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Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay | Tips & Examples

Published on August 6, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

Comparing and contrasting is an important skill in academic writing . It involves taking two or more subjects and analyzing the differences and similarities between them.

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Table of contents

When should i compare and contrast, making effective comparisons, comparing and contrasting as a brainstorming tool, structuring your comparisons, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about comparing and contrasting.

Many assignments will invite you to make comparisons quite explicitly, as in these prompts.

  • Compare the treatment of the theme of beauty in the poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats.
  • Compare and contrast in-class and distance learning. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

Some other prompts may not directly ask you to compare and contrast, but present you with a topic where comparing and contrasting could be a good approach.

One way to approach this essay might be to contrast the situation before the Great Depression with the situation during it, to highlight how large a difference it made.

Comparing and contrasting is also used in all kinds of academic contexts where it’s not explicitly prompted. For example, a literature review involves comparing and contrasting different studies on your topic, and an argumentative essay may involve weighing up the pros and cons of different arguments.

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writing a comparative essay

As the name suggests, comparing and contrasting is about identifying both similarities and differences. You might focus on contrasting quite different subjects or comparing subjects with a lot in common—but there must be some grounds for comparison in the first place.

For example, you might contrast French society before and after the French Revolution; you’d likely find many differences, but there would be a valid basis for comparison. However, if you contrasted pre-revolutionary France with Han-dynasty China, your reader might wonder why you chose to compare these two societies.

This is why it’s important to clarify the point of your comparisons by writing a focused thesis statement . Every element of an essay should serve your central argument in some way. Consider what you’re trying to accomplish with any comparisons you make, and be sure to make this clear to the reader.

Comparing and contrasting can be a useful tool to help organize your thoughts before you begin writing any type of academic text. You might use it to compare different theories and approaches you’ve encountered in your preliminary research, for example.

Let’s say your research involves the competing psychological approaches of behaviorism and cognitive psychology. You might make a table to summarize the key differences between them.

Or say you’re writing about the major global conflicts of the twentieth century. You might visualize the key similarities and differences in a Venn diagram.

A Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

These visualizations wouldn’t make it into your actual writing, so they don’t have to be very formal in terms of phrasing or presentation. The point of comparing and contrasting at this stage is to help you organize and shape your ideas to aid you in structuring your arguments.

When comparing and contrasting in an essay, there are two main ways to structure your comparisons: the alternating method and the block method.

The alternating method

In the alternating method, you structure your text according to what aspect you’re comparing. You cover both your subjects side by side in terms of a specific point of comparison. Your text is structured like this:

Mouse over the example paragraph below to see how this approach works.

One challenge teachers face is identifying and assisting students who are struggling without disrupting the rest of the class. In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher can easily identify when a student is struggling based on their demeanor in class or simply by regularly checking on students during exercises. They can then offer assistance quietly during the exercise or discuss it further after class. Meanwhile, in a Zoom-based class, the lack of physical presence makes it more difficult to pay attention to individual students’ responses and notice frustrations, and there is less flexibility to speak with students privately to offer assistance. In this case, therefore, the traditional classroom environment holds the advantage, although it appears likely that aiding students in a virtual classroom environment will become easier as the technology, and teachers’ familiarity with it, improves.

The block method

In the block method, you cover each of the overall subjects you’re comparing in a block. You say everything you have to say about your first subject, then discuss your second subject, making comparisons and contrasts back to the things you’ve already said about the first. Your text is structured like this:

  • Point of comparison A
  • Point of comparison B

The most commonly cited advantage of distance learning is the flexibility and accessibility it offers. Rather than being required to travel to a specific location every week (and to live near enough to feasibly do so), students can participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This allows not only for a wider geographical spread of students but for the possibility of studying while travelling. However, distance learning presents its own accessibility challenges; not all students have a stable internet connection and a computer or other device with which to participate in online classes, and less technologically literate students and teachers may struggle with the technical aspects of class participation. Furthermore, discomfort and distractions can hinder an individual student’s ability to engage with the class from home, creating divergent learning experiences for different students. Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

Note that these two methods can be combined; these two example paragraphs could both be part of the same essay, but it’s wise to use an essay outline to plan out which approach you’re taking in each paragraph.

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Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

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Comparative Essay

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How to Write a Comparative Essay – A Complete Guide

10 min read

Comparative Essay

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Comparative essay is a common assignment for school and college students. Many students are not aware of the complexities of crafting a strong comparative essay. 

If you too are struggling with this, don't worry!

In this blog, you will get a complete writing guide for comparative essay writing. From structuring formats to creative topics, this guide has it all.

So, keep reading!

Arrow Down

  • 1. What is a Comparative Essay?
  • 2. Comparative Essay Structure
  • 3. How to Start a Comparative Essay?
  • 4. How to Write a Comparative Essay?
  • 5. Comparative Essay Examples
  • 6. Comparative Essay Topics
  • 7. Tips for Writing A Good Comparative Essay
  • 8. Transition Words For Comparative Essays

What is a Comparative Essay?

A comparative essay is a type of essay in which an essay writer compares at least two or more items. The author compares two subjects with the same relation in terms of similarities and differences depending on the assignment.

The main purpose of the comparative essay is to:

  • Highlight the similarities and differences in a systematic manner.
  • Provide great clarity of the subject to the readers.
  • Analyze two things and describe their advantages and drawbacks.

A comparative essay is also known as compare and contrast essay or a comparison essay. It analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both. The Venn diagram is the best tool for writing a paper about the comparison between two subjects.  

Moreover, a comparative analysis essay discusses the similarities and differences of themes, items, events, views, places, concepts, etc. For example, you can compare two different novels (e.g., The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Red Badge of Courage).

However, a comparative essay is not limited to specific topics. It covers almost every topic or subject with some relation.

Comparative Essay Structure

A good comparative essay is based on how well you structure your essay. It helps the reader to understand your essay better. 

The structure is more important than what you write. This is because it is necessary to organize your essay so that the reader can easily go through the comparisons made in an essay.

The following are the two main methods in which you can organize your comparative essay.

Point-by-Point Method 

The point-by-point or alternating method provides a detailed overview of the items that you are comparing. In this method, organize items in terms of similarities and differences.

This method makes the writing phase easy for the writer to handle two completely different essay subjects. It is highly recommended where some depth and detail are required.

Below given is the structure of the point-by-point method. 

Block Method 

The block method is the easiest as compared to the point-by-point method. In this method, you divide the information in terms of parameters. It means that the first paragraph compares the first subject and all their items, then the second one compares the second, and so on.

However, make sure that you write the subject in the same order. This method is best for lengthy essays and complicated subjects.

Here is the structure of the block method. 

Therefore, keep these methods in mind and choose the one according to the chosen subject.

Mixed Paragraphs Method

In this method, one paragraph explains one aspect of the subject. As a writer, you will handle one point at a time and one by one. This method is quite beneficial as it allows you to give equal weightage to each subject and help the readers identify the point of comparison easily.

How to Start a Comparative Essay?

Here, we have gathered some steps that you should follow to start a well-written comparative essay.  

Choose a Topic

The foremost step in writing a comparative essay is to choose a suitable topic.

Choose a topic or theme that is interesting to write about and appeals to the reader. 

An interesting essay topic motivates the reader to know about the subject. Also, try to avoid complicated topics for your comparative essay. 

Develop a List of Similarities and Differences 

Create a list of similarities and differences between two subjects that you want to include in the essay. Moreover, this list helps you decide the basis of your comparison by constructing your initial plan. 

Evaluate the list and establish your argument and thesis statement .

Establish the Basis for Comparison 

The basis for comparison is the ground for you to compare the subjects. In most cases, it is assigned to you, so check your assignment or prompt.

Furthermore, the main goal of the comparison essay is to inform the reader of something interesting. It means that your subject must be unique to make your argument interesting.  

Do the Research 

In this step, you have to gather information for your subject. If your comparative essay is about social issues, historical events, or science-related topics, you must do in-depth research.    

However, make sure that you gather data from credible sources and cite them properly in the essay.

Create an Outline

An essay outline serves as a roadmap for your essay, organizing key elements into a structured format.

With your topic, list of comparisons, basis for comparison, and research in hand, the next step is to create a comprehensive outline. 

Here is a standard comparative essay outline:

How to Write a Comparative Essay?

Now that you have the basic information organized in an outline, you can get started on the writing process. 

Here are the essential parts of a comparative essay: 

Comparative Essay Introduction 

Start off by grabbing your reader's attention in the introduction . Use something catchy, like a quote, question, or interesting fact about your subjects. 

Then, give a quick background so your reader knows what's going on. 

The most important part is your thesis statement, where you state the main argument , the basis for comparison, and why the comparison is significant.

This is what a typical thesis statement for a comparative essay looks like:

Comparative Essay Body Paragraphs 

The body paragraphs are where you really get into the details of your subjects. Each paragraph should focus on one thing you're comparing.

Start by talking about the first point of comparison. Then, go on to the next points. Make sure to talk about two to three differences to give a good picture.

After that, switch gears and talk about the things they have in common. Just like you discussed three differences, try to cover three similarities. 

This way, your essay stays balanced and fair. This approach helps your reader understand both the ways your subjects are different and the ways they are similar. Keep it simple and clear for a strong essay.

Comparative Essay Conclusion

In your conclusion , bring together the key insights from your analysis to create a strong and impactful closing.

Consider the broader context or implications of the subjects' differences and similarities. What do these insights reveal about the broader themes or ideas you're exploring?

Discuss the broader implications of these findings and restate your thesis. Avoid introducing new information and end with a thought-provoking statement that leaves a lasting impression.

Below is the detailed comparative essay template format for you to understand better.

Comparative Essay Format

Comparative Essay Examples

Have a look at these comparative essay examples pdf to get an idea of the perfect essay.

Comparative Essay on Summer and Winter

Comparative Essay on Books vs. Movies

Comparative Essay Sample

Comparative Essay Thesis Example

Comparative Essay on Football vs Cricket

Comparative Essay on Pet and Wild Animals

Comparative Essay Topics

Comparative essay topics are not very difficult or complex. Check this list of essay topics and pick the one that you want to write about.

  • How do education and employment compare?
  • Living in a big city or staying in a village.
  • The school principal or college dean.
  • New Year vs. Christmas celebration.
  • Dried Fruit vs. Fresh. Which is better?
  • Similarities between philosophy and religion.
  • British colonization and Spanish colonization.
  • Nuclear power for peace or war?
  • Bacteria or viruses.
  • Fast food vs. homemade food.

Tips for Writing A Good Comparative Essay

Writing a compelling comparative essay requires thoughtful consideration and strategic planning. Here are some valuable tips to enhance the quality of your comparative essay:

  • Clearly define what you're comparing, like themes or characters.
  • Plan your essay structure using methods like point-by-point or block paragraphs.
  • Craft an introduction that introduces subjects and states your purpose.
  • Ensure an equal discussion of both similarities and differences.
  • Use linking words for seamless transitions between paragraphs.
  • Gather credible information for depth and authenticity.
  • Use clear and simple language, avoiding unnecessary jargon.
  • Dedicate each paragraph to a specific point of comparison.
  • Summarize key points, restate the thesis, and emphasize significance.
  • Thoroughly check for clarity, coherence, and correct any errors.

Transition Words For Comparative Essays

Transition words are crucial for guiding your reader through the comparative analysis. They help establish connections between ideas and ensure a smooth flow in your essay. 

Here are some transition words and phrases to improve the flow of your comparative essay:

Transition Words for Similarities

  • Correspondingly
  • In the same vein
  • In like manner
  • In a similar fashion
  • In tandem with

Transition Words for Differences

  • On the contrary
  • In contrast
  • Nevertheless
  • In spite of
  • Notwithstanding
  • On the flip side
  • In contradistinction

Check out this blog listing more transition words that you can use to enhance your essay’s coherence!

In conclusion, now that you have the important steps and helpful tips to write a good comparative essay, you can start working on your own essay. 

However, if you find it tough to begin, you can always hire our professional essay writing service . 

Our skilled writers can handle any type of essay or assignment you need. So, don't wait—place your order now and make your academic journey easier!

Frequently Asked Question

How long is a comparative essay.

FAQ Icon

A comparative essay is 4-5 pages long, but it depends on your chosen idea and topic.

How do you end a comparative essay?

Here are some tips that will help you to end the comparative essay.

  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Wrap up the entire essay
  • Highlight the main points

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Barbara P

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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How to Write a Comparative Essay

Last Updated: May 19, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,682,281 times.

Perhaps you have been assigned a comparative essay in class, or need to write a comprehensive comparative report for work. In order to write a stellar comparative essay, you have to start off by picking two subjects that have enough similarities and differences to be compared in a meaningful way, such as two sports teams or two systems of government. Once you have that, then you have to find at least two or three points of comparison and use research, facts, and well-organized paragraphs to impress and captivate your readers. Writing the comparative essay is an important skill that you will use many times throughout your scholastic career.

Comparative Essay Outline and Example

writing a comparative essay

How to Develop the Essay Content

Step 1 Analyze the question or essay prompt carefully.

  • Many comparative essay assignments will signal their purpose by using words such as "compare," "contrast," "similarities," and "differences" in the language of the prompt.
  • Also see whether there are any limits placed on your topic.

Step 2 Understand the type of comparison essay you are being asked to write.

  • The assignment will generally ask guiding questions if you are expected to incorporate comparison as part of a larger assignment. For example: "Choose a particular idea or theme, such as love, beauty, death, or time, and consider how two different Renaissance poets approach this idea." This sentence asks you to compare two poets, but it also asks how the poets approach the point of comparison. In other words, you will need to make an evaluative or analytical argument about those approaches.
  • If you're unclear on what the essay prompt is asking you to do, talk with your instructor. It's much better to clarify questions up front than discover you've written the entire essay incorrectly.

Step 3 List similarities and differences between the items you are comparing.

  • The best place to start is to write a list of things that the items you are comparing have in common as well as differences between them. [3] X Research source

Step 4 Evaluate your list to find your argument.

  • You may want to develop a system such as highlighting different types of similarities in different colors, or use different colours if you are using an electronic device.
  • For example, if you are comparing two novels, you may want to highlight similarities in characters in pink, settings in blue, and themes or messages in green.

Step 5 Establish the basis for your comparison.

  • The basis for your comparison may be assigned to you. Be sure to check your assignment or prompt.
  • A basis for comparison may have to do with a theme, characteristics, or details about two different things. [7] X Research source
  • A basis for comparison may also be known as the “grounds” for comparison or a frame of reference.
  • Keep in mind that comparing 2 things that are too similar makes it hard to write an effective paper. The goal of a comparison paper is to draw interesting parallels and help the reader realize something interesting about our world. This means your subjects must be different enough to make your argument interesting.

Step 6 Research your subjects of comparison.

  • Research may not be required or appropriate for your particular assignment. If your comparative essay is not meant to include research, you should avoid including it.
  • A comparative essay about historical events, social issues, or science-related topics are more likely to require research, while a comparison of two works of literature are less likely to require research.
  • Be sure to cite any research data properly according to the discipline in which you are writing (eg, MLA, APA, or Chicago format).

Step 7 Develop a thesis statement.

  • Your thesis needs to make a claim about your subjects that you will then defend in your essay. It's good for this claim to be a bit controversial or up for interpretation, as this allows you to build a good argument.

How to Organize the Content

Step 1 Outline your comparison.

