How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay: A Step By Step Guide

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

If you are in middle school, high school, and even university, your teacher will more than likely assign you a compare and contrast essay. This is an assignment that will assess your ability to examine different topics from multiple viewpoints. Such essays require you to use evidence to defend or express your feelings about a serious topic. Therefore, it is crucial for you to know how to write a compare and contrast essay. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about such essays, from what they are, their purpose, and finally, how to write them perfectly.

What is a compare and contrast essay?

Defining a compare and contrast essay is not as straightforward as it seems. The comparison part involves addressing the similarities, while the contrast part calls for you to identify the difference. Some students tend to highlight one aspect and leave out the other. Instead of this, you are supposed to clearly illustrate how the subjects are similar to a certain degree and how they differ in other parts.

Now that you know what a compare/contrast essay is, how do you recognize one? Your teacher might give you a straightforward assignment, for example; Compare and contrast the effects of World War 1 to World War 2. However, it is not always that easy! Some assignments might only require you to compare, and others for you to contrast.

In other cases, the comparison/contrast might only part of the essay, and you might be asked to use the facts you have uncovered to construct your argument on the topic. For example, in an academic context, when writing a literature review, comparing and contrasting is implicitly prompted. As such, always ensure you understand what exactly your essay calls for before you dive into writing. If stuck, consult with your teacher or fellow students.

Purpose of Compare and Contrast Writing

A compare and contrast essay serves many purposes. However, the main goal is to identify the subtle difference and similarities between two subjects that connect in a meaningful way. For instance, when picking a topic, do not go for the obvious, e.g., comparing cake and steak. Instead, choose to compare and contrast two types of cakes or two types of steaks. This will help you develop an argument that will highlight even the smallest differences and similarities between the two things.

Essentially, this type of paper allows you to juxtapose two subjects critically; as such, do not focus on only one element but both. This means that the thesis statement, topic sentences, and descriptive details must consider both agendas. When your teacher assigns you such an essay, they want to encourage you to make a connection between different texts or ideas, evaluate your critical thinking skills, and assess your ability to generate interesting analysis on a given topic.

How to write a compare and contrast essay

Before you start working on your essay, you need to have a plan. This will be the blueprint you follow to ensure you cover everything needed to deliver an A+ paper. Below are some basic steps you should always follow.

1.Analyze the Question

The first and most obvious thing you need to do is ensure you understand what the essay entails. As we had stated earlier, compare and contrast essays come in different forms- You might even not be explicitly instructed to use this writing style. Therefore, carefully read the instructions and ensure you know what exactly is being asked. In most cases, you will be asked to compare and contrast. For instance, you can be asked to talk about historical figures or even fictional characters.

What if you have been asked to come up with a topic? In that case, you can go about it two ways: You can choose two things that seem similar but are actually very different, or you can go for two subjects that are seemingly different but have some surprising similarities. Ensure that the topic you choose can elicit a meaningful discussion. Also, make the reader understand why you needed to compare and contrast the two subjects in the first place. For instance, if you choose to talk about the differences and similarities between the Flu and Covid-19, let the reader establish a correlation between the two viruses.

2. Identify the Similarities and Differences

This where you start to brainstorm and conduct your research. You need to draft all the points you uncover before you begin to write the paper. One way to do this is to use a Venn diagram or a table. We recommend you go for a Venn diagram as it is a useful tool that can help you organize all the information you have graphically. A Venn diagram consists of two or more circles that partially overlap each other. The overlapping part should highlight the similarities, while the uncommon part should contain the differences between the two.

To gather all the information on the topic, consider what your course's overall objective is. What does your teacher want you to talk about? This will help you focus on what's important. Next, look at each subject individually and exhaust all the points you can gather before moving on to the next one. Afterward, look at the similarities between the two issues.

3. Decide on the structure you will follow.

There are two main ways you can structure your essay:

  • Point-by-point structure
  • Block method.

In the point-by-point method, you are supposed to cover both subjects side by side in terms of a specific point of comparison. This type of style requires you to have the skills to weave the similarities and differences of each subject within one paragraph.

The block method is easier as it calls for you to address the subjects individually. Here you address everything about subject 1 first, and then in the other part of the essay, you talk about subject 2.

4. The format of a compare and contrast essay

Since this is an argumentative essay, you should follow the basic structure of introduction, body, and conclusion.

The Introduction

Begin by presenting the background of the two subjects. Talk about why they are important and why the reader should be interested in both subjects. Try to create a correlation between the two in this part. Remember, the introduction is meant to capture the reader's attention and motivate them to read your full paper. It is also in the introduction where you will highlight your thesis statement.

Your Thesis is very important as it will not only help you stay focused on what you're supposed to address but will also give your reader a road map of your article's direction. Avoid vague reports in your Thesis. For example, it should not be something like, 'This essay will compare and contrast WW1 and WW2'. Instead, present something more detailed and specific. For instance, 'Both World Wars had devastating consequences; however, given the number of casualties and the economic turmoil thereafter, WW2 was worse.

The Body

This is where you will present all your data and findings. To have a more coherent essay, ensure that each paragraph tackles a single idea connected with the central topic—also, present evidence and examples that will reinforce your thesis. Do not make the paragraphs too long as this can intimidate the reader and is harder to read. The number of paragraphs will depend on how long your essay is supposed to be or the amount of information you have obtained. To offer a smooth reading experience, use good transition tools to hold the report together.

The Conclusion Paragraph

The conclusion is supposed to be short and should not present any new information. This section summarizes the evidence that you have presented in your essay. Your summary should be geared towards restating your thesis. Tell the reader how the information addressed in the essay defended your initial thesis statement.

5.Review your Essay

Human is to error. That is why it is important to go through your essay and ensure there are no mistakes. Simple grammatical errors could badly affect your grades. Also, establish whether you have addressed every essential detail.

Final Thoughts

A compare and contrast essay can be intimidating to many students. However, there one of the most common argumentative essays that teachers might assign. As such, you need to improve and master the skills needed to write such an essay. We hope that our article will provide you with the insight needed to present that A+ essay you deserve. If you feel like writing your compare and contrast essay seems too hard, order your own compare and contrast essay from us today.


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