How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

how to writeA compare and contrast essay is one of the easiest essays one can write. This paper is present in most academic settings and careers; hence most people will come across it at one point. Surprisingly many people don’t know how to write compare and contrast essay.
Compare and contrast essays simply ask one to identify the similarities and differences between two or more concepts, ideas, items or things. Depending on the instructions given and complexity of the subject, the essay may give a shallow or in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences. It may also require one to establish new connections as far as the items being compared and contrasted are concerned.
The objective of a compare and contrast essay goes beyond making the mere identification of similarities and differences. It entails making substantive arguments about the subjects being discussed. This may sound intimidating but all it takes is practice, and you will be able to write a good compare and contrast essay.
This article will take you through the steps on how to write a good compare and contrast essay.

The Structure of Good Compare and Contrast Essays

A good compare and contrast essay usually take two forms:

Block Structure

With this structure, all pertinent information about one of the concepts is presented first, then the other concept is presented afterward. It is similar to the structure used in a cause and effect essay where the causes are presented first and their effects later.

Point by Point Structure

With this structure, the similarities and differences of one concept are given and followed by the similarities and differences of the other concept.
Both structures are viable, and it is purely in the writer’s prerogative to choose one.

How to Write Compare and Contrast Essays-Understanding the Prompt

A prompt is usually given to guide you on the subject to be written. With reference to the prompt, pick two concepts or subjects that can be easily compared and contrasted. You could settle on two subjects that fall under the same category but have quite distinct differences. For example, Home cooked food vs. take-out food.
You could also settle on two subjects that don’t have apparent commonalities at face value but have some similarities when a close analysis is done. For example the feeding habits of humans and pigs. At face value, these two mammals appear to have different feeding habits but are all omnivores.
Lastly, you can choose two subjects that may appear similar at face value but are quite different. For example, when talking about a book and its movie version.
After settling on one of the above, the next step is to make sure that both subjects can be analyzed substantively. It does not count just to have two subjects that have similarities and differences; but also why the two subjects need to be analyzed together.

Topics Are a Must Have For Your Compare and Contrast Papers

brainstormAfter you’ve understood the prompt, the next step is to come up with a good topic. To aid you in this, make sure that you isolate the major points of discussion. Decide on which points you would like to focus on as it will help you in formulating a thesis.
You can literally list all the qualities, characteristics and features of each subject. After listing them, scan through this list to identify the common traits that are shared and major points of differences.
A Venn diagram can be of help. It consists of three parts:
  • Points exclusive to subject A
  • Points exclusive to subject B
  • Points that relate to both subject A and B
This will help you narrow down your focus to the point that you want to prove in your compare and contrast paper. It is recommended to have fewer points of discussion so that you have plenty of space to analyze each of them in detail.

How to Write Compare and Contrast Essay Thesis

The premise of your thesis is to present an argument that supports why it’s important to analyze the two subjects together.
When formulating your thesis: Indulge your readers to how one subject is desirable as opposed to the other
Assist your readers to make a substantive comparison on the two subjects
Let your readers see how the two subjects are similar and different

Write an Outline

After you’ve formulated your thesis, create an outline for your essay. An outline helps you draw the structure that your essay will take. It also acts as a template that you will use to develop your ideas in the essay.
Regardless of your chosen structure, the essay will still have to conform to the following standard:

Introduction

This is the first paragraph. It introduces your subject and lays down all the basic information and background on your subjects. It contains the thesis statement at the last sentence. A reader should know what you want to compare and contrast in this paragraph and the value of doing so. This paragraph sets the tone for your compare and contrast paper, and anyone should predict the direction that the essay will take form what you have written in it.

The Body

giphy This is the central part of your essay. It presents all the evidence that you intend to use to support your claim on the subjects being compared and contrasted. It usually consists of three paragraphs. However, the number of paragraphs is directly related to the number of points that you will present. It is recommended to use one paragraph to elaborate on one point. Make use of transition sentences to effectively connect one point to the other.
For a basic three paragraph body, the following format can be used:
  • The first paragraph could present distinct aspects of Subject A
  • The second paragraph could present distinct aspects of Subject B
  • The third paragraph could be dedicated to pointing out similarities or differences of both subjects (depending on what you want to prove)
After these three paragraphs, write a conceding paragraph that acknowledges that there are other counter-arguments and anti-theses. However, strongly point out that they do not have substance and cannot be used with the two aspects being compared and contrasted.

Conclusion

This paragraph will summarize all presented arguments and evidence. As usual, it will restate the thesis but in a more authoritative way. It serves to cement your claim and to solidify your argument.

Write Your Essay

Now that you have an outline to guide you, start writing your compare and contrast paper. Pick a preferred structure and get down to writing.
Let’s work with the following subject: home cooked food vs. take-out food
Here’s a guide to writing with the structures discussed above:

Block Structure

We would have to write first about home-cooked food and that it entails and after that write about take-out food and all that it entails.
Introduce your essay by writing an introductory paragraph. The paragraph should state your intent; that is to compare the merits and demerits of eating home cooked food and take-out food. Afterwards, move to the body of the essay.
The first paragraph of your body should lay down all the merits and demerits of home-cooked food. The second paragraph should state all the merits and demerits of take-out food. The third paragraph should weigh both the merits and demerits of home cooked food and take-out food and a position should be taken in relation to what you claim is the best.
After presenting your arguments in favor or disfavor of either of the two subjects, draw a conclusion.
The conclusion will restate your thesis strongly and will summarize the points that you would wish the reader takes home.

Point by Point Structure

final This is the most popular structure owing to its unambiguity and clarity. You can write one paragraph describing the first difference of both subjects and another describing the second difference.
The introductory paragraph is similar to the block structure. You state your intent and your thesis to your readers after giving a brief background.
The first paragraph of the body will discuss the first difference of home cooked and take-out food.
The second paragraph will describe the second difference if home cooked and take-out food.
The third paragraph will, in the same manner, describe the third difference.
After all the differences have been fronted, you can conclude.
The conclusion re-asserts your position and claim with regard to the two subjects; perhaps you are of the position that home-cooked food is the best with basis on the evidence given. Make a string conclusion that will sway your readers to your position.

Proofread

Proofreading is an imperative for all writing, including compare and contrast papers, so you must do it. Check your work for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Also, ensure your work does not contain unoriginal content. Have a second opinion on your work by having your peers review it.

Check for Compare and Contrast Structure Words

Since the write-up is a compare and contrast essay, it is important to use compare and contrast structure words. They are important as they aid in the transition. Here’s a list of some common words:

For Comparison
  • Likewise
  • Similarly
  • Also
  • Both
  • Similar to
  • To be alike
  • Not only…but also
  • Neither…nor
  • Just like
For Contrast
  • However
  • On the other hand
  • Whereas
  • While
  • But
  • To differ from
  • Dissimilar
  • In contrast

Conclusion

This article has highlighted a step by step procedure on how to write a compare and contrast essay. Utilize the guidelines effectively to come up with a winning compare and contrast essay!