  • Use a traditional outline form if you would like to, but even a simple list of bulleted points in the order that you plan to present them would help.
  • You can also write down your main points on sticky notes (or type them, print them, and then cut them out) so that you can arrange and rearrange them before deciding on a final order.

Step 2 Use a mixed paragraphs method.

  • The advantages of this structure are that it continually keeps the comparison in the mind of the reader and forces you, the writer, to pay equal attention to each side of the argument.
  • This method is especially recommended for lengthy essays or complicated subjects where both the writer and reader can easily become lost. For Example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X / Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X / Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X / Safety rating of vehicle Y

Step 3 Alternate the subjects in each paragraph.

  • The advantages of this structure are that it allows you to discuss points in greater detail and makes it less jarring to tackle two topics that radically different.
  • This method is especially recommended for essays where some depth and detail are required. For example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X Paragraph 2: Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 3: Stylishness of vehicle X Paragraph 4: Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 5: Safety rating of vehicle X Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

Step 4 Cover one subject at a time thoroughly.

  • This method is by far the most dangerous, as your comparison can become both one-sided and difficult for the reader to follow.
  • This method is only recommended for short essays with simplistic subjects that the reader can easily remember as (s)he goes along. For example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X Paragraph 4: Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 5: Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

How to Write the Essay

Step 1 Write your essay out of order.

  • Body paragraphs first . Work through all that information you've been compiling and see what kind of story it tells you. Only when you've worked with your data will you know what the larger point of the paper is.
  • Conclusion second . Now that you've done all the heavy lifting, the point of your essay should be fresh in your mind. Strike while the iron’s hot. Start your conclusion with a restatement of your thesis.
  • Intro last . Open your introduction with a "hook" to grab the reader's attention. Since you've already written your essay, choose a hook that reflects what you will talk about, whether it's a quote, statistic, factoid, rhetorical question, or anecdote. Then, write 1-2 sentences about your topic, narrowing down to your thesis statement, which completes your introduction.

Step 2 Write the body paragraphs.

  • Organize your paragraphs using one of the approaches listed in the "Organizing the Content" part below. Once you have defined your points of comparison, choose the structure for the body paragraphs (where your comparisons go) that makes the most sense for your data. To work out all the organizational kinks, it’s recommended that you write an outline as a placeholder.
  • Be very careful not to address different aspects of each subject. Comparing the color of one thing to the size of another does nothing to help the reader understand how they stack up. [15] X Research source

Step 3 Write the conclusion...

  • Be aware that your various comparisons won’t necessarily lend themselves to an obvious conclusion, especially because people value things differently. If necessary, make the parameters of your argument more specific. (Ex. “Though X is more stylish and powerful, Y’s top safety ratings make it a more appropriate family vehicle .”)
  • When you have two radically different topics, it sometimes helps to point out one similarity they have before concluding. (i.e. "Although X and Y don't seem to have anything in common, in actuality, they both ....”)

Step 4 Write the introduction...

  • Even the best writers know editing is important to produce a good piece. Your essay will not be your best effort unless you revise it.
  • If possible, find a friend to look over the essay, as he or she may find problems that you missed.
  • It sometimes helps to increase or decrease the font size while editing to change the visual layout of the paper. Looking at the same thing for too long makes your brain fill in what it expects instead of what it sees, leaving you more likely to overlook errors.

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • The title and introduction really catch the reader's attention and make them read the essay. Make sure you know how to write a catchy essay title . Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 1
  • Quotes should be used sparingly and must thoroughly complement the point they are being used to exemplify/justify. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 2
  • The key principle to remember in a comparative paragraph or essay is that you must clarify precisely what you are comparing and keep that comparison alive throughout the essay. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 2

writing a comparative essay

  • Avoid vague language such as "people," "stuff," "things," etc. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
  • Avoid, at all costs, the conclusion that the two subjects are "similar, yet different." This commonly found conclusion weakens any comparative essay, because it essentially says nothing about the comparison. Most things are "similar, yet different" in some way. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
  • Some believe that an "unbalanced" comparison - that is, when the essay focuses predominantly on one of the two issues, and gives less importance to the other - is weaker, and that writers should strive for 50/50 treatment of the texts or issues being examined. Others, however, value emphasis in the essay that reflects the particular demands of the essay's purpose or thesis. One text may simply provide context, or historical/artistic/political reference for the main text, and therefore need not occupy half of the essay's discussion or analysis. A "weak" essay in this context would strive to treat unequal texts equally, rather than strive to appropriately apportion space to the relevant text. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Beware of the "Frying Pan Conclusion" in which you simply recount everything that was said in the main body of the essay. While your conclusion should include a simple summary of your argument, it should also emphatically state the point in a new and convincing way, one which the reader will remember clearly. If you can see a way forward from a problem or dilemma, include that as well. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1

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  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/comparing-and-contrasting/
  • ↑ http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/comparative-essay
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/comparing-and-contrasting/
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
  • ↑ https://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/style_purpose_strategy/compare_contrast.html
  • ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/10-7-comparison-and-contrast/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/steps_for_revising.html
  • How to Structure Paragraphs in an Essay

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a comparative essay, start by writing an introduction that introduces the 2 subjects you'll be comparing. You should also include your thesis statement in the introduction, which should state what you've concluded based on your comparisons. Next, write the body of your essay so that each paragraph focuses on one point of comparison between your subjects. Finally, write a conclusion that summarizes your main points and draws a larger conclusion about the two things you compared. To learn how to do research for your essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Comparing and Contrasting

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you first to determine whether a particular assignment is asking for comparison/contrast and then to generate a list of similarities and differences, decide which similarities and differences to focus on, and organize your paper so that it will be clear and effective. It will also explain how you can (and why you should) develop a thesis that goes beyond “Thing A and Thing B are similar in many ways but different in others.”


In your career as a student, you’ll encounter many different kinds of writing assignments, each with its own requirements. One of the most common is the comparison/contrast essay, in which you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas—usually two of them—are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to make connections between texts or ideas, engage in critical thinking, and go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis: when you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them.

Recognizing comparison/contrast in assignments

Some assignments use words—like compare, contrast, similarities, and differences—that make it easy for you to see that they are asking you to compare and/or contrast. Here are a few hypothetical examples:

  • Compare and contrast Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression.
  • Compare WWI to WWII, identifying similarities in the causes, development, and outcomes of the wars.
  • Contrast Wordsworth and Coleridge; what are the major differences in their poetry?

Notice that some topics ask only for comparison, others only for contrast, and others for both.

But it’s not always so easy to tell whether an assignment is asking you to include comparison/contrast. And in some cases, comparison/contrast is only part of the essay—you begin by comparing and/or contrasting two or more things and then use what you’ve learned to construct an argument or evaluation. Consider these examples, noticing the language that is used to ask for the comparison/contrast and whether the comparison/contrast is only one part of a larger assignment:

  • Choose a particular idea or theme, such as romantic love, death, or nature, and consider how it is treated in two Romantic poems.
  • How do the different authors we have studied so far define and describe oppression?
  • Compare Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression. What does each imply about women’s collusion in their own oppression? Which is more accurate?
  • In the texts we’ve studied, soldiers who served in different wars offer differing accounts of their experiences and feelings both during and after the fighting. What commonalities are there in these accounts? What factors do you think are responsible for their differences?

You may want to check out our handout on understanding assignments for additional tips.

Using comparison/contrast for all kinds of writing projects

Sometimes you may want to use comparison/contrast techniques in your own pre-writing work to get ideas that you can later use for an argument, even if comparison/contrast isn’t an official requirement for the paper you’re writing. For example, if you wanted to argue that Frye’s account of oppression is better than both de Beauvoir’s and Bartky’s, comparing and contrasting the main arguments of those three authors might help you construct your evaluation—even though the topic may not have asked for comparison/contrast and the lists of similarities and differences you generate may not appear anywhere in the final draft of your paper.

Discovering similarities and differences

Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas. To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you’re considering. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common. Assign each one of the areas that doesn’t overlap; in those areas, you can list the traits that make the things different. Here’s a very simple example, using two pizza places:

Venn diagram indicating that both Pepper's and Amante serve pizza with unusual ingredients at moderate prices, despite differences in location, wait times, and delivery options

To make a chart, figure out what criteria you want to focus on in comparing the items. Along the left side of the page, list each of the criteria. Across the top, list the names of the items. You should then have a box per item for each criterion; you can fill the boxes in and then survey what you’ve discovered.

Here’s an example, this time using three pizza places:

As you generate points of comparison, consider the purpose and content of the assignment and the focus of the class. What do you think the professor wants you to learn by doing this comparison/contrast? How does it fit with what you have been studying so far and with the other assignments in the course? Are there any clues about what to focus on in the assignment itself?

Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. These are by no means complete or definitive lists; they’re just here to give you some ideas—you can generate your own questions for these and other types of comparison. You may want to begin by using the questions reporters traditionally ask: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? If you’re talking about objects, you might also consider general properties like size, shape, color, sound, weight, taste, texture, smell, number, duration, and location.

Two historical periods or events

  • When did they occur—do you know the date(s) and duration? What happened or changed during each? Why are they significant?
  • What kinds of work did people do? What kinds of relationships did they have? What did they value?
  • What kinds of governments were there? Who were important people involved?
  • What caused events in these periods, and what consequences did they have later on?

Two ideas or theories

  • What are they about?
  • Did they originate at some particular time?
  • Who created them? Who uses or defends them?
  • What is the central focus, claim, or goal of each? What conclusions do they offer?
  • How are they applied to situations/people/things/etc.?
  • Which seems more plausible to you, and why? How broad is their scope?
  • What kind of evidence is usually offered for them?

Two pieces of writing or art

  • What are their titles? What do they describe or depict?
  • What is their tone or mood? What is their form?
  • Who created them? When were they created? Why do you think they were created as they were? What themes do they address?
  • Do you think one is of higher quality or greater merit than the other(s)—and if so, why?
  • For writing: what plot, characterization, setting, theme, tone, and type of narration are used?
  • Where are they from? How old are they? What is the gender, race, class, etc. of each?
  • What, if anything, are they known for? Do they have any relationship to each other?
  • What are they like? What did/do they do? What do they believe? Why are they interesting?
  • What stands out most about each of them?

Deciding what to focus on

By now you have probably generated a huge list of similarities and differences—congratulations! Next you must decide which of them are interesting, important, and relevant enough to be included in your paper. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s relevant to the assignment?
  • What’s relevant to the course?
  • What’s interesting and informative?
  • What matters to the argument you are going to make?
  • What’s basic or central (and needs to be mentioned even if obvious)?
  • Overall, what’s more important—the similarities or the differences?

Suppose that you are writing a paper comparing two novels. For most literature classes, the fact that they both use Caslon type (a kind of typeface, like the fonts you may use in your writing) is not going to be relevant, nor is the fact that one of them has a few illustrations and the other has none; literature classes are more likely to focus on subjects like characterization, plot, setting, the writer’s style and intentions, language, central themes, and so forth. However, if you were writing a paper for a class on typesetting or on how illustrations are used to enhance novels, the typeface and presence or absence of illustrations might be absolutely critical to include in your final paper.

Sometimes a particular point of comparison or contrast might be relevant but not terribly revealing or interesting. For example, if you are writing a paper about Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” pointing out that they both have nature as a central theme is relevant (comparisons of poetry often talk about themes) but not terribly interesting; your class has probably already had many discussions about the Romantic poets’ fondness for nature. Talking about the different ways nature is depicted or the different aspects of nature that are emphasized might be more interesting and show a more sophisticated understanding of the poems.

Your thesis

The thesis of your comparison/contrast paper is very important: it can help you create a focused argument and give your reader a road map so they don’t get lost in the sea of points you are about to make. As in any paper, you will want to replace vague reports of your general topic (for example, “This paper will compare and contrast two pizza places,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in some ways and different in others,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in many ways, but they have one major difference”) with something more detailed and specific. For example, you might say, “Pepper’s and Amante have similar prices and ingredients, but their atmospheres and willingness to deliver set them apart.”

Be careful, though—although this thesis is fairly specific and does propose a simple argument (that atmosphere and delivery make the two pizza places different), your instructor will often be looking for a bit more analysis. In this case, the obvious question is “So what? Why should anyone care that Pepper’s and Amante are different in this way?” One might also wonder why the writer chose those two particular pizza places to compare—why not Papa John’s, Dominos, or Pizza Hut? Again, thinking about the context the class provides may help you answer such questions and make a stronger argument. Here’s a revision of the thesis mentioned earlier:

Pepper’s and Amante both offer a greater variety of ingredients than other Chapel Hill/Carrboro pizza places (and than any of the national chains), but the funky, lively atmosphere at Pepper’s makes it a better place to give visiting friends and family a taste of local culture.

You may find our handout on constructing thesis statements useful at this stage.

Organizing your paper

There are many different ways to organize a comparison/contrast essay. Here are two:


Begin by saying everything you have to say about the first subject you are discussing, then move on and make all the points you want to make about the second subject (and after that, the third, and so on, if you’re comparing/contrasting more than two things). If the paper is short, you might be able to fit all of your points about each item into a single paragraph, but it’s more likely that you’d have several paragraphs per item. Using our pizza place comparison/contrast as an example, after the introduction, you might have a paragraph about the ingredients available at Pepper’s, a paragraph about its location, and a paragraph about its ambience. Then you’d have three similar paragraphs about Amante, followed by your conclusion.

The danger of this subject-by-subject organization is that your paper will simply be a list of points: a certain number of points (in my example, three) about one subject, then a certain number of points about another. This is usually not what college instructors are looking for in a paper—generally they want you to compare or contrast two or more things very directly, rather than just listing the traits the things have and leaving it up to the reader to reflect on how those traits are similar or different and why those similarities or differences matter. Thus, if you use the subject-by-subject form, you will probably want to have a very strong, analytical thesis and at least one body paragraph that ties all of your different points together.

A subject-by-subject structure can be a logical choice if you are writing what is sometimes called a “lens” comparison, in which you use one subject or item (which isn’t really your main topic) to better understand another item (which is). For example, you might be asked to compare a poem you’ve already covered thoroughly in class with one you are reading on your own. It might make sense to give a brief summary of your main ideas about the first poem (this would be your first subject, the “lens”), and then spend most of your paper discussing how those points are similar to or different from your ideas about the second.


Rather than addressing things one subject at a time, you may wish to talk about one point of comparison at a time. There are two main ways this might play out, depending on how much you have to say about each of the things you are comparing. If you have just a little, you might, in a single paragraph, discuss how a certain point of comparison/contrast relates to all the items you are discussing. For example, I might describe, in one paragraph, what the prices are like at both Pepper’s and Amante; in the next paragraph, I might compare the ingredients available; in a third, I might contrast the atmospheres of the two restaurants.

If I had a bit more to say about the items I was comparing/contrasting, I might devote a whole paragraph to how each point relates to each item. For example, I might have a whole paragraph about the clientele at Pepper’s, followed by a whole paragraph about the clientele at Amante; then I would move on and do two more paragraphs discussing my next point of comparison/contrast—like the ingredients available at each restaurant.

There are no hard and fast rules about organizing a comparison/contrast paper, of course. Just be sure that your reader can easily tell what’s going on! Be aware, too, of the placement of your different points. If you are writing a comparison/contrast in service of an argument, keep in mind that the last point you make is the one you are leaving your reader with. For example, if I am trying to argue that Amante is better than Pepper’s, I should end with a contrast that leaves Amante sounding good, rather than with a point of comparison that I have to admit makes Pepper’s look better. If you’ve decided that the differences between the items you’re comparing/contrasting are most important, you’ll want to end with the differences—and vice versa, if the similarities seem most important to you.

