the freedom of selecting the topic on their own. In the latter case choosing one out of top compare and contrast essay topics can become a challenge. While working on the topic selection it is important not to choose two totally unrelated subjects, otherwise finding similarities can get problematic. Start out with a subject that has some basic similarities, e.g. two novels, two paintings, speeches etc.
Looking for the things to compare and contrast? Here is a list of top 30 compare contrast essay topics:
TOP 30 COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY TOPICS
Once you have chosen what to write on in your comparison essay, brainstorm ideas and try to write down every single one of them, choosing those that are relevant to the topic. You might want to divide your sheet of paper into two main sections and start jotting down everything that comes to your mind, including similarities and differences.
Writing Phase - Venn Diagram
An effective technique for finding similarities and differences is using a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is a scheme that represents logical relations between two objects. Graphically it can be depicted as two overlapping circles, each of the circles denoting some entity. The overlapping part is the area denoting similarities, while the parts that do not overlap, are the differences (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Venn Diagram: Comparing Apples and Oranges (Compare and Contrast Essay)
A very important point in writing an effective compare and contrast essay is a correct selection of the lines of comparison: if you are comparing two objects, you should be comparing them against one and the same parameter. For example, looking at the picture above you will see that oranges and apples are compared in regards to things like origin, place of growth, a thickness of peel etc. All of these features are inherent in both objects. If you say that an apple is different from an orange because an apple is green and the orange is juicy, you will be “comparing apples and oranges” – this time in the figurative meaning of "likening two incomparable things".
Organization: Typical Structure of a Compare and Contrast Essay
The opening paragraph should state the essay’s subjects as well as its thesis statement about those same subjects. From that point on, the body of a compare and contrast essay tends to be structured in one of two ways:
The first way: a writer can list the characteristics of one subject and then the characteristics of the other before bringing them together by analyzing their similarities and differences. This means that the body of the essay will begin with a number of paragraphs about one subject, continue with a similar number of paragraphs about the other subject, and then finish with a crucial paragraph that will use the listed characteristics to compare and contrast the two subjects.
The second way: a writer can list the similarities between the subjects and then the differences between the same. This means that the body of the essay will begin with a number of paragraphs about their similarities and finish with a number of paragraphs about their differences. With this structure, there is no need for an analysis at the end because its content is spread throughout the preceding paragraphs.
Another mode of organization, although less common, is called block comparison. According to this pattern, you will be required to separate the body of your compare and contrast essay in two parts. The first part of the body will be dedicated to Object A, while the other half will be centered around Object B. Together with the introduction and the conclusion, the overall essay length will be 4 paragraphs. In case of block comparison the overall essay structure will take the following form:
Once the body of the essay is complete, its conclusion should restate the thesis statement but in a more confident manner because it has proven its point. Sometimes, a conclusion will summarize the preceding paragraphs for a bolder and blunter emphasis, while other times, a conclusion will let them provide their support in a more implicit manner.
HOW TO WRITE A COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
Additional Tips on Comparison and Contrast Essay Writing
Fig. 2. Comparison and Contrast Signifiers
Compare and Contrast Words
An important thing about writing any essay is using special cue words that will make your essay more coherent and logical. In the case of a compare and contrast essay you will need to use cue words signifying comparison, for example:
Words to compare: like, compared to, similar to, similarly, by analogy, likewise, in the same way, as well as, both, too, at the same time, correspondingly, in addition, same as, etc.
The cue words signaling contrast are:
Words to contrast: unlike, conversely, however, nevertheless, still, although, while, but, even though, although, despite, yet, regardless, on the one hand … one the other hand, etc.
Once the first draft of an essay is complete, it is time for the writer to put the finishing touches:
Proofreading is a key factor because errors can break the reader from the flow of the essay, thus robbing it of its power to persuade. Writers should always read through their own work to check for typos, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, as well as lines that should be rephrased for a better result. However, they should also get other people to proofread for them because their closeness to their writing can make it hard for them to pick up on its problems. After all, they already know what they are trying to say, meaning that they are not looking at their work with the same perspective as the reader.
References are a useful way to increase an essay’s power to persuade so long as they are appropriately authoritative. For example, referencing a politician is probably not going to be much use in a philosophy essay unless it is in the context of their philosophical writings. Furthermore, references are needed to use someone else’s arguments without taking credit for them in the process, which is necessary to prevent plagiarism. Not coincidentally, this also makes it easy for the reader to check the sources so that they will know, that somebody really said so if the reader is skeptical. Finally, references should be done in the style that is appropriate for the essay’s subjects for the convenience of different people in different fields. For example, most essays about the sciences should use APA, while most essays about the humanities should use MLA since those are the conventions.
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How to Write an A+ Comparison Essay on any Topic
What is a Comparison Essay?
A comparison essay (or a Compare and Contrast essay) is a commonly used type of writing assignment in various classes of high school and college, from art to science. In a comparison essay you should critically analyze any two subjects, finding and pointing out their similarities and/or differences.
