You may not know how to write a good compare and contrast essay, but you sure have done some comparing and contrasting in your life. Choosing a meal at the cafeteria, choosing and exercising routine, choosing a new smartphone, you compare and contrast, you analyze, you weigh which characteristics are essential and which are not. A compare and contrast paper simply presents the process formally structured and in the written form.
This is not an exercise in futility, however. Compare and contrast writing skills can be later useful in any field where you have to choose one option over another and explain your choice: marketing research, strategic planning, executive business decisions, etc.
What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay
Compare & contrast essay could well enough be named similarities and differences essay. This type of paper presents an analysis of two (sometimes more) subjects side by side, highlighting the features they share, and the differences they have.
For an effective compare and contrast essay, you should choose subjects from the same category. For example, two leaders of the state, two dramatizations of the same book, two ways to produce energy, two philosophical teachings, etc.
Another key component is your purpose. Why do you compare those subjects? Your essay must have a message conveyed through this comparison. For example, you decide which source of energy is safer and cleaner, and therefore should be used more; or you compare ichthyosauri and dolphins to demonstrate how environmental niche shapes animals.
How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay
All good compare and contrast essays have one thing in common – they do a good job of selling their topic to the reader. To put it simply, they explain in the very first paragraph, why the topic is relevant and why the reader should care enough to go on reading.
The best way to pull your reader in is by starting your essay with a hook sentence. Here are some ways to do it:
- Intrigue: drop a misconception about the subject and promise to debunk it
- Surprise: show that a familiar subject is not what it seems; start with a lesser-known fact about it
- Highlight the benefit: show how the information in your essay will be useful for the reader, etc.
- Rhetorical question
You can also mix them up for better effect, for example, the fragment below uses both rhetorical question and surprise to get you interested:
Whom would you choose as a leader for your country?
On the one hand, you have a member of the middle class, ascetic non-drinker, non-smoker, vegetarian, and a passionate visionary. On the other hand, an aristocratic progeny, a hedonist, a pragmatist, and a sarcastic political realist.
If you went for the first option, then uh-oh, you’ve just chosen Hitler over Churchill.
See? If something already happened, it doesn’t mean it can’t be intriguing.
Compare and Contrast Essay Structure
Now you know how to make a compare and contrast essay interesting, but hook sentence is still more of an embellishment. Whereas some structural elements are necessary to make sure, your essay won’t fall apart:
- Introduction for compare and contrast essay should contain a thesis statement – your purpose for writing this essay, the message you wish to convey. For example, a “Hitler vs. Churchill” comparison from above explores how charisma and personal qualities, although guaranteed to win the sympathies of people, often fail to predict the moral value of ideas that a charismatic leader broadcasts.
- Main body of your paper, where you do all the comparing and contrasting should also be structured. The particular way to do it depends on the subjects of your comparison, the specific effects you want to create, and again, your purpose. You may start by contrasting and then proceed to show which traits your subjects have in common, or vice versa. You may also start by describing one subject in detail, and then describe another one against this background, highlighting similarities or differences as you go.
- Conclusion is the last paragraph of your paper where you sum up everything you’ve said and reaffirm your thesis statement. Sometimes, you might want to tweak your thesis statement a bit after you’ve written your essay. Quite often, you start with a good working thesis statement but as your research and writing progress, your point of view shifts or your perspective deepens. It’s okay to change the thesis statement a bit. The important thing is that it should match your conclusion.
Comparing and Contrasting Essay Writing Tips
As you can see, compare-and-contrast isn’t the most complicated among different types of essays, despite its dealing with more than one subject. However, there are still some tips for writing a compare and contrast essay to make a process quicker and easier.
- If there is one particular difficulty in writing a comparing and contrasting essay, it’s keeping all the details you wanted to include in your head. To make sure you won’t forget anything, brainstorm similarities and differences and jot them down before you start writing your first draft.
- Color-code the lists – for example, write differences with red pen and similarities with green one.
- Good visual representation helps with better structure. Prior to writing, systemize all the differences and similarities in a table or as a Venn diagram.
- Use transitional words to help your reader follow your thought: in contrast, whereas, unlike, on the other hand – for differences; similarly, likewise, just as, common to both, etc. – to point out similarities.
Still Find Writing Compare/Contrast Essay Confusing?
If you feel like you still don’t understand how to write compare and contrast papers, don’t worry! As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poetically put it “All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of actual life springs ever green.” Meaning, that the best way to learn about something is by experiencing it in real life. For that purpose, you will find many excellent compare and contrast academic essays examples in our free database – go and take a look if you don’t know where to start!