Our handout on organization can help you write good topic sentences and transitions and make sure that you have a good overall structure in place for your paper.

Cue words and other tips

To help your reader keep track of where you are in the comparison/contrast, you’ll want to be sure that your transitions and topic sentences are especially strong. Your thesis should already have given the reader an idea of the points you’ll be making and the organization you’ll be using, but you can help them out with some extra cues. The following words may be helpful to you in signaling your intentions:

  • like, similar to, also, unlike, similarly, in the same way, likewise, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, contrasted with, on the contrary, however, although, yet, even though, still, but, nevertheless, conversely, at the same time, regardless, despite, while, on the one hand … on the other hand.

For example, you might have a topic sentence like one of these:

  • Compared to Pepper’s, Amante is quiet.
  • Like Amante, Pepper’s offers fresh garlic as a topping.
  • Despite their different locations (downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro), Pepper’s and Amante are both fairly easy to get to.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Comparative Essays

Writing a comparison usually requires that you assess the similarities and differences between two or more theories, procedures, or processes. You explain to your reader what insights can be gained from the comparison, or judge whether one thing is better than another according to established criteria.

How to Write a Comparative Essay

1. Establish a basis of comparison 

A basis of comparison represents the main idea, category, or theme you will investigate. You will have to do some preliminary reading, likely using your course materials, to get an idea of what kind of criteria you will use to assess whatever you are comparing. A basis of comparison must apply to all items you are comparing, but the details will be different. 

For example, if you are asked to “compare neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture,” you could compare the influence of social context on the two styles.  

2. Gather the details of whatever you are comparing 

Once you have decided what theme or idea you are investigating, you will need to gather details of whatever you are comparing, especially in terms of similarities and differences. Doing so allows you to see which criteria you should use in your comparison, if not specified by your professor or instructor. 

  • Appeal to Greek perfection
  • Formulaic and mathematical
  • Appeal to emotion
  • Towers and spires
  • Wild and rustic
  • Civic buildings

Based on this information, you could focus on how ornamentation and design principles reveal prevailing intellectual thought about architecture in the respective eras and societies.

3. Develop a thesis statement 

After brainstorming, try to develop a thesis statement that identifies the results of your comparison. Here is an example of a fairly common thesis statement structure: 

e.g., Although neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture have [similar characteristics A and B], they reveal profound differences in their interpretation of [C, D, and E]. 

4. Organize your comparison  

You have a choice of two basic methods for organizing a comparative essay: the point-by-point method or the block method.  

The point-by-point method examines one aspect of comparison in each paragraph and usually alternates back and forth between the two objects, texts, or ideas being compared. This method allows you to emphasize points of similarity and of difference as you proceed. 

In the block method, however, you say everything you need to say about one thing, then do the same thing with the other. This method works best if you want readers to understand and agree with the advantages of something you are proposing, such as introducing a new process or theory by showing how it compares to something more traditional.

Sample Outlines for Comparative Essays on Neoclassical and Gothic Architecture 

Building a point-by-point essay.

Using the point-by-point method in a comparative essay allows you to draw direct comparisons and produce a more tightly integrated essay.

1. Introduction

  • Introductory material
  • Thesis: Although neoclassical and gothic architecture are both western European forms that are exemplified in civic buildings and churches, they nonetheless reveal through different structural design and ornamentation, the different intellectual principles of the two societies that created them.

2. Body Sections/Paragraphs

  • Ornamentation in Text 1
  • Ornamentation in Text 2
  • Major appeal in Text 1
  • Major appeal in Text 2
  • Style in Text 1
  • Style in Text 2

3. Conclusion

  • Why this comparison is important?
  • What does this comparison tell readers?

Building a Block Method Essay

Using the block method in a comparative essay can help ensure that the ideas in the second block build upon or extend ideas presented in the first block. It works well if you have three or more major areas of comparison instead of two (for example, if you added in a third or fourth style of architecture, the block method would be easier to organize).

  • Thesis: The neoclassical style of architecture was a conscious rejection of the gothic style that had dominated in France at the end of the middle ages; it represented a desire to return to the classical ideals of Greece and Rome.
  • History and development
  • Change from earlier form
  • Social context of new form
  • What does the comparison reveal about architectural development?
  • Why is this comparison important?
  • Share full article


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Mentor Texts

Writing Comparative Essays: Making Connections to Illuminate Ideas

Breathing new life into a familiar school format, with the help of Times journalism and several winning student essays.

writing a comparative essay

By Katherine Schulten

Our new Mentor Text series spotlights writing from The Times and from our student contests that teenagers can learn from and emulate.

This entry aims to help support those participating in our Third Annual Connections Contest , in which students are invited to take something they are studying in school and show us, via parallels found in a Times article, how it connects to our world today. In other words, we’re asking them to compare ideas in two texts.

For even more on how to help your students make those kinds of connections, please see our related writing unit .

I. Overview

Making connections is a natural part of thinking. We can’t help doing it. If you’re telling a friend about a new song or restaurant or TV show you like, you’ll almost always find yourself saying, “It’s like _________” and referencing something you both know. It’s a simple way of helping your listener get his or her bearings.

Journalists do it too. In fact, it’s one of the main tools of the trade to help explain a new concept or reframe an old one. Here are just a few recent examples:

A science reporter explains the behavior of fossilized marine animals by likening them to humans making conga lines.

A sportswriter describes the current N.B.A. season by framing it in terms of Broadway show tunes.

An Op-Ed contributor compares today’s mainstreaming of contemporary African art to “an urban neighborhood undergoing gentrification.”

Sometimes a journalist will go beyond making a simple analogy and devote a whole piece to an extended comparison between two things. Articles like these are real-world cousins of that classic compare/contrast essay you’ve probably been writing in school since you could first hold a pen.

For example, take a look at how each of the Times articles below focuses on a comparison, weaving back and forth between two things and looking at them from different angles:

Consider a classic sports debate: Jordan vs. James. See how this 2016 piece explores what the two have in common — as well as how they differ.

Or, check out this 2019 piece that argues that “ Friendsgiving Has Become Just as Fraught as Thanksgiving ,” and compares the two to determine which has become “a bigger pain in the wishbone.”

Though written as a list rather than an essay, this fun piece from the Watching section in 2018 contends that “ ‘Die Hard’ Never Died, It Just Turned 30 and Had Cinematic Children ” by comparing the original to heirs like “Speed” and “Home Alone.” Read it to notice how, in just a paragraph per movie, the writer still manages to provide plenty of evidence to make each comparison work.

To find real-world examples that are closer to what you’re asked to do in school, look to Times sections that feature in-depth writing, like the Sunday Review and the Times Magazine . Both often publish pieces that connect some aspect of the past to an event, issue or trend today. For example:

“ What Quakers Can Teach Us About the Politics of Pronouns ” suggests lessons for “today’s egalitarians” by making a link to the 17th-century Quakers, “who also suspected that the rules of grammar stood between them and a society of equals.”

Other recent pieces focus on historical comparisons, including “ Early Motherhood Has Always Been Miserable ,” “ Donald Trump, Meet Your Precursor ” and a satirical video Op-Ed, “ Here’s What Cancel Culture Looked Like in 1283 .”

The 1619 Project , a Times Magazine initiative observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery, is an especially rich example of this kind of connection-making. It reframes American history by “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are” — and uses that frame to look at issues including today’s prison system, health care, the wealth gap, the sugar industry and traffic jams in Atlanta.

Now, are all of these pieces structured exactly like that essay you have to write for your English class comparing a contemporary work to “Romeo and Juliet?” Does each have a clear thesis statement in the last line of the first paragraph and three body paragraphs that begin with topic sentences?

Of course not. They were written for an entirely different audience and purpose than the essay you might have to write, and most of them resist easy categorization into a specific “text type.”

But these pieces are full of craft lessons that can make your own writing more artful and interesting. And if you are participating in our annual Connections Contest , the essays we feature below will be especially helpful, since they focus on doing just what you’ll be doing — making a comparison between something you’re studying in school and some event, issue, trend, person, problem or concept in the news today.

First you’ll consider one excellent Times essay that does pretty much exactly what we’re asking you to do.

Next, we’ve supplied examples from over a dozen previous student winners to help guide you through the basic elements of any comparative analysis. Whether you’re writing for our contest or not, we hope you’ll find plenty of strategies to borrow.

II. Looking at Structure Over All: One Times Mentor Text

Take a look at the essay the Times book critic Michiko Kakutani wrote in the first weeks of the Trump administration. Just as many of you will do for our contest, she examines how a classic literary work can take on new significance when considered in light of real-world events.

Whether you agree with her analysis or not, notice how “ Why ‘1984’ Is a 2017 Must-Read ” is structured. You might highlight three categories — places where she’s writing chiefly about “1984”; places where she’s writing chiefly about our world today; and places where the two merge.

Here is how her piece, a Critic’s Notebook essay, begins:

The dystopia described in George Orwell’s nearly 70-year-old novel “1984” suddenly feels all too familiar. A world in which Big Brother (or maybe the National Security Agency) is always listening in, and high-tech devices can eavesdrop in people’s homes. (Hey, Alexa, what’s up?) A world of endless war, where fear and hate are drummed up against foreigners, and movies show boatloads of refugees dying at sea. A world in which the government insists that reality is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right” — but rather, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”

How does the first line set up the comparison?

How does the writer weave back and forth between today’s world and the world of “1984”? For example, what is she doing the two times she uses parentheses?

After you read the full essay, you might then consider:

Over all, what did you notice about the structure of this piece? How does it emphasize the parallels between the world of “1984” and the world of January 2017?

Is it effective? What is this writer’s thesis? Does she make her case, in your opinion? What specific lines, or points of comparison, do that especially well?

What transitional words and phrases does the writer use to move between her two topics? For example, in the second paragraph she writes “It was a phrase chillingly reminiscent …” as a bridge. What other examples can you find?

How does she sometimes merge her two topics — for example in the phrase “make Oceania great again”?

What else do you notice or admire about this review? What lessons might it have for your writing?

III. Elements of Effective Comparative Analyses: Great Examples From Students

Our Connections Contest asks students to find and analyze parallels, just as Ms. Kakutani does in her essay on Orwell — though she had some 1,200 words to build a case and students participating in our contest have only 450.

But if you look at the examples below from our 2017 and 2018 winners, you’ll see that it’s possible to make a rich connection in just a few paragraphs, and you’ll find plenty of specific strategies to borrow in constructing your own.

Here are some tips, with student examples to illustrate each.

1. Make sure you’re focusing on a manageable theme or idea.

One of the first ways to get on the wrong track in writing a comparative essay is to take on something too big for the scope of the assignment. Say, for example, you’re studying the Industrial Revolution and you realize you can compare it to today’s digital revolution in an array of ways, including worker’s rights, the upheaval of traditional industries and the impact on everyday lives. Where do you even begin?

That’s more or less the problem Alex Iyer, a student winner of our 2018 contest, had after reading “The Odyssey” in class, and noticing connections between the tale of that famous wanderer and today’s global refugee crisis. What can you possibly say in 450 words to connect two enormous topics, both of which have been the subject of innumerable scholarly books?

Notice how this student focuses. Instead of starting with a broad thesis like “We can see many parallels between the themes of ‘The Odyssey’ and our world today,” he looks only at how the Greek concept of xenia echoes today — and does so by examining just one article about Uganda. Below are the first two paragraphs, but we suggest you read the entire essay , paying close attention to how he describes both texts solely through this lens.

Try this: Once you choose a manageable focus, make sure all your details and examples support it.

Example: Alex Iyer, Geneva School of Boerne, San Antonio: Homer’s “The Odyssey” and “ As Rich Nations Close the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them ”

In literature, we learned that in Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey,” Homer uses the tribulations of the hero Odysseus to illustrate the Ancient Grecian custom of xenia. This custom focused on extending hospitality to those who found themselves far from home. As Odysseus navigates the treacherous path back to his own home, he encounters both morally upstanding and malevolent individuals. They range from a charitable princess who offers food and clothing, to an evil Cyclops who attempts to murder the hero and his fellow men. In class, we agreed that Homer employs these contrasting characters to exemplify not only proper, but also poor forms of xenia. For the people of its time, “The Odyssey” cemented the idea that xenia was fundamental for good character, resulting in hospitality becoming ingrained in the fabric of Ancient Grecian society. I saw a parallel to this in a New York Times article called “As Rich Nations Close the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them” published on October 28, 2018. Similar to the prevalent custom of xenia in Ancient Greece, Uganda has made hosting refugees a national policy. The country is now occupied by up to 1.25 million refugees, many of whom are fleeing the violent unrest of South Sudan.

2. Introduce and briefly explain the significance of the connection.

We know it’s tempting to resort to a generic statement like, “In this essay I will compare and contrast _________ and _________ to show that …”

Not only is that deadly dull, but if you are participating in our contest, you also don’t want to waste any of your 450 words on a sentence that doesn’t say much.

Consider, instead, four more powerful ways to introduce the two things you’ll be connecting, and show right away how they work together.

Try this: Pose a question or questions that both texts are asking.

Example: Connor Stevens, Sunset High School, Portland, Ore.: Comparing “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “ How Egypt Crowdsources Censorship ” ( Read the full student essay .)

How can you control ideas? In today’s world, you scroll through feeds, finding any information available: government trade deals, local restaurants, movies, and TV shows. We are in an age where the power to find any fact, answer or piece of information that floats into question is available anywhere. If this privilege was stripped by a bodying government, how would freedom of information change?

Try this: Make a statement that is true for both, and then explain why briefly.

Example: Jack Magner, Flint Hill School, Oakton, Va.: Comparing biological feedback loops and homeostasis with “ After #MeToo, the Ripple Effect ” ( Read the full student essay .)

All it takes is a single action to spark innumerable reactions. In the case of Jessica Bennett’s “After #MeToo, the Ripple Effect,” it is the publishing of a 2017 article in the Times that launches a revolution, changing the treatment and recognition of women for the better. In the case of AP Biology, it is the connection of a ligand to a receptor protein or a drastic change to an organism’s environment that sends millions of signals that protect the organism from harm.

Try this: Explain how or why you’ll look at a classic work through a new lens.

Example: Zaria Roller, Verona Area High School, Wis.: Comparing “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe and “ The Boys Are Not All Right ” ( Read the full student essay .)

Colonial-age Nigeria and modern day Western society have more in common than one would think. Although the buzz phrase “toxic masculinity” did not exist at the time Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” was written, its protagonist, Okonkwo, might as well be the poster boy for it.

Try this: Trace your thinking about how you came to connect the two things. Please note: For this contest, use of the word “I” is not only permitted but also encouraged if it helps you explore your ideas.

Example: Alexa Bolnick, Indian Hills High School, Franklin Lakes, N.J.: “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller and “ A Lack of Respect for the Working Class in America Today ” ( Read the full student essay .)

Last year, reading the play “Death of a Salesman,” I couldn’t understand why salesman Willy Loman refused to accept his son’s desire to perform manual labor for a living. If working on a ranch made him happy, then why couldn’t Willy let his son go.

Example: Isabella Picillo, 17, Oceanside High School: “The Scarlet Letter” and “ Judge Partially Lifts Trump Administration Ban on Refugees ” ( Read the full student essay .)

I stumble upon a New York Times article, “Judge Partially Lifts Trump Administration Ban on Refugees,” that makes me wonder if Hawthorne, the literary genius, is wrong.

