Expert Tips on How to Write a Compare/Contrast Essay

Essays that involve comparing and contrasting various items are a popular genre of essay in the academic world. This type of writing is expected to address a specific question and it is relatively easy compared to other types of writing. In fact, when it comes to tackling an essay of this type, the writer has a number of options. Structure is one of the most essential things to keep in mind. Many a good essay has failed because the writer did not pay enough attention to structure, and this can cause any displays of ingenuity on the writer’s part to go to waste. Hence, it is best to familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to writing a standard essay and then to choose a structure from the two described below:

Begin by Creating an Introduction

As is the case with five paragraph essays, the opening section in a compare and contrast essay should begin in a relatively general manner e.g. with a quotation, anecdote, or general statement and progress from there to a more specific statement – the thesis statement.

First Item or Topic

The section that comes next in a compare/contrast essay (which may be comprised of one or a number of paragraphs) should deal only with the first element or topic being compared and/or contrasted. Almost without exception, this type of essay deals with two subjects or topics and draws attention to their similarities and/or differences. You should not mention the other topic in this section.

Second Item or Topic

This section (which may also comprise of just one paragraph or several) should deal with the second of your two subjects or topics. Here, you should not mention the first of your topics. Given that you have already covered it in quite a bit of detail in the preceding section, it is acceptable to refer to the first part of the topic in brief terms but do not go into any in-depth analysis of it in this part. The purpose of this section is to cover the second item or topic in quite a detailed manner.

Cover the Two Topics Together

Once you have analyzed and covered your first topic and your second topic separately, you can now analyze or discuss them alongside each other. As with the previous two sections, this one may be one paragraph long or it can be several.

Concluding Section

As is the case in the opening paragraph, the last paragraph (the conclusion) should recap in a general way on the thesis statement. You should use this closing paragraph to demonstrate your unequivocal knowledge or absolute certainty about your subject matter. Reaffirm your central thesis statement – by restating it in other words – and remind your readers how you have proven this statement or assertion.

Alternative Method

  • Begin by Creating an Introduction

Again, as you would with a five paragraph essay, you should begin this essay in a general manner, e.g., with a quotation, anecdote, or general statement, and proceed to a more specific statement – your thesis statement.

  • Deal with Comparisons for Both Topics

In this portion of your essay, which will comprise of several paragraphs, you should present all the similarities evident in both the topics you are dealing with. Choose three points of comparison at least i.e. three reasonably short paragraphs wherein you should provide one example for each of the two topics you are comparing.

  • Deal with the Contrasting Aspects of Both Topics

In much the same vein as the previous section, you should use this portion to highlight all the ways that both topics are different. Once again, this section should be comprised of a number of paragraphs and it should contain three contrasting features at least (i.e. three relatively brief paragraphs) where you provide an example in each paragraph of a contrasting feature of both topics.

  • Concluding Section

In the last paragraph (the conclusion), you should wrap up your entire essay, recapping on everything you have presented or proven as you progressed through it. Here, you should also restate your thesis in a freshly worded and more official-sounding manner. The tone of your writing in this section should come across as confident.

Below is an overview showing what completed compare/contrast essays look like:

First Type:

  • First (introduction) paragraph: Topic introduction with opening comments and central thesis statement
  • Second (2nd) paragraph: Topic One with comparison No 1
  • Third (3rd) paragraph:  Topic One with comparison No 2
  • Fourth (4th) paragraph: Topic One with comparison No 3
  • Fifth (5th) paragraph:  Topic Two with contrast No 1
  • Sixth (6th) paragraph: Topic Two with contrast No 2
  • Seventh (7th) paragraph: Topic Two with contrast No 3
  • Eighth (8th) paragraph (if desired): Compare and/or Contrast all or any topics together.
  • Ninth (9th) paragraph: Closing paragraph (conclusion).

Second Type

  • First (introduction) paragraph: Topic introduction with opening comments and central thesis statement
  • Second (2nd) paragraph: Comparison one (to cover topics one and two)
  • Third (3rd) paragraph: Comparison two (to cover topics one and two)
  • Fourth (4th) paragraph: Comparison three (to cover topics one and two)
  • Fifth (5th) paragraph: Contrast one (to cover topics one and two)
  • Sixth (6th) paragraph: Contrast two (to cover topics one and two)
  • Seventh (7th) paragraph: Contrast three (to cover topics one and two)
  • Eighth (8th) paragraph: Concluding or closing paragraph.