Depending on your assignment, such essays can be comparative only (looking only at similarities), contrasting only (pointing out the differences) or both comparative and contrasting.
Choosing a Topic for Comparison Essay
In order to write a good essay, first you need to have a good topic for it, i.e. a topic that lets you easily demonstrate your writing skills and get a high grade easily.
What does that mean specifically regarding the comparison essay? Very simple: the subjects must be easy comparable, so you don’t need to work too hard to point out their similarities or differences. For example:
A big college campus and a small college campus
World War I and World War II
Two perspectives on the same place: morning and night
William Shakespeare with William Wordsworth
Windows vs. Linux
Using the following links, you can find a lot of good comparison topics for your essay:
100 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
50 Compare and Contrast Topics
List of Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
Comparison Essay Structure
Considering the right structure for your essay is one of the key points of success. Sticking to a recommended essay structure is the only way to properly outline and write it, paragraph by paragraph from the introduction to conclusion, without mistakes.
There are two recommended patterns for a comparison essay: point-by-point (or "alternating") pattern and subject-by-subject (or "block") pattern.
Alternating pattern is also known as "point-by-point comparison". This mode of comparison will result in your essay having 5 paragraphs. Alternating pattern is also known as "point-by-point comparison". This mode of comparison will result in your essay having 5 paragraphs.
In it, you will need to consecutively compare and contrast each of the similarities and differences in the given subjects:
- In the introduction you state your thesis.
- Then you discuss both of your subjects together for each point of comparison and contrast.
- In the conclusion you restate the thesis and shortly summarize your essay.
Block pattern is also known as "subject-by-subject comparison". According to this pattern, you will be required to separate the body of your compare and contrast essay in two parts.
The first part of the body will be dedicated to the first subject, while the other half will be centered around the second subject:
- In the introduction you state your thesis.
- First you discuss the first subject.
- Then you discuss the second subject.
- In the conclusion you restate the thesis and shortly summarize your essay.
Writing an A+ Comparison Essay
The introduction of an essay is very important. It gives the reader his/her first impression of the comparison essay’s text. Remember: first impression counts!
Grab the reader’s attention
There are a lot of tips and techniques to help you in capturing a reader’s interest. You can find some pretty good information in the following articles:
How to Grab the Reader's Attention
A Proper Introduction
The most common five methods to grab your reader's attention, commonly used by professionals, are the following:
- Give a brief historical review of your topic for help reader to better understand it
- Start from a little story or an anecdote, which leads the reader into your topic
- Try to use a surprising statement – something disgusting, joyful or even shocking
- "Dropping" the name of a well-known person (celebrity) usually gets the reader's attention
- State straight out what your essay is going to be about, simply and clearly
Start from a short background
High school students often find it difficult to view their teachers as anything but "the enemy." However, after the first few months of a school year, students learn to appreciate their teachers as individuals with different approaches. Some teachers are "cool," while others are "tough."
State the thesis
Although Sally Strict & Larry Lax are both respected teachers at our school, their teaching styles and expectations for students differ significantly. While Ms. Strict maintains a highly structured classroom atmosphere to keep her pupils disciplined and motivated, Mr. Lax downplays structure in order to allow his students to push themselves.
State the point
Finally, Ms. Strict enforces high standards for her students' written work.
Provide supporting details
She collects homework every day at the beginning of class; to turn it in five minutes late is to turn it in a whole day late. Every piece of writing, whether it is a journal entry or a formal essay, must be typed and stapled. Last but not least, all homework must display a sophisticated level of thinking and writing.
Use appropriate transitions
Transitions are important in comparison / contrast writing to avoid confusion. Without transitions, the points you are comparing / contrasting may blur into one another. Also, a variety of transitions prevent monotony.
Like, compared to, similar to, similarly, by analogy, likewise, in the same way, as well, both, too
Unlike, conversely, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, still, although, while, but, even though, although, despite, yet, regardless, on the one hand … one the other hand
The conclusion of a comparison essay is just as important as the introduction. The conclusion seals the comparison essay and tries to close the issue. Conclusion is the last part of the essay that your reader will experience.
Summarize the similarities and / or difference of the subjects
Thus, Ms. Strict and Mr. Lax both accomplish their goals of motivating their students to do excellent work, though they do so in very different ways: while Ms. Strict emphasizes the high standards she expects everyone can meet, Mr. Lax uses a more personal approach.
Emphasize the thesis and say why this topic is important
Their success demonstrates the importance of diversity in a school community: different students respond to different teaching styles. So rather than viewing their instructors as a monolithic "enemy" intent on making them suffer, students should recognize how they benefit from the variety of ways their teachers inspire them.
Finalizing your Work
Pay attention that even though your essay is fully written, it still isn’t ready to submission.
There are some common and annoying mistakes which may significantly harm your grade. However, you can avoid those grade lowering mistakes by completing the following checklist:
- Check spelling and grammar
- Ensure that your essay is fully compliant with the required formatting standard
- Properly organize all the citations and the References / Works Cited page
- Ensure that your title page is done as required
- Take a final look at your paper to be certain that everything is indeed fine