3. Use transition words and phrases to pivot between the two works.

When you’re discussing two works in the same piece, you’ll find yourself needing to switch gears regularly. How do you do that gracefully?

Try this: Explore a connection by choosing transition words that emphasize commonality.

Here are some sentences, all from our 2018 winners , with examples of those words in bold:

— “ Similar to the prevalent custom of xenia in Ancient Greece, Uganda has made hosting refugees a national policy.” — “John Steinbeck’s classic novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ which chronicles the struggles of the Joad family during the Great Depression, documents a similar reality.” — “Republican anti-Trump attitudes echo those of their nineteenth century counterparts, such as Carl Schulz, who wrote, ‘Our duty to the country … is … paramount to any duty we may owe to the party.’” — “ Paralleling the same theme, the short story ‘Harrison Bergeron’ by Kurt Vonnegut describes a future in which absolute equality has become the obsession of society.” — “This phenomenon mirrors that of negative feedback loops in biology, in which a stimulus triggers a biological response designed to keep a biological system at equilibrium.”

4. Acknowledge important contrasts between the two things you are connecting.

Part of comparing two things is contrasting them — showing where the commonalities end and explaining why the differences are significant.

But your essay shouldn’t just be a list of all the things the two texts have in common vs. all the things they don’t. Instead, you need to use the contrasts to acknowledge obvious differences, but still further your point about how and why the two ideas work together.

For example, the article comparing LeBron James and Michael Jordan makes the crucial distinction that they played in different eras — and thus it’s hard to compare them since we remember Jordan through “rose-colored” memories, while James, playing today, is considered by many “the most scrutinized and criticized American athlete, much of the naysaying unwarranted and aggravated by the polarizing effects of social media” that didn’t exist in Jordan’s heyday.

Keep in mind that since our contest emphasizes connections, not all of our previous winners have done this — but those who did only strengthened their cases.

Try this: Point out that surface differences are less important than the underlying message.

Example: Megan Lee, West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, Plainsboro, N.J.: “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut and “ The Curse of Affirmative Action ” ( Read the full student essay .)

Although the “Harrison Bergeron” is a heavily exaggerated piece of fiction writing while “The Curse of Affirmative Action” was written to denounce a real world policy, both allude to the delicacy of equality.

Try this: Use a contrast to illuminate a bigger point — in this case that the ways in which the #MeToo movement is different than a biological feedback loop is also what makes it so “revolutionary.”

Example: Jack Magner, Flint Hill School, Oakton, Va.: Biological feedback loops and homeostasis and “ After #MeToo, the Ripple Effect ” ( Read the full student essay .)

#MeToo and feedback loops are extremely interconnected, but there is one key difference in the #MeToo movement that makes it so dynamic and revolutionary. In biology, feedback responses are developed slowly and organically over millions of years of evolution. Environments select for these responses, and a species’s fitness increases as a result. The #MeToo movement is the exact opposite, attacking the perceived natural order that our environment has selected for at the expense the “fittest” members of society: powerful men. This positive feedback loop does not run in concurrence with the already-established negative feedback loop. It instead serves as its foil, aiming to topple the destructive systems for which hyper-masculine society has selected for over thousands of years.

5. End in a way that sums up and says something new.

We could repeat this piece of advice in every edition of our Mentor Text series regardless of genre: No matter what you’re writing about, don’t waste your conclusion by just lazily restating what you’ve already said.

Instead, keep your readers thinking. Pose a new question, use a fresh quote that sums up your main idea, give some surprising new information, or tell a fitting final story.

In other words, no “In conclusion, I have shown how _________ and _________ have many similarities and many differences.”

Instead you could …

Try this: Draw a final lesson, takeaway or “moral” that the two together express.

Example: Samantha Jones, 16, Concord Carlisle Regional High School: “Walden” and “ Dropping Out of College Into Life ” ( Read the full student essay .)

The moral is clear: there are gaps in our education system, and because of these gaps students aren’t adequately prepared for their own futures. In his book Walden, Thoreau elaborates on the ideas Stauffer touches on in her article. As stated before, he believed learning through experience was exponentially better than a in classroom. When a rigid curriculum with expectations is set in place, students aren’t given the same hands on learning as they would be without one. Just as Stauffer embraced this learning style in the New School, Thoreau did so in Walden Woods …

Example: Robert McCoy, Whippany Park High School, Whippany, N.J.: Gilded Age Mugwumps and “ Republicans for Democrats ” ( Read the full student essay .)

The parallels in the Mugwump and Never Trump movements demonstrate the significance of adhering to a strict moral standard, despite extreme partisan divides …

Try this: Raise a new question or idea suggested by the comparison.

In this essay, Sebastian Zagler compares the ways that both a famous mathematical problem and the issue of climate change will require new innovation and collaboration to solve. But he ends the essay by engaging a new, related question: Why would anyone want to take on such “impossible problems” in the first place?

Example: Sebastian Zagler, John T. Hoggard High School, Wilmington, N.C.: the Collatz, or 3n+1, conjecture, a mathematical problem that has produced no mathematical proof for over 80 years, and “ Stopping Climate Change Is Hopeless. Let’s Do It. ” ( Read the full student essay .)

What draws mankind to these impossible problems, whether it be solving the Collatz conjecture or reversing climate change? Fighting for a common cause brings people together, making them part of something greater. Even fighting a “long defeat” can give one a sense of purpose — a sense of belonging …

Try this: End with an apt quote that applies to both.

Here are Sebastian Zagler’s last two lines:

There is a beauty in fighting a losing battle, as long as a glimmer of hope remains. And as Schendler and Jones write, “If the human species specializes in one thing, it’s taking on the impossible.”

And here are Samantha Jones’s:

For that is all Walden really is; Thoreau learning from nature by immersing himself in it, instead of seeing it on the pages of a book. A quote from Walden most fitting is as follows, “We boast of our system of education, but why stop at schoolmasters and schoolhouses? We are all schoolmasters, and our schoolhouse is the universe”

In both cases, the quotes are inspiring, hopeful and get at truths their essays worked hard to demonstrate.

Additional Resources

In our description of Unit 3 of our writing curriculum you can find much, much more, including related writing prompts and a series of lesson plans that can help teachers teach with our Connections Contest.

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The Ultimate Guide to Writing Comparative Essays: Techniques and Insights

  • December 8, 2023
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When it comes to writing comparative essays , there are a few key techniques and insights that can help you effectively analyze and compare texts. Understanding these strategies will not only improve your essay structure but also enhance your ability to draw meaningful comparisons. In this guide, we will explore the essential elements of writing a comparative essay and provide valuable insights into the process.

Here's What You'll Learn

Comparative essay writing involves examining two or more texts and identifying their similarities and differences. By analyzing their language, themes, and narrative structures, you can gain a deeper understanding of the texts and communicate your analysis effectively. Whether you are comparing literature, historical documents, or any other form of written work, mastering the techniques of comparative essay writing is essential.

One of the fundamental aspects of writing a comparative essay is understanding the art of comparison. This involves identifying commonalities and differences between the texts and exploring how they contribute to the overall meaning and message. Additionally, having a clear essay structure is crucial to organize your ideas and arguments coherently.

By following the techniques and insights outlined in this guide, you will be equipped with the necessary tools to write comparative essays with confidence and precision. From understanding the historical contexts to analyzing plot summaries , each step will contribute to a comprehensive and insightful essay that showcases your analytical skills.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the art of comparison to identify similarities and differences between texts.
  • Organize your essay structure to present your ideas and arguments coherently.
  • Explore the historical contexts to gain valuable insights into the texts.
  • Analyze plot summaries to establish a foundation for your analysis.
  • Mastering the techniques of comparative essay writing enhances your ability to effectively analyze and compare texts.

Exploring Historical Contexts in Comparative Essays: 1950s London and 19th-Century Rural Australia

When writing a comparative essay, it is essential to delve into the historical contexts of the texts being compared. This section will explore the historical contexts of 1950s London and 19th-century rural Australia , shedding light on the social, economic, and cultural influences that shaped these settings.

1950s London: Post-War Challenges and Social Inequality

In the 1950s, London was grappling with the aftermath of World War II. The city was still recovering from the destruction and trauma of the war, facing economic struggles and rebuilding efforts. Furthermore, the 1950s saw significant social changes, with women and minorities fighting for their rights and challenging traditional gender and racial roles.

The social inequality faced by women in 1950s London becomes a prominent theme in the texts under examination. By understanding the historical context of this time and place, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges, aspirations, and experiences of the characters in the comparative essays .

19th-Century Rural Australia: Drought, Hardship, and Limited Opportunities

In contrast to the bustling city of London, 19th-century rural Australia was characterized by a different set of challenges. The era was marked by drought, economic hardships, and limited opportunities, particularly for women.

Exploring the historical context of rural Australia during this time period enables readers to comprehend the struggles faced by the characters and the complexities of their lives. It provides a lens through which to analyze themes such as resilience, societal expectations, and the pursuit of personal aspirations.

By incorporating these historical contexts into their comparative essays, writers can unravel deeper meanings, draw relevant connections, and offer insightful analyses of the texts. Understanding the social, economic, and cultural influences of 1950s London and 19th-century rural Australia is crucial for a comprehensive and effective comparative analysis.

The Plot Summaries: My Brilliant Career and Photograph 51

To effectively analyze and compare the texts, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of their plot summaries . “My Brilliant Career” is an Australian literary classic set in the late 19th century in rural New South Wales. It follows the life of the protagonist, Sybylla Melvyn, as she navigates the challenges of family, societal expectations, and her own aspirations. My Brilliant Career paints a vivid picture of the limited opportunities for women during this time, as Sybylla defies societal norms to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer.

“Photograph 51,” on the other hand, is set in 1950s London and explores the story of Rosalind Franklin, a female scientist working on DNA research. The play dives into Franklin’s crucial role in unraveling the structure of DNA, as well as the challenges she faced as a woman in the male-dominated scientific field. Photograph 51 offers a glimpse into the gender inequalities and power dynamics that Franklin had to navigate in pursuit of scientific discovery.

The plot summaries of My Brilliant Career and Photograph 51 lay the foundation for analyzing the key themes explored in the texts. Some notable themes in My Brilliant Career include the struggle for female independence and self-expression, the clash between societal expectations and personal desires, and the limitations imposed on women by patriarchal norms. Photograph 51 delves into themes of scientific ethics, gender discrimination, the pursuit of knowledge, and the sacrifices made in the name of scientific progress.

By understanding the plot summaries and exploring the key themes, readers can delve deeper into the texts and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the social, cultural, and personal aspects depicted in My Brilliant Career and Photograph 51 . This knowledge will serve as a solid foundation for analyzing and comparing the texts in a comparative essay, enabling writers to present insightful and nuanced perspectives.

In conclusion , writing comparative essays effectively requires a thorough understanding of the historical contexts, plot summaries, and themes of the texts being compared. By carefully analyzing and comparing these elements, we can gain valuable insights into the similarities and differences between the texts, and effectively convey our analysis to our readers.

Throughout this guide, we have explored various techniques and insights to help us excel in the composition of comparative essays. By following these strategies, we can unlock the full potential of our analysis and comparison of literary texts.

Remember, a well-structured comparative essay should include a clear introduction, body paragraphs that analyze and compare key elements of the texts, and a comprehensive conclusion that summarizes our findings. By adhering to this structure, we can present our analysis in a logical and cohesive manner.

What is the structure of a comparative essay?

A comparative essay should have a clear and familiar structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion .

Why is understanding the historical context important in a comparative essay?

Understanding the historical contexts of the texts being compared provides a proper understanding of the language and concepts, and enhances the analysis and comparison.

What were the historical contexts of 1950s London and 19th-century rural Australia?

Life in 1950s London was marked by the aftermath of World War II, economic struggles, and the social challenges faced by women and minorities. In Australia, the late 19th century was characterized by drought, economic hardships, and limited opportunities for women.

What are the plot summaries of the texts “My Brilliant Career” and “Photograph 51”?

“My Brilliant Career” is set in the late 19th century in rural New South Wales and follows the life of Sybylla Melvyn as she navigates family, societal expectations, and her own aspirations. “Photograph 51” is set in 1950s London and explores the story of Rosalind Franklin, a female scientist working on DNA research.

How can analyzing and comparing historical contexts and plot summaries enhance a comparative essay?

Analyzing and comparing these elements provides valuable insights into the themes, motifs, and key ideas explored in the texts, contributing to a more comprehensive and effective comparative analysis.

Source Links

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  • https://www.myperfectpaper.net/blog/compare-and-contrast-essay

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Writing Resources

Comparative essays.

This handout is available for download in DOCX format and PDF format .

What is a comparative essay?

A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (or possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare

  • positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
  • theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
  • figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
  • texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth )
  • events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008-9)

Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.

Make sure you know the basis for comparison

The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself.

  • Provided by the essay question: The essay question may ask that you consider the figure of the gentleman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall . The basis for comparison will be the figure of the gentleman.
  • Developed by you: The question may simply ask that you compare the two novels. If so, you will need to develop a basis for comparison, that is, a theme, concern, or device common to both works from which you can draw similarities and differences.

Develop a list of similarities and differences

Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them. For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations , being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall , being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity. Your list is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan.

Develop a thesis based on the relative weight of similarities and differences

Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences and will argue that one of them (either the similarities or the differences) outweighs the other.

Come up with a structure for your essay

Alternating method: point-by-point pattern.

In the alternating method, you find points common to your central subjects A and B, and alternate between A and B on the basis of these points (ABABAB …). For instance, a comparative essay on the French and Russian revolutions might examine how both revolutions either encouraged or thwarted innovation in terms of new technology (body paragraphs 1 and 2), military strategy (body paragraphs 3 and 4), and the administrative system (body paragraphs 5 and 6).

Two notes about the alternating method:

  • The two entities may be dissimilar in the themes you identify. To use this method, they need not be similar; you just need to have something to say about both A and B in each area.
  • You may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you develop in the body of your essay.

When do I use the alternating method?

The alternating method generally does a better job of highlighting similarities and differences between A and B. It also tends to produce a more tightly integrated and analytical paper. Consider the alternating method if you are able to identify clearly related points between A and B. Otherwise, if you attempt to impose the alternating method, you will probably find it counterproductive.

Block method: Subject-by-subject pattern

In the block method (AB), you discuss all of A, then all of B. For example, a comparative essay using the block method on the French and Russian revolutions would address the French Revolution in the first half of the essay and the Russian Revolution in the second half. If you choose the block method, however, make sure they are connected! The B block should refer to the A block and make clear points of comparison whenever comparisons are relevant: (“Unlike A, B . . .” or “Like A, B . . .”). This technique will allow for a higher level of critical engagement, continuity, and cohesion.

When do I use the block method?

The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:

  • You are unable to find points about A and B that are closely related to each other.
  • Your ideas about B build upon or extend your ideas about A.
  • You are comparing three or more subjects as opposed to the traditional two.

Adapted from the University of Toronto, https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/types-of-writing/comparative-essay/, 2020.

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4.1: Introduction to Comparison and Contrast Essay

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The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. Comparison and contrast is simply telling how two things are alike or different. The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both. The thesis should focus on comparing, contrasting, or both.

Key Elements of the Compare and Contrast:

  • A compare-and-contrast essay analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
  • The purpose of writing a comparison or contrast essay is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two subjects.
  • The thesis should clearly state the subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and it should state what is to be learned from doing so.
  • Organize by the subjects themselves, one then the other.
  • Organize by individual points, in which you discuss each subject in relation to each point.
  • Use phrases of comparison or phrases of contrast to signal to readers how exactly the two subjects are being analyzed.

Objectives: By the end of this unit, you will be able to

  • Identify compare & contrast relationships in model essays
  • Construct clearly formulated thesis statements that show compare & contrast relationships
  • Use pre-writing techniques to brainstorm and organize ideas showing a comparison and/or contrast
  • Construct an outline for a five-paragraph compare & contrast essay
  • Write a five-paragraph compare & contrast essay
  • Use a variety of vocabulary and language structures that express compare & contrast essay relationships

Example Thesis: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.

Graphic Showing Organization for Comparison Contrast Essay

Sample Paragraph:

Organic grown tomatoes purchased at the farmers’ market are very different from tomatoes that are grown conventionally. To begin with, although tomatoes from both sources will mostly be red, the tomatoes at the farmers’ market are a brighter red than those at a grocery store. That doesn’t mean they are shinier—in fact, grocery store tomatoes are often shinier since they have been waxed. You are likely to see great size variation in tomatoes at the farmers’ market, with tomatoes ranging from only a couple of inches across to eight inches across. By contrast, the tomatoes in a grocery store will be fairly uniform in size. All the visual differences are interesting, but the most important difference is the taste. The farmers’ market tomatoes will be bursting with flavor from ripening on the vine in their own time. However, the grocery store tomatoes are often close to being flavorless. In conclusion, the differences in organic and conventionally grown tomatoes are obvious in color, size and taste.

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  • Comparative Analysis

What It Is and Why It's Useful

Comparative analysis asks writers to make an argument about the relationship between two or more texts. Beyond that, there's a lot of variation, but three overarching kinds of comparative analysis stand out:

  • Coordinate (A ↔ B): In this kind of analysis, two (or more) texts are being read against each other in terms of a shared element, e.g., a memoir and a novel, both by Jesmyn Ward; two sets of data for the same experiment; a few op-ed responses to the same event; two YA books written in Chicago in the 2000s; a film adaption of a play; etc. 
  • Subordinate (A  → B) or (B → A ): Using a theoretical text (as a "lens") to explain a case study or work of art (e.g., how Anthony Jack's The Privileged Poor can help explain divergent experiences among students at elite four-year private colleges who are coming from similar socio-economic backgrounds) or using a work of art or case study (i.e., as a "test" of) a theory's usefulness or limitations (e.g., using coverage of recent incidents of gun violence or legislation un the U.S. to confirm or question the currency of Carol Anderson's The Second ).
  • Hybrid [A  → (B ↔ C)] or [(B ↔ C) → A] , i.e., using coordinate and subordinate analysis together. For example, using Jack to compare or contrast the experiences of students at elite four-year institutions with students at state universities and/or community colleges; or looking at gun culture in other countries and/or other timeframes to contextualize or generalize Anderson's main points about the role of the Second Amendment in U.S. history.

"In the wild," these three kinds of comparative analysis represent increasingly complex—and scholarly—modes of comparison. Students can of course compare two poems in terms of imagery or two data sets in terms of methods, but in each case the analysis will eventually be richer if the students have had a chance to encounter other people's ideas about how imagery or methods work. At that point, we're getting into a hybrid kind of reading (or even into research essays), especially if we start introducing different approaches to imagery or methods that are themselves being compared along with a couple (or few) poems or data sets.

Why It's Useful

In the context of a particular course, each kind of comparative analysis has its place and can be a useful step up from single-source analysis. Intellectually, comparative analysis helps overcome the "n of 1" problem that can face single-source analysis. That is, a writer drawing broad conclusions about the influence of the Iranian New Wave based on one film is relying entirely—and almost certainly too much—on that film to support those findings. In the context of even just one more film, though, the analysis is suddenly more likely to arrive at one of the best features of any comparative approach: both films will be more richly experienced than they would have been in isolation, and the themes or questions in terms of which they're being explored (here the general question of the influence of the Iranian New Wave) will arrive at conclusions that are less at-risk of oversimplification.

For scholars working in comparative fields or through comparative approaches, these features of comparative analysis animate their work. To borrow from a stock example in Western epistemology, our concept of "green" isn't based on a single encounter with something we intuit or are told is "green." Not at all. Our concept of "green" is derived from a complex set of experiences of what others say is green or what's labeled green or what seems to be something that's neither blue nor yellow but kind of both, etc. Comparative analysis essays offer us the chance to engage with that process—even if only enough to help us see where a more in-depth exploration with a higher and/or more diverse "n" might lead—and in that sense, from the standpoint of the subject matter students are exploring through writing as well the complexity of the genre of writing they're using to explore it—comparative analysis forms a bridge of sorts between single-source analysis and research essays.

Typical learning objectives for single-sources essays: formulate analytical questions and an arguable thesis, establish stakes of an argument, summarize sources accurately, choose evidence effectively, analyze evidence effectively, define key terms, organize argument logically, acknowledge and respond to counterargument, cite sources properly, and present ideas in clear prose.

Common types of comparative analysis essays and related types: two works in the same genre, two works from the same period (but in different places or in different cultures), a work adapted into a different genre or medium, two theories treating the same topic; a theory and a case study or other object, etc.

How to Teach It: Framing + Practice

Framing multi-source writing assignments (comparative analysis, research essays, multi-modal projects) is likely to overlap a great deal with "Why It's Useful" (see above), because the range of reasons why we might use these kinds of writing in academic or non-academic settings is itself the reason why they so often appear later in courses. In many courses, they're the best vehicles for exploring the complex questions that arise once we've been introduced to the course's main themes, core content, leading protagonists, and central debates.

For comparative analysis in particular, it's helpful to frame assignment's process and how it will help students successfully navigate the challenges and pitfalls presented by the genre. Ideally, this will mean students have time to identify what each text seems to be doing, take note of apparent points of connection between different texts, and start to imagine how those points of connection (or the absence thereof)

  • complicates or upends their own expectations or assumptions about the texts
  • complicates or refutes the expectations or assumptions about the texts presented by a scholar
  • confirms and/or nuances expectations and assumptions they themselves hold or scholars have presented
  • presents entirely unforeseen ways of understanding the texts

—and all with implications for the texts themselves or for the axes along which the comparative analysis took place. If students know that this is where their ideas will be heading, they'll be ready to develop those ideas and engage with the challenges that comparative analysis presents in terms of structure (See "Tips" and "Common Pitfalls" below for more on these elements of framing).

Like single-source analyses, comparative essays have several moving parts, and giving students practice here means adapting the sample sequence laid out at the " Formative Writing Assignments " page. Three areas that have already been mentioned above are worth noting:

  • Gathering evidence : Depending on what your assignment is asking students to compare (or in terms of what), students will benefit greatly from structured opportunities to create inventories or data sets of the motifs, examples, trajectories, etc., shared (or not shared) by the texts they'll be comparing. See the sample exercises below for a basic example of what this might look like.
  • Why it Matters: Moving beyond "x is like y but also different" or even "x is more like y than we might think at first" is what moves an essay from being "compare/contrast" to being a comparative analysis . It's also a move that can be hard to make and that will often evolve over the course of an assignment. A great way to get feedback from students about where they're at on this front? Ask them to start considering early on why their argument "matters" to different kinds of imagined audiences (while they're just gathering evidence) and again as they develop their thesis and again as they're drafting their essays. ( Cover letters , for example, are a great place to ask writers to imagine how a reader might be affected by reading an their argument.)
  • Structure: Having two texts on stage at the same time can suddenly feel a lot more complicated for any writer who's used to having just one at a time. Giving students a sense of what the most common patterns (AAA / BBB, ABABAB, etc.) are likely to be can help them imagine, even if provisionally, how their argument might unfold over a series of pages. See "Tips" and "Common Pitfalls" below for more information on this front.

Sample Exercises and Links to Other Resources

  • Common Pitfalls
  • Advice on Timing
  • Try to keep students from thinking of a proposed thesis as a commitment. Instead, help them see it as more of a hypothesis that has emerged out of readings and discussion and analytical questions and that they'll now test through an experiment, namely, writing their essay. When students see writing as part of the process of inquiry—rather than just the result—and when that process is committed to acknowledging and adapting itself to evidence, it makes writing assignments more scientific, more ethical, and more authentic. 
  • Have students create an inventory of touch points between the two texts early in the process.
  • Ask students to make the case—early on and at points throughout the process—for the significance of the claim they're making about the relationship between the texts they're comparing.
  • For coordinate kinds of comparative analysis, a common pitfall is tied to thesis and evidence. Basically, it's a thesis that tells the reader that there are "similarities and differences" between two texts, without telling the reader why it matters that these two texts have or don't have these particular features in common. This kind of thesis is stuck at the level of description or positivism, and it's not uncommon when a writer is grappling with the complexity that can in fact accompany the "taking inventory" stage of comparative analysis. The solution is to make the "taking inventory" stage part of the process of the assignment. When this stage comes before students have formulated a thesis, that formulation is then able to emerge out of a comparative data set, rather than the data set emerging in terms of their thesis (which can lead to confirmation bias, or frequency illusion, or—just for the sake of streamlining the process of gathering evidence—cherry picking). 
  • For subordinate kinds of comparative analysis , a common pitfall is tied to how much weight is given to each source. Having students apply a theory (in a "lens" essay) or weigh the pros and cons of a theory against case studies (in a "test a theory") essay can be a great way to help them explore the assumptions, implications, and real-world usefulness of theoretical approaches. The pitfall of these approaches is that they can quickly lead to the same biases we saw here above. Making sure that students know they should engage with counterevidence and counterargument, and that "lens" / "test a theory" approaches often balance each other out in any real-world application of theory is a good way to get out in front of this pitfall.
  • For any kind of comparative analysis, a common pitfall is structure. Every comparative analysis asks writers to move back and forth between texts, and that can pose a number of challenges, including: what pattern the back and forth should follow and how to use transitions and other signposting to make sure readers can follow the overarching argument as the back and forth is taking place. Here's some advice from an experienced writing instructor to students about how to think about these considerations:

a quick note on STRUCTURE

     Most of us have encountered the question of whether to adopt what we might term the “A→A→A→B→B→B” structure or the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure.  Do we make all of our points about text A before moving on to text B?  Or do we go back and forth between A and B as the essay proceeds?  As always, the answers to our questions about structure depend on our goals in the essay as a whole.  In a “similarities in spite of differences” essay, for instance, readers will need to encounter the differences between A and B before we offer them the similarities (A d →B d →A s →B s ).  If, rather than subordinating differences to similarities you are subordinating text A to text B (using A as a point of comparison that reveals B’s originality, say), you may be well served by the “A→A→A→B→B→B” structure.  

     Ultimately, you need to ask yourself how many “A→B” moves you have in you.  Is each one identical?  If so, you may wish to make the transition from A to B only once (“A→A→A→B→B→B”), because if each “A→B” move is identical, the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure will appear to involve nothing more than directionless oscillation and repetition.  If each is increasingly complex, however—if each AB pair yields a new and progressively more complex idea about your subject—you may be well served by the “A→B→A→B→A→B” structure, because in this case it will be visible to readers as a progressively developing argument.

As we discussed in "Advice on Timing" at the page on single-source analysis, that timeline itself roughly follows the "Sample Sequence of Formative Assignments for a 'Typical' Essay" outlined under " Formative Writing Assignments, " and it spans about 5–6 steps or 2–4 weeks. 

Comparative analysis assignments have a lot of the same DNA as single-source essays, but they potentially bring more reading into play and ask students to engage in more complicated acts of analysis and synthesis during the drafting stages. With that in mind, closer to 4 weeks is probably a good baseline for many single-source analysis assignments. For sections that meet once per week, the timeline will either probably need to expand—ideally—a little past the 4-week side of things, or some of the steps will need to be combined or done asynchronously.

What It Can Build Up To

Comparative analyses can build up to other kinds of writing in a number of ways. For example:

  • They can build toward other kinds of comparative analysis, e.g., student can be asked to choose an additional source to complicate their conclusions from a previous analysis, or they can be asked to revisit an analysis using a different axis of comparison, such as race instead of class. (These approaches are akin to moving from a coordinate or subordinate analysis to more of a hybrid approach.)
  • They can scaffold up to research essays, which in many instances are an extension of a "hybrid comparative analysis."
  • Like single-source analysis, in a course where students will take a "deep dive" into a source or topic for their capstone, they can allow students to "try on" a theoretical approach or genre or time period to see if it's indeed something they want to research more fully.
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How to write a comparative essay

A step-by-step guide with instructions, outlines, and samples

Writing a great comparative essay means highlighting the similarities and differences between two things in a systematic manner. Start by choosing the parameters (items) to compare, write an outline, and fill in the details for each section. Make sure to have an introduction and conclusion.

The comparative essay is one form of document that you will probably be expected to write at some point over the course of your college career. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a thorough overview of the comparative essay. Specific things that will be addressed include:

Purpose of the comparative essay

Explanation of comparative models, how to analyze subjects, elements of a good comparative essay, how to write a great comparative essay.

  • Samples/examples
  • Best practices and advice
  • Additional information

By the end of this article, you should feel more confident about your own knowledge of what a comparative essay is and the best ways to go about writing one (if you haven't decided to buy a comparative essay from Ultius ).

How to write a comparative essay

The fundamental purpose of a comparative essay is to elaborate the similarities and differences between two things in a systematic manner.

An effective comparative essay will leave the reader with much greater clarity about the natures and properties of the things that have been compared.

This could potentially serve as a basis for making a decision in favor of one or the other thing.

A comparative essay is different from, for example, an argumentative essay in that the comparative essay does not make a case for either of the two things under comparison. Rather, the point is to simply set up the comparison so that the reader will have as much information about the two things as possible.

Why are comparative essays important?

The comparative essay is an important form of document because when you have to make a decision or choose a side in an argument, you will want to know as much as possible about the two options under consideration—and a good comparative essay on the subject can bring out both the similarities and the differences between the options, thereby clarifying the stakes at play.

For example, a comparative essay could address the similarities and differences between any of the following pairs:

  • The Republican Party and the Democratic Party
  • Christianity and Marxism
  • The Big Bang and creationism
  • The Light or Dark side of the Force from Star Wars
  • The revolutionary and the reformist perspectives on social change

By developing a comparative essay on any of these pairs, you can not only understand each item of under comparison is a more thorough way, you can also get closer to figuring out which item you prefer.

For example, a solid comparative essay on revolution vs. reformism could not only help you understand what each of these items entails, it can also help you figure out whether you would rather be a revolutionary or a reformist. Likewise, if you only have time to binge watch one show, then a comparative essay could help you figure out whether you would prefer to go with Game of Thrones or Westworld .

When writing a comparative essay, there are several models you can use in order to ensure that you set up your comparison as effectively as possible.

Venn diagram

The Venn diagram is a classic, and surely, you're familiar with it. This is the model of two overlapping circles, where each circle belongs to one item of comparison: features shared by both items (similarities) go in the overlapping middle zone, whereas features that are not shared go in the outer areas. For example, here is a Venn diagram that compares humans against gorillas.

Venn diagram comparing humans and gorillas.

When using the Venn diagram model, it is important to note that the differences must be symmetrical. In other words, every difference you list on one side of the comparison must be matched by a difference on the other side.

For example, if you were comparing Apple and Amazon, then for the parameter of "founder," you can list "Steve Jobs" in one circle and "Jeff Bezos" in the other. But it wouldn't make sense if you just listed one or the other: you must list something for each of the items of comparisons under the selected parameter of comparison.

In the Venn diagram above, the first parameter is "language," so for humans it is listed that we have a capacity of language, whereas for gorillas it is listed that they do not.

You don't need to worry about this kind of symmetry when it comes to the similarities, since you will list the same thing for both items of comparison (which means you only have to list it once, in the overlapping zone). In the example, above, the fact that both humans and gorillas are mammals is thus listed just once in the middle.

The dialectical method

The dialectical method is important within the discipline of philosophy, and it has been used to great effect by thinkers such as Socrates and Hegel and Kierkegaard.

This involves holding two ideas or items in tension with each other, to better clarify not only the ideas themselves but also the dynamic relationship that exist between the ideas. The first idea is called the thesis , and the second idea is called the antithesis .

For example, Romanticism could be dialectically compared against the Enlightenment that came before it, because Romanticism was in some ways a rejection of the previous worldview.

Need help?  Essay writing services from Ultius can help you produce a great sample compare and contrast essay.

So, by setting up a comparison between Romanticism and the Enlightenment, it becomes possible to see both the continuities (or similarities) between the one and the other, as well as the contradictions (or differences) between them.

Berlin, Isaiah. The Roots of Romanticism . Princeton: Princeton U P, 2013. Print.

From the table above, it is clear that we are able to understand both Romanticism and the Enlightenment better if we set them up in terms of dialectical contrast.

Clearly, they are different in some important ways (logic vs. passion, for example), but we can also see that they are in continuity with each other (both happened in Western Europe and responded to previous developments). This comparison also leads one to wonder about whether it would be possible to make a synthesis that takes the best from both the thesis and the antithesis

A good comparative essay can lead one to ask such questions and pursue such lines of inquiry.

To analyze your subjects for a comparative essay, you need to identify clear parameters, or axes, in terms of which your two selected items can be compared. For example, in the table above, Romanticism and the Enlightenment were compared along the axis of " epistemology ". But that axis won't be relevant to all subjects.

Your job when preparing to write a comparative essay is to identify the specific axes that are relevant for the items that you are comparing. Why is the comparison interesting, and what insights are you trying produce? The answers to those questions will determine how you decide to frame your comparison.

For example, we could compare the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) against the Democratic Party in terms of the axis of membership. This would reveal that the DSA has far fewer registered members than does the Democratic Party.

We could also compare them on the axis of healthcare policy, where it may be found that the DSA and the Democratic Party agree about the importance of universal coverage. When we look at the axis of economics, though, we may find that the DSA is much more radical in its proposals than the Democratic Party.

The problem of identifying relevance

In principle, any one thing in the world could be compared with any other thing in the world. For example, you could compare your shoe with the moon, and conclude that one similarity is that they both exist within the Milky Way galaxy.

But this would be a meaningless point (even if it may make for some interesting poetry). It is important for you to figure out what exactly you are trying to determine through your comparative essay. What is your purpose for writing it?

This will help you choose two items where setting up a dialectical contrast between them will produce actual insight, and it will also help you to choose the proper parameters by which to compare those items.

For example, suppose that you are running a business, and there are two expansion options open in front of you. It would be logical for you to compare and contrast these options, since this will help ensure that you are making your decision with as much knowledge and insight as possible.

Business associates meeting around a laptop.

Likewise, one parameter that you are sure to consider is: which option will make your business the most money? If you pick parameters that are meaningless, then you will obtain no real insight that can help you make the important decision.

Using a rubric

Once you have identified both the two items of comparison and the axes along which they will be compared, you can proceed to analyze the items by applying the axes in the form of a table or rubric.

This is what has been done, for example, in the tables that have been developed above in this article. In the left-most column, list the parameters you have selected in order to compare your items. Then, in the top-most row, list the items.

Then go ahead and list the relevant details for each parameter for each of the two items. This will produce a table where you can see how each item measures up against the other for each parameter.

The important thing is to be systematic when you are making your comparison: it should not seem random or arbitrary. Thus, it is important to carefully select both the items and the parameters for comparison, and then to proceed to address each item/parameter combo in turn.

There are several elements that are a part of any good comparative essay.

Effective selection of items

A strong comparative essay has well-chosen items for comparison, with the comparison producing actual insights of value through the juxtaposition of the two items. If the items appear to be chosen for no apparent reason, or if the comparison does not in fact produce insight, then the comparative essay would be quite weak (or at any rate pointless).

The comparative essay is not meant to make an argument in favor of one thing or another, but it is meant to produce knowledge and insight about the two things under comparison. In order to compare and contrast items in an effective way, the two items must be different enough from each other, but they should also not be so different that it just feels absurd to even compare them at all.

Effective selection of parameters of comparison

A good comparative essay not only includes well-selected items of comparison, it also includes well-selected parameters of comparison. Between any two selected items, you could theoretically make an endless number of comparisons.

But a good comparative essay identifies parameters of comparative in terms of salience , or the reasons why anyone would be interested in the comparison in the first place. This can be difficult, because in principle, any comparison could be interesting, depending on the audience of the comparative essay and the intended purpose of the essay.

Twelve sided die displaying the zodiac

For example, one could use the parameter of zodiac sign to compare Romantic artists against Enlightenment artists.

This could be very interesting to people who are very serious about the zodiac, but it would probably seem ridiculous to just about everyone else.

But if you were writing for an audience of zodiac fanatics, then this comparison could actually be a success.

So, there is no parameter of comparison that is "inherently" bad. Rather, the point is to find parameters that highlight specific salient aspects of the selected items.

For example, when comparing Romanticism against the Enlightenment, core values would be a solid parameter of comparison, because that will surely help produce insights about how worldviews changed from the one paradigm to another.

Strong organizational structure

If you want your comparative essay to be a success, then it absolutely must have strong organizational structure . This is because an effective comparison must be easy for your reader to follow. It can't just jump all over the place at random, which not only be confusing but could also result in the reader forgetting what the point of the comparison was in the first place.

In general, there are two ways in which you can organize your comparative essay. In the first format, each of the parameters would be considered in the section for similarities and the section for differences.

In the first format the comparative essay is organized in terms of similarities and differences, whereas in the second format the essay is organized in terms of parameters of comparison.

One version of the comparative essay compares the similarities and differences between subjects

In the second format, both similarities and differences would be considered within each of the parameter sections.

The second version of the comparative essay compares the parameters of both the similarities and differences

Both these are formats are good, and a strong comparative essay could be built around either one.

The important thing is to have a clear system and to not make your comparisons random.

There needs to be an organizational structure that your reader can easily follow.

There are steps you can follow in order to ensure that your comparative essay has all the elements that will be required in order to make it great.

Ask yourself about your intention

If you have selected two items for your comparative essay, then you should start by asking yourself why you selected those two items. What is it about the two items that made you think it would be a good idea to compare them? (Or if you were assigned the two items, then why do you think those items were selected by your professor?)

The point here is that the items selected for a comparative essay are non-random. They are selected because that specific comparison should be able to yield interesting insights (unlike research papers ).

For example, if you are writing a comparative essay on the dogs vs. cats, then are you writing this from the perspective of evolutionary biology? Or are you perhaps writing it in order to inform potential pet owners who are debating whether they want a dog or a cat?

The purpose of your essay will determine what parameters you will select in order to compare your two items. This means that you should have an intended audience in mind, and you should also have specific questions you would like to know more about.

In short, in order to develop effective parameters for your comparative essay, you have to ask yourself why you are writing it and who would be interested in the insights produced by the essay. This can help ensure you select both appropriate items and appropriate parameters for comparison.

Develop a structural outline

It is very important that you do not just jump into your comparative essay and start writing it without a plan. That is a recipe for disaster, and the comparisons will almost certainly turn out random and confusing. Rather, you should begin with a solid outline .

A good outline will do three main things:

  • 1. Identify the selected items of comparison in the introduction/thesis
  • 2. Utilize one of the two organizational formats described above
  • 3. Provide a roadmap for how you intend to systematically follow through on the comparison

For example, here is how an outline could look for a comparative essay on Romanticism vs. the Enlightenment.

Sample outline of a comparative essay about Romanticism and the Enlightenment

In this sample outline, the format that is used dedicates a paragraph to each of three parameters of comparison, and both similarities and differences are addressed for each of those parameters.

This is the kind of logical flow that you will need to have in order for your comparative essay to turn out great.

Write in a systematic way

A comparative essay is not a place to get too creative with your writing, whether in terms of organization or in terms of style.

Rather, you should focus on simply carrying out your comparison, point-by-point and in a way that is easy for your reader to follow. This can get a little tedious, so if that is a problem for you, then you should make sure that you set aside enough time to work on your comparative essay little by little.

For example, if your essay has three parameters, then you could write a section on the first parameter today, the second parameter tomorrow, and the third parameter the next day.

The important thing is for you to ensure that you consider each of your two selected items in terms of each of your selected parameters. This needs to be done in a smooth and logical manner, such that your reader knows where you are in the comparison. There should be no jumping around, and there should be no departure from the basic format or structure.

Example comparative (compare/contrast) essay

Best practices/tips.

We have now arrived at the end of this guide, and you should have a much better idea of what makes a comparative essay successful and how you can go about writing one. It may be helpful to now summarize some of the main points that have been addressed here.

Let's address five main points.

1. Ensure that you select appropriate items for comparison

The two items that will be compared in your comparative essay should be carefully selected. The items should have some shared features and be in the same "class" of items, but they should also have substantial differences to which you are trying to call attention. If the items are too similar, then there would be no point in the comparison, but if they are too different, that can also make the comparison meaningless.

2. Select effective parameters of comparison

Your comparative essay shouldn't compare anything and everything between your two items; rather, the parameters should be specifically selected to highlight specific, salient similarities and differences. In order to determine what parameters would be effective, you have to ask yourself why you are writing your comparative essay and what sort of insights you intend to produce about the items being compared.

3. Use tools and models in an effective way

The Venn diagram is one tool that can be very helpful in conceptualizing your comparative essay, especially if you are a more visual kind of learner. Tables, rubrics, and outlines will also work to help ensure that you are developing a strong backbone of logic and systematic reasoning for your comparative essay. These and other tools may even help you reconsider your initial choices of items and parameters, if you realize that significant insights are not being produced.

4. Choose an organizational format, and stick with it

There are two main ways in which to structure an effective comparative essay, which have been described above. You can dedicate one section to similarities and one section to differences; or, you can dedicate a section to each of the parameters of comparison. This second option is usually more effective, especially if you are new to comparative essays. But either way, it is crucial that you stick to your chosen format and do not jump around and confuse the reader.

5. Seek assistance if you need it

If you are still uncertain about how to write a successful comparative essay, then Ultius is here to help. Our writer help section has many tools like this one available on various types of essays; we have a huge writer help section that contains all sorts of information on pretty much any writing-related questions you may have; and we also have elite professional writers who can produce a sample comparative essay for you on any subject of your choosing. We are here for you, and if you have any further questions about how to write a comparative essay, then you should feel free to reach out.

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How to write comparative essay

How to write comparative essay

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A comparative analysis essay is a distinctive form of academic writing that invites you to explore and evaluate the relationships between two or more subjects, highlighting both their similarities and differences. Crafting such an essay can be both challenging and rewarding, as it demands critical thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to construct a well-structured argument. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the step-by-step process of composing an effective comparative analysis essay, focusing on answering the crucial question: "How to write a comparative analysis essay?"

Step 1: Understanding the Comparative Analysis Essay Question

Before you begin writing, it's essential to grasp the nuances of the comparative analysis essay question you are tasked with. This question serves as the guiding principle for your entire essay. It will typically ask you to compare and contrast specific aspects of the subjects under examination. Some common prompts might include:

  • "Compare and contrast the themes of two novels you have studied."
  • "Examine the differences and similarities in the historical contexts of two events."
  • "Compare the character development in two different Shakespearean plays."

Step 2: Determine the Basis for Comparison

The key to answering the comparative analysis essay question effectively is to identify the basis for comparison. This step involves selecting the specific aspects or criteria you will use to evaluate the subjects. For instance, if you are comparing two novels, your basis for comparison might include themes, characters, narrative structure, or symbolism.

Step 3: Become Familiar with the Source Materials

In-depth familiarity with the source materials is essential for writing a successful comparative analysis essay. Take the time to thoroughly read, watch, or research the subjects you are comparing. This will enable you to provide a comprehensive analysis and draw insightful conclusions.

Step 4: Choose an Appropriate Structure

The structure you choose for your comparative analysis essay plays a pivotal role in how you present your arguments. The three common structural approaches are:

a. Block Structure: Dedicate separate sections to each subject, discussing their similarities and differences separately.

b. Alternating Structure: Alternate between discussing the subjects' similarities and differences in each paragraph.

c. Woven Structure: Seamlessly weave together comparisons and contrasts throughout your essay.

Step 5: Prepare an Outline

Creating a well-organized outline is a crucial step in the writing process. An outline helps you structure your thoughts, ensuring a logical flow of ideas and a coherent argument that directly addresses the comparative analysis essay question.

Step 6: Write an Introduction with a Thesis Statement

Your introduction should provide context for your essay and include a clear thesis statement. The thesis statement should directly respond to the comparative analysis essay question and outline the key aspects you will explore.

Step 7: Develop the Body of Your Essay

The body of your essay is where you present your comparisons and contrasts based on the chosen structure. Utilize evidence from your source materials to support your arguments, keeping a balanced and fair evaluation.

Step 8: Write a Conclusion Summarizing Your Main Points

In your conclusion, reiterate the central similarities and differences discussed throughout the essay. Restate your thesis statement and offer a final insight or reflection related to the comparative analysis essay question. Avoid introducing new information in the conclusion.


Answering the question "how to write a comparative analysis essay" necessitates a methodical approach that involves understanding the essay question, determining the basis for comparison, immersing yourself in the source materials, selecting an appropriate structure, outlining your essay, crafting a well-structured introduction and body, and summarizing your key points in the conclusion. By adhering to these steps, you can confidently address the comparative analysis essay question and create an engaging essay that effectively communicates your analysis and insights, achieving a deeper understanding of the subjects under examination.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a comparative essay? Answer: A comparative essay is an academic writing form that requires comparing and contrasting two or more subjects or ideas.
  • How do I choose a topic for a comparative essay? Answer: The topic choice depends on your interests and objectives. You can select topics with similar or contrasting characteristics to explore.
  • What structure works best for a comparative essay? Answer: There are several structures, such as block, alternating, and woven. The choice depends on your topic and how you want to organize your argument.
  • How do I write an introduction for a comparative essay? Answer: The introduction should provide context and a clear thesis statement, indicating your main comparisons and contrasts.
  • How do I conclude a comparative essay? Answer: In the conclusion, recap the main points of comparison, restate your thesis, and offer final thoughts on your comparative analysis.

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How to Write a Comparison Essay From Start to Finish

Ah, how well I remember the panicked days of frantically googling  “How to write a comparison essay?” and "what is a comparative essay"??" and even in my darkest moments, “what is an essay????”

Also called a comparative essay or a contrast essay , this type of essay is a kind of academic writing where you, the author, analyze any similarity or difference between two subjects. 

These can be ideas, people, events, books, concepts, or other pretty much anything. The main point purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to shed light on the subjects and provide clarity on their relative characteristics.

Usually, you get assigned these as a student, or as a college essay assignment. But sometimes you have a professional writing reason to write them: perhaps writing research paper, maybe as a reviewer or a critic, or if you're a journalist or an academic. It's also a common essay prompt in exams. 

They are actually one of my favorite types of essay writing because they involve a lot of research and giving opinions– which I adore doing.

Let's dive into exactly how to write one of these essays, step by step. For the sake of illustration, I'll be using the essay topic of contrasting and comparing my two cats, Astrid and Chumbo, as an example. 

writing a comparative essay

How sweet are these two!

Step Zero: Laying the groundwork: Pick two topics

(You can skip this if you already have topics selected.)

Part of the fun of any good research paper is selecting what you're going to compare and contrast. These are your main two goals:

Stay on target 

Make sure you're not trying to compare apples to oranges. 

The subjects you choose to compare should be relevant to the context or purpose of your essay. If you're writing for a literature class, pick two novels, or two characters. If you're in biology class, pick two separate evolutionary theories or two famous researchers. 

Your subjects don't have to be identical, but they should have enough in common to warrant a comparison – hence the essay. For instance, comparing two different genres of music can be insightful, but comparing music to a type of food might be too disparate unless you have a very specific and unique angle in mind.

Tip: I find it useful to outline my essay before I start my writing process, just to make sure I'll have enough to compare and contrast on. If you're hesitating, go ahead and follow the steps in an essay outline format, rather than writing the whole thing.

If you're really struggling, you can use a Venn diagram to visually understand the difference and similarities between your topics before writing anything. 

Step One: Begin at the beginning

Every essay needs an introduction, and a compare and contrast essay is no different. Your comparative essay introduction should include:

An introduction of each topic. Briefly explain to your reader what each topic is. 

A thesis statement . This is where you'll spoil the ending and explain which of the two topics you prefer best, and why, or explain why you're comparing or contrasting the two topics. 

For example, my essay introduction could be something like:

“Since getting my two cats, Astrid and Chumbo, people have often asked me which my favorite is. Astrid is smaller, more cuddly, but also more anxious. Conversely, Chumbo is large and in charge – but not as affectionate.  In this essay, I'll compare and contrast the two cats.” 

The first sentence is my thesis statement, and the next statement shows a brief intro of each topic for my contrast essay.

Writing a good thesis statement

Your main goals: be clear, tell your readers what they should take away from all your research, and be the heart of your essay.

Here are some examples:

Both Darwin's theory of evolution and Lamarck's theory of evolution provide insights into the development of species, but they differ fundamentally in their explanations of trait inheritance.

While both '1984' by George Orwell and 'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley depict dystopian futures, they differ significantly in their portrayal of individual freedom and the means of societal control.

You can see that these are specific, direct, and let you build on these to draft your contrast essay to completion.

Step Two: Research time.

I remember when I first wrote my very first contrast essay. We were assigned to write a comparison between sea and tree octopodi.

Hilariously, if you google Tree Octopus, you do get a hit. But it's all fake information, created to help teach students not to rely on everything they read on Google (or ChatGPT, more probably in these days). 

For your important textual evidence – AKA the specific details, quotes, facts, or information from a text (like a book, article, or document) that you use to support the details in your essay – you want something a little more reliable. 

Where will you find the information you need for this contrast essay? Here are my three tips to stay sharp and make sure you're only writing based on real, trustworthy info:

Start with Scholarly Databases: Platforms like Google Scholar, JSTOR, or PubMed have loads of academic papers and articles. 

Use Libraries: Physical and online libraries have curated collections of books, journals, and more. Librarians are also an excellent resource to ask for help or direction.

Evaluate Online Sources: Not all online sources are created equal (as we've seen). Check the author's credentials, the publication date, and the reputation of the website or publication. 

Step Three: Pick your poison. 

Luckily for you, there are two pretty widely accepted methods of writing a comparative essay: the Block Method and the Point-by-Point Method. 

Block Method

With this method of writing, each of your two topics gets its own contrasting section, or block. You'll first write a sentence introducing your two topics, like, “In this essay, I will compare and contrast Astrid and Chumbo.” 

This is known as your topic sentence .

Then, dig into Topic A, detail by detail, each housed in a body paragraph. After that, you'll explore your second subject, by the same points, paragraph by paragraph. 

For example, my contrast essay could compare Astrid and Chumbo like this:

Topic A: Astrid.

Physical appearance: slender, long, orange and white fur, pink nose

Personality: nervous, goblin-like, cuddly

Likes and dislikes: Loves tuna, cuddles. Hates being alone, dogs.

Topic B: Chumbo

Physical appearance: chunky, floofy, big

Personality: friendly, clownish.

Likes and dislikes: Loves chicken, going outside. Hates rain.

You can see how I contrast the two topics by section.

By contrast, a point-by-point essay is structured by individual points, rather than topic. Each paragraph should cover one argument for both topics.

For example, in my hypothetical Astrid vs Chumbo compare and contrast essay, I might structure it like this: 

Item A: Physical appearance

Astrid: slender, long, orange and white fur, pink nose

Chumbo: chunky, floofy, big

Item B: Personality…

And so on for each point. This allows you to highlight each similarity and difference, even very subtle differences, to better effect.

When should you use each type of essay structure?

Each essay type has its place, though I prefer the PbP method almost always for an entire essay, and only use the Block Method if I'm including a section on differences inside a difference kind of essay, such as a reflective essay or a narrative essay. For lengthy essays, the PbP is clearest.

P-b-p method:

Use this one for deeper, more detailed essays where you don't want your reader losing track of where they are in a longer paragraph.

Here's a contrast essay example that uses this method on Netflix vs Hulu. 

Block method: 

By comparison, use this one when you want to compare things on a more casual level, or if you're only writing a short section to contrast two topics. 

Here's a contrast essay that uses the block method, looking at the difference between certain drugs.

Step Four: The comparison or contrast touches

One of the criterion of writing that distinguishes this essay from other kinds are the transitional words used throughout.

Here's a list of some of the best transition words to use:

Comparison Transition Words:

in comparison

in the same way


in a similar manner

"Astrid is a very loyal cat, in that she never leaves my side. Comparably , Chumbo is not as physically snuggly, but he will almost always be in the same room as me."

Contrast Transition Words :

in contrast

on the contrary

on the other hand

“In terms of size, Chumbo is a hefty 22.4 pounds, whereas Astrid is a daintier 12.3 pounds.”

Step Five: Bring it home.

Last but not least, you'll want to write a comparative essay conclusion repeating either your learned opinion on the better of the two, or explaining what the reader should take away.

Normally, writers find it easiest to simply reword their thesis statement, highlight some of the most compelling reasons why, and call it a day.  

“In conclusion, Astrid and Chumbo are both superb cats, each with their own merits. Astrid is snugglier and more affectionate, while Chumbo is the more handsome of the two, and has a goofier personality.” 

There should not be any new information in the conclusion. 

And you're done! You've written your essay like an absolute champ. Hand it in and congratulate yourself on a job very well done. 

FAQ Section

Still have questions? Here's the FAQ section.

How long should a comparison essay be?

As long as it needs to be! If you're in high school, it's probably on the shorter end - 300 to 500 words or so. If you're in college, it's probably closer to 1000-2000 words. If it's a professional assignment, you (or your boss) knows better than me.

Can I compare more than two topics in one essay?

Certainly. For the block method, just add another block, repeating the same items per block. For the PbP method, simply include the information on your third (or nth) topic per point.

What if I can't find enough similarities or differences?

Then that means you either haven't done enough research, or you didn't pick good topics. Go back to the drawing board, dig through some more papers or articles on the subject, and try again. 

writing a comparative essay

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  • A Research Guide
  • Writing Guide
  • Essay Writing

How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

  • What is comparative essay
  • Structure and outline
  • Tips how to start
  • Step-by-step guide
  • Comparative essay format
  • Comparative essay topics
  • Comparative essay example

What is a Comparative Essay?

How to write a comparison essay: structure and outline.

  • The topic sentence should introduce the reader to what the paragraph handles.
  • A discussion of the aspect is done in the middle of a paragraph.
  • The last part of the paragraph should carry a low-level conclusion about the aspect discussed in the paragraph.
  • The paragraph should present enough information, as too much or too less may render it meaningless.
  • Every paragraph should handle a single aspect, e.g., it is quite unreasonable to compare the size of one object to the color of another .

Tips on How to Start a Comparative Essay

Step-by-step writing guide to write a comparative analysis, step 1: identify the basis of the comparison..

  • For example, a question may ask you to compare capitalism and communism and write the arguments. This question has a clear objective; hence you don’t have to go the extra mile.
  • Another case may be to compare any two political ideologies. It is a general question, and you have to figure out the various political ideologies and then identify any two that you can compare. Such instances require the author to develop the basis of comparison by themselves and write it down.

Step 2: Develop the content of the essay.

Step 3: come up with a thesis., step 4: develop the comparative essay structure., step 5: write your compare essay..


Comparative Essay Format

Alternating method;.

  • Gives more details about the item in comparison, making it easy to handle two different points;
  • Produces a well-analyzed and integrated paper.
  • Cases where detailed comparison is needed;
  • When the points of comparison are not related.

Mixed paragraphs method;

  • gives the issues equal weights in terms of comparison;
  • the reader gets to identify the comparison factor easily.
  • When dealing with a long comparative essay;
  • When dealing with complex topics that need close attention.

Block Method;

  • When dealing with short essays;
  • When dealing with simple topics;
  • Cases where there is no clear relation between items of comparison of point one and point two;
  • When you want to build the ideas of question two from those highlighted for question one;
  • When dealing with many issues.

Comparative Essay Topics

  • Compare and contrast the GDP figures of the US and Australia.
  • A comparative essay on World War I and World War II events.
  • Comparison between political ideologies such as capitalism and communism.
  • Positions on issues, e.g., Healthcare in the US and Australia.
  • Comparison between various Sports teams.
  • Different Systems of Government.
  • Comparison between various influential people.
  • A comparative essay on religion, e.g., Christianity and Hinduism,
  • Comparison between various texts,
  • Comparison in technology, such as comparing different cars,

Comparative Essay Example (Clarified)

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Tips and strategies for crafting a well-structured and insightful comparative essay.

Writing a comparative essay

When it comes to crafting a compelling comparative essay, it is crucial to navigate through the complexities of comparing and contrasting different subjects. This essay type challenges writers to critically analyze multiple perspectives, revealing both similarities and differences. By employing a systematic and meticulous approach, you can unlock the secrets behind writing a remarkable comparative essay. This step-by-step guide will provide you with the essential tools and techniques to create a well-structured, engaging, and thought-provoking piece of written work.

Exploring the art of comparison

The key to crafting an outstanding comparative essay lies in the art of comparison. This process involves analyzing and contrasting different aspects of the subjects under discussion, shedding light on their similarities and differences. By employing various literary devices and techniques, such as symbolism, imagery, and rhetorical devices, you can effectively convey your ideas and arguments to the reader. Additionally, diving deep into the historical, cultural, and social contexts of the subjects will provide you with invaluable insights, enriching your analysis and elevating the overall quality of your essay.

Structuring your essay for clarity and coherence

A well-structured essay is essential for clear communication and coherent flow of ideas. Begin your comparative essay with a compelling introduction that captures the reader’s attention and introduces the main subjects of comparison. Following this, dedicate separate paragraphs to each aspect or theme you wish to compare, ensuring you provide detailed evidence and analysis to support your arguments. Finally, conclude your essay by summarizing your main points and offering a balanced perspective, leaving the reader with a lasting impression.

Understanding the task requirements

Before beginning your comparative essay, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the assignment prompt. The instructions provided by your instructor or professor will give you insights into the specific criteria and expectations for your essay. By comprehending the task requirements, you can ensure that you stay focused and meet all the necessary criteria.

The assignment prompt may include details about the topic, the scope of the comparison, and any specific texts, sources, or themes that need to be addressed. It is crucial to read the prompt carefully and identify keywords or phrases that highlight the main objectives of the assignment. Understanding these key elements will help you define the boundaries of your essay and guide your research and analysis.

In addition to content requirements, the assignment prompt may also provide instructions regarding the format, structure, and length of the essay. Pay attention to any guidelines regarding the organization of your essay, such as whether to use a point-by-point or block method of comparison. Understanding the formatting expectations will ensure that your essay is well-structured and coherent.

By understanding the assignment prompt, you can begin your comparative essay with a clear direction and purpose. It allows you to select and analyze relevant material while adhering to the specific requirements set by your instructor. Taking the time to grasp the assignment prompt will ultimately lead to a more successful and cohesive essay.

Choose a clear and concise thesis

Choose a clear and concise thesis

One of the most crucial steps in writing a comparative essay is selecting a clear and concise thesis statement. Your thesis statement serves as the main argument of your essay, guiding the reader through your points of comparison and analysis. It should be a well-defined statement that clearly states your position and sets the tone for the rest of your essay.

When choosing your thesis, it is important to consider the specific topic or prompt of your essay. Take the time to analyze the similarities and differences between the subjects or texts you are comparing and think about the main point you want to make. Your thesis should reflect this main point and provide a roadmap for your essay.

A clear and concise thesis statement not only helps you stay focused on your argument, but it also helps your readers understand the purpose of your essay. By clearly stating your position and guiding your readers through your points of comparison, you can ensure that your essay is well-organized and persuasive.

By taking the time to choose a clear and concise thesis statement, you can set yourself up for success in writing a strong comparative essay. Your thesis will not only guide your writing process but also provide a solid foundation for your analysis and interpretation of the subjects or texts you are comparing.

Conduct thorough research on both subjects

In order to write a compelling comparative essay, it is essential to conduct comprehensive research on both subjects being compared. By thoroughly investigating each subject, you will be able to identify their similarities, differences, and unique characteristics. This research is crucial for developing a well-informed and insightful analysis of the subjects, ensuring that your essay is both informative and engaging.

Start by gathering relevant information from a variety of credible sources, including books, journals, scholarly articles, and reputable websites. Take detailed notes as you explore each subject, making note of key concepts, important facts, and pertinent examples. This will help you build a solid foundation of knowledge about each subject and provide you with a comprehensive understanding of their respective contexts.

Furthermore, it is important to consider different perspectives and interpretations of each subject. Engage with a diverse range of sources that offer varying viewpoints, as this will enable you to develop a more nuanced understanding of the subjects and their significance. By evaluating different arguments and opinions, you will be able to construct a well-rounded comparative analysis that takes into account multiple perspectives.

Additionally, be sure to identify any potential biases or limitations in your sources and strive to include a balanced representation of information. This will help you present a fair and objective comparison of the subjects, allowing readers to form their own opinions based on the evidence you provide.

Ultimately, conducting thorough research on both subjects is essential for writing a successful comparative essay. By immersing yourself in the relevant literature and critically analyzing different viewpoints, you will be able to develop an in-depth understanding of the subjects and present a compelling analysis that highlights their similarities and differences. Through this detailed research process, you will be able to craft an informative and engaging essay that showcases your analytical skills and knowledge of the subjects at hand.

Outline your essay before writing

Before diving into the writing process, it is crucial to create an outline for your comparative essay. An outline serves as a roadmap that guides you throughout the essay, helping you organize and structure your thoughts in a logical and coherent manner.

When creating an outline, start by identifying the main points or themes that you want to compare and contrast in your essay. These can be specific elements or aspects of the subject matter that you find interesting or relevant. Once you have identified the main points, organize them in a logical order, considering the flow of your essay.

Next, break down each main point into subpoints or supporting evidence. These subpoints should provide more specific details that help to support your main points and strengthen your overall argument. Consider using examples, data, or evidence from reliable sources to support your claims and make your essay more persuasive.

As you create your outline, remember to maintain a clear and parallel structure. This means that each main point and subpoint should be phrased in a consistent manner. Use headings, subheadings, or formatting techniques such as numbering or bullet points to clearly delineate the different levels within your outline.

Furthermore, while creating your outline, be flexible and open to changes. It is common for your ideas and arguments to evolve as you research and analyze your subject matter more deeply. As a result, you may need to revise or reorganize your outline to accommodate any new insights or findings.

Finally, the outline should serve as a visual representation of your essay’s structure. It should provide you with a clear overview of the content and organization of your essay, making the writing process smoother and more efficient.

Use effective language and transitions

When writing a comparative essay, it is important to use effective language and transitions which can enhance the clarity and coherence of your arguments. By carefully choosing your words and utilizing proper transitions, you can create a seamless flow between your ideas and help your readers easily follow your train of thought.

One of the key aspects of using effective language is to be concise and direct in your writing. Instead of using excessive jargon or complex sentences, try to convey your ideas in a straightforward and understandable manner. This will not only make your essay more accessible to a wider range of readers but also make your arguments more convincing and persuasive.

In addition to using concise language, it is also crucial to use strong and persuasive words to express your ideas. By using words that convey a sense of certainty and confidence, you can make your arguments more compelling. For example, instead of saying “there might be a correlation between the two variables”, you can say “there is a clear correlation between the two variables”. This simple change in language can greatly enhance the impact of your arguments and make your essay more persuasive.

Furthermore, the effective use of transitions is essential for creating a cohesive and well-structured essay. Transitions act as bridges between different ideas and help readers understand the connection between them. By using transitional words and phrases such as “however”, “in contrast”, “similarly”, and “on the other hand”, you can clearly indicate the relationship between different points in your essay. These transitions will not only make your essay more coherent but also help your readers navigate through your arguments more easily.

In conclusion, using effective language and transitions is crucial for writing a successful comparative essay. By employing concise and direct language, as well as strong and persuasive words, you can make your arguments more persuasive. Additionally, by utilizing appropriate transitions, you can create a seamless flow between your ideas and enhance the overall coherence of your essay.

Provide evidence and examples to support your comparisons

When writing a comparative essay, it is essential to provide evidence and examples to back up your comparisons. This will help strengthen your arguments and make your essay more convincing. Without adequate evidence and examples, your comparisons may seem unsubstantiated and lack impact.

One way to provide evidence is to reference authoritative sources. Citing scholarly articles, books, or reputable websites can lend credibility to your arguments. These sources can provide factual information, expert opinions, or statistical data that support your comparisons. Be sure to properly cite these sources in your essay to avoid plagiarism.

In addition to using external sources, you can also rely on examples from the texts or materials that you are comparing. These examples can be specific quotes, scenes, or events that illustrate the similarities or differences between the subjects of your essay. By including these examples, you give your readers concrete evidence to consider and analyze.

When selecting evidence and examples, it is important to choose ones that are relevant and significant to your comparisons. This means that they should directly relate to the aspects or criteria that you are examining in your essay. Avoid including irrelevant or peripheral information that does not contribute to your main argument.

Furthermore, it is crucial to analyze and explain the evidence and examples you provide. Simply presenting them without any commentary or analysis will leave your comparisons feeling incomplete. Take the time to explain how the evidence supports your comparisons and what it reveals about the subjects being compared. This will help your readers understand the significance of your comparisons and the broader implications they may have.

In conclusion, providing evidence and examples is crucial when writing a comparative essay. By referencing authoritative sources and using examples from the texts or materials being compared, you can strengthen your arguments and make your essay more convincing. Remember to choose relevant and significant evidence, and to analyze and explain the evidence and examples you provide. These steps will help ensure that your comparisons are well-supported and persuasive.

Revise and edit your essay for clarity and coherence

Revise and edit your essay for clarity and coherence

Once you have completed a rough draft of your comparative essay, it’s important to dedicate time to revise and edit your work. This step is crucial in ensuring that your essay is clear and coherent, allowing your ideas to flow smoothly and making it easier for your readers to understand the points you are trying to convey.

During the revision process, focus on refining your essay’s structure and organization. Ensure that your introduction effectively introduces the topic and provides a clear thesis statement. Check that each paragraph is logically connected to the ones before and after it, using appropriate transitions to guide your readers through your comparison.

In addition to structure, pay attention to the clarity of your language and the coherence of your arguments. Use clear and concise sentences to express your ideas, avoiding unnecessary jargon or overly complex language. Make sure that your points are supported with evidence and examples, and that your analysis is thorough and well-reasoned.

As you revise, consider the overall flow and organization of your essay. Does each paragraph contribute to your central argument? Are there any parts that could be rearranged or omitted for clarity? Take the time to read your essay aloud or have someone else read it to you to identify any areas where the writing may be confusing or unclear.

Finally, pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. A polished and error-free essay indicates attention to detail and professionalism. Proofread your essay carefully, using online tools or asking a friend or colleague to review it for you. Correct any mistakes you find, ensuring that your essay is flawless and well-presented.

By revising and editing your essay for clarity and coherence, you can elevate the quality of your writing and enhance your ability to communicate your ideas effectively. Take the time to carefully review and refine your work, and you will be rewarded with a well-crafted comparative essay that engages and informs your readers.

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Comparative Essay

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Academic institutions always provide writing exercises to students so that the level of understanding that the students can have about a particular subject manner is widened. One of the most common academic essay examples  that’s given as writing assignment to students is the comparative essay. A comparative essay, also known as comparison essay or compare and contrast essay, is the type of essay that specifically analyzes two subject matters. There are a lot of academic fields where writing a comparative essay can be beneficial to students and their educational undertaking.

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A comparative essay can either compare or contrast two topics, theories, materials and other subjects of discussion. However, there are activities where both comparisons and contrasts are necessary to be presented. If you are required to write a comparative essay but is unaware on how you can do one effectively, you can browse through the samples that we have gathered for you so you can be more knowledgeable on how to structure both the content and layout of this kind of essay.

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Comparative Essay For High School

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College Comparative Essay

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Comparative Essay Plan Template

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Compare and Contrast Sample Essay

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Sample Comparative Essay Format

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The Concept of Comparative Essays

Different  college essay examples  are written based on different sets of instructions. Depending on the writing task that you have at hand, the things that you may include in your comparative essay may vary. However, the concept of making a comparative essay remains the same. For it to be clearer in your mind, here is how a comparative essay works:

  • A comparative essay is an academic essay  that requires students to create a comprehensive and precise comparative report about two things.
  • A comparative essay is an organized written material that is meant to provide a comparison that should be easily understood by the target readers. It is set to impress people by providing them the information that they need to be aware of about two subjects and how they differ and/or compare with each other.
  • A comparative essay can be written if you have two objects or subjects that can be compared in a level where their similarities and/or differences are relevant or meaningful for a specific purpose.
  • A comparative essay can be used in formal writing assignments and it can also be the basis for various research assessments.
  • A comparative essay is created through pertaining precise points of comparison. These points should be backed by actual researchers, factual information, and other reliable evidence.

Block Comparative Essay Example

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Student Comparative Essay Sample

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How to Develop the Content of Your Comparative Essay

Before writing a comparative essay, you first need to arm yourself with the information that you need. This will allow you to create a comparative essay that is filled with relevant and helpful information. More so, this can help you veer away from committing  common essay mistakes  if you are already in the process of actual content writing.

The way that you plan to present your ideas, especially if they are backed up with facts, can make your comparative essay more successful. Listed below are the steps that you may use when developing the content of your comparative essay.

  • The first thing that you need to do is to be aware of the question that you need to answer. You need to be aware of the essay prompt so you can address the needs of your readers. It is essential for you to be fully knowledgeable of the essence of the question so you can interpret it accordingly. The content that you will write will only be effective if it is related to the question and if it matches the purpose on why the essay is necessary to be written.
  • Know whether there are limits for your discussion . Always identify whether you need to know the similarities or the differences between your subjects. Also, you need to know whether the scope of your essay assignment requires you to do any of these or both.
  • Select the ideas that you would like to compare. It is important for you to have an in-depth understanding of the kind of comparison that you will write. The framework of your essay should be based on an actual evaluation that can point out how you were able to perceive the similarities or differences of the subject.
  • Assess whether you already have sufficient points for comparison. Your ability to present as many valid points as possible can make a lot of clarifications about the unanswered questions that you can enlighten your readers with.
  • Once the points of your comparison are already specified, list down whether they are under the similarities or differences of the two subjects. This step can help you be organized throughout the writing process. With easy access to how subjects are compared, you can be guided on how to use them in your content development.
  • Evaluate your list. Your list is only your initial view about the subjects being reviewed or assessed. Hence, further evaluation is necessary. Make sure that you will read through the entire list so you can rank them based on their impact and weight of thesis.
  • Chronologically arrange your list based on your basis of comparison . Make sure that you will follow a metric when examining the items that you will place in your actual comparative essay.
  • Know the approach that you will use when developing your essay content. Will you be theoretical? Will you focus on answering questions for comparison? It is essential for you to be aware of your basis so your approach can provide you with maximum benefits within the entirety of the content development process.
  • Research further about your subjects so you can verify whether your claims and initial claims are correct. This can help you create more topics and gather more evidence that can support your comparison.
  • Create a thesis statement where your discussion can set its foundation. This will enable you to start writing the comparative essay that you would like to achieve.

You may think that this is a very long process just for developing the ideas that you will present. In a way, you may be right. However, being prepared and ready on how you will attack and execute the writing assignment can make it easier for you to create a valid discussion.

Comparative Contrast Essay Template

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Printable Comparative Essay Sample

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Steps in Organizing Your Comparative Essay Discussion

Aside from knowing the idea of what you will write about, the structure of your essay or the organization of your essay’s content can affect the smooth flow of your discussion. Even during  last minute essay writing  activities, you can still come up with an outstanding comparative essay if you are already knowledgeable on how you can organize your essay’s idea, content, structure, and discussion. Listed below are some of the ways on how you can efficiently organize your comparative essay’s content.

  • Refer to the outline of your comparisons. This is where the items that we have discussed above can be helpful. If you are already guided by your comparisons, then you can easily rank their relevance to the essay that you will write. Referencing your comparisons can make it easier for you to have a thesis statement that you can further discuss.
  • Organize your writing strategies. The strategies that you will incorporate into your discussion can make it easier for readers to relate to your point. You need to make sure that your strategies are aligned with your type of comparison and the subjects that you are comparing.
  • Properly address your comparisons.  For your comparative essay to be highly-usable, you need to make sure that you will implement simplicity within your discussion. Do not make it complicated. The content of your comparative essay should be as simple as possible so that it can be furthermore understood.
  • Organize your paragraph structure.  The way that you create your paragraph listing can be one of the factors that can either improve or destroy your comparative essay. You should create a draft that can specifically state the items that you will discuss per paragraph. Create statements that can address specific comparisons and divide them per paragraph. Each of your paragraphs should be talking about one subject so you can give focus per comparison aspect.
  • Evaluate whether your writing guide is already organized enough. It is essential for you to not overlap subjects of discussion. When organizing your statements, make sure to cover one subject at a time. This will help you create a comparative essay that contains a list of carefully arranged and curated evidence which are further discussed and broken down into relevant specification pieces.

Simple Essay of Comparison Sample

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Sample Comparative Essay in PDF

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Writing Guide in Creating the Actual Comparative Essay

Just like  descriptive essay examples  and other kinds of academic essays, a comparative essay can be created in different ways. Each writer has various techniques that can be applied when doing this particular kind of essay. Since there are no strict rules when it comes to crafting a comparative essay, all you need to ensure is that your comparative essay is comprehensive, understandable and credible. Here is how you can effectively write your actual comparative essay:

  • Create an introduction to the topic. Your thesis statement should contain the subjects that you will talk about. You also need to create an initial discussion of what your readers can expect to the reader within the content of your comparative essay. A strong validation of your comparison can make your readers more interested to browse through the entire essay document.
  • Develop your next paragraphs for discussion. As mentioned above, work per paragraph. Arrange your topics of discussion in a way that each paragraph can specifically state one comparison topic per time. You have to create an interesting discussion so you need to ensure that all your paragraphs are organized and well-written.
  • Finalize your comparative essay with a conclusion. Your last paragraph should contain the information about your final thoughts with regards the comparison. How different or similar are the two subjects from one another? How sure are you that your basis is factual and relevant? Create a great impact b
  • y having a conclusion that can put together all your points of discussion.

Compare Contrast Essay Sample

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Sample Comparative Essay Guide

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Factors to Consider When Writing a Comparative Essay

In comparison to  evaluation essay examples , a comparative essay is more keen with regards the assessment of two subjects. If you will write a comparative essay, you need to have an idea of the impacts of different factors to the result that you may get at the end of the writing activity. Listed below are some of the elements or factors that you need to take into consideration when writing a comparative essay.

  • Your discussion’s organization.  Within the entirety of the comparative essay creation, it is very evident that organization is key to success. As a writer, you need to ensure that you have a skeletal plan that can create your discussion more polished and coherent. The discussion of your organization can greatly affect the impression of your readers with regards your knowledge about your topic as well as your level of understanding with what you are talking about.
  • Your thesis statement.  When creating a comparative essay, you need to stick with an argument that can provide you the framework for the effective dissemination of information. Your thesis statement should be based on the results of your frame of references. You need to analyze your subjects properly so that you can create a stand on how you perceive them in levels of similarities and/or differences.
  • Your claims or grounds for comparison.  You should always be aware of your selection processes. At the end of the writing activity, you need to validate the importance of comparing two subjects. Always have your grounds of comparison ready so you can ensure your readers that you have followed a particular set of criteria that can enable the objectivity between the selection of two items for comparison. The rationale that you have behind your subject selection can make your comparative essay more appealing.
  • Your reference frame.  A comparative essay’s frame of reference deals with the way that the writer has created the groupings for the comparison. May it be talking about the similarities, differences, or both of these factors; a comparative essay should be able to have a reference that can identify how the characteristics of ideas, themes, theories or even problems are arranged.

With the samples that we have in this post, it will be faster for you to identify the points of discussion that you need to provide. Again, comparative essays vary from one another in terms of content. Ensure that you are fully aware of the writing instructions given to you so you can plan your comparative essay’s content and structure accordingly.

Always refer to the guidelines and tips that we have specified so you can create effective decisions in every step of your comparative essay development. Do not be afraid to write what your thoughts. As long as these thoughts are based on factual references, then it will be easy for you to have a comparative essay that can achieve its purpose or reason for creation.

the art of writing a comparative essay lies in the delicate balance of presenting similarities and differences in a clear, coherent manner. This type of essay encourages critical thinking and develops analytical skills, crucial for academic success. For further guidance on creating effective comparative essays, the UNC Writing Center offers a detailed resource on comparing and contrasting ( UNC Writing Center ). This link provides valuable insights and examples, helping students refine their comparative writing skills. By mastering the comparative essay, students not only enhance their writing abilities but also deepen their understanding of contrasting subjects, an essential skill in many academic and professional fields.

writing a comparative essay

Comparative Essay Generator

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Write a comparative essay on cats vs. dogs as pets: which are better and why?

Compare in a comparative essay the effects of online learning vs. traditional classroom learning on students.


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