Compare and Contrast Essay Hacks That You Need to Know

11 April 2020
write a compare and contrast essay

Why haven't you started writing your compare and contrast essay yet? If you have an empty word processing file open in the background as you surf the web looking for some inspiration for your class assignment, you're not alone. A recent study of DSU students shows that at least 60% of them procrastinate more on writing tasks than other projects. Besides, even professional writers occasionally get writer's block.

We've got good news for you. Custom Writing Bee has a world-class team of professional writers who can improve your academic writing experience significantly. For starters, you can order a compare and contrast essay outline or have us prepare a custom essay for you. What's more, you can enhance your writing by checking out the numerous compare and contrast essay examples.

In the meantime, we've compiled a guide featuring proven hacks on how to write a compare and contrast essay. 

Let's get to it. 

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

A compare and contrast essay is a form of academic writing that requires a writer to identify and outline the similarities and differences between two items. Before we can explore more, it is crucial that we're on the same page regarding the meaning of the words compare and contrast. 

Compare – refers to the act of seeking out similarities in at least two subjects

Contrast – describes the act of finding differences in two or more subjects

The word compare is somewhat of a misnomer when used in regards to a comparative essay analysis. Interestingly, when writing such an essay, the objective is to explore the similarities between the selected issues and demonstrate what makes them different. Hence the term compare and contrast. 

Recognizing Compare/Contrast Assignments

It's not always that your professor will ask you to write a compare and contrast essay explicitly. Sometimes, he'll use different terms. 

Check out the following examples:

  • Compare World War 1 to World War 2, outlining similarities in the causes, progression, and implications of the wars. 
  • Contrast William Shakespeare and William Wordsworth. What are the significant differences in their poetry?
  • Compare and contrast the character traits of Nick and Gatsby with regards to the theme of Identity in The Great Gatsby

As you can see, some topics may ask you to compare, others to contrast, and others may ask you to do both. However, determining whether an essay wants you to compare or contrast is not an easy task. Sometimes, the compare or contrast bit is only a section of the composition. This means that you'll start your essay by comparing or contrasting. Finally, you'll apply your findings to construct an argument or an analysis. 

Consider the following examples:

  • Consider how the themes of death, romantic love, or oppression are depicted in these two Shakespeare poems.
  • Analyze Frye and Bartky's accounts of oppression and outline how each of them suggests women's collusion in their abuse.
  • In the texts we've studied, we've encountered differing accounts from the soldiers who served in various wars. What are the commonalities in these accounts? To what factors would you attribute the differences?

Interestingly, answering any of the prompts will rely heavily on your ability to write a compare and contrast essay. 

Without further ado, here's a step by step guide on how to write a comparative analysis essay. 

Formulate your Argument

1. Select a Suitable Topic

If you already have a topic for your compare and contrast essay, you're in luck. At least you won't concern yourself with this step, for now. However, if you're writing your comparative analysis from scratch, you want to start by picking two themes that can be compared or contrasted.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a topic for this type of essay.

For starters, you could write about two things belonging to the same category, but with significant differences. You can pit homemade pizza against one from the grocery store, Microsoft products vs. Apple products, etc.

Another good idea would be picking two things that seem to have nothing in common, but have an astonishing similarity. For instance, your essay could be about bats and whales. (While one is a tiny flying animal, the other one is gigantic and swims. However, they're both mammals that use sonar for hunting).

You could also focus on subjects that may appear similar, yet have a world of difference. For example, you could compare and contrast the Harry Potter film and the book.

As you chose your topic, you want to ensure that the subjects can be discussed meaningfully. This means that the essay will do more than just point out that items A and B are both similar and different. As such, your paper should help readers to understand why it is crucial to put the two subjects together. 

You get it, don't you? If you're not quite there yet, here are some compare and contrast essay ideas you can borrow for inspiration. 

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

Easy Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

  1. Private colleges vs. public schools
  2. Online learning vs. attending a conventional school
  3. Writing an essay vs. writing a research paper

High School Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

  1. Acting vs. lying
  2. Facebook vs. Instagram
  3. Parental control vs. complete freedom

Middle School Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

  1. Comic books vs. TV shows
  2. Passive vs. active leisure
  3. Circus vs. cinema

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for Beginners

  1. Android versus iOS operating systems
  2. Traveling by car versus traveling by plane
  3. Reading versus watching

History Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

  1. Communism vs. liberalism
  2. Democracy versus Dictatorship
  3. Unites States versus United Kingdom political regime

General Compare and Contrast Essay Ideas

  1. Yoga versus Pilates
  2. Ethnic minorities versus sexual minorities
  3. Talking to parents versus talking to friends

Want more ideas for your essay? You can check out various compare and contrast essay examples from our resource center.

2. Brainstorm your Topic

It may be virtually impossible to have you jump from deciding your essay topic to writing your thesis statement. Not to worry, after a little brainstorming, you'll start seeing the bigger picture. At this point, think and note down the similarities and differences between your subjects. As a result, you'll identify the main points you want to focus on; it will help you when formulating your thesis.

List the Similarities and Differences

Do you prefer brainstorming on a piece of paper or a word pad? Whichever it is, take it out and on two different pages, draw two columns. The first page will be for the similarities, and the other one will be for the differences. For example, you'll have one list for the similarities between Android and iOS and another one for the differences between the two subjects. 

Here are some pointers.

  • List as many differences as you can contemplate 
  • Consider one or two meaningful differences and similarities 
  • If possible, categorize your various points into broader themes

Draw a Venn Diagram

On a piece of paper, draw two big interlocking circles. Use the middle area where the circles overlap to list the similarities. Assign each of the rings and list the differences in the areas where the circles don't overlap. You must be specific when listing the different traits to avoid confusion later on. 

Here's an example of a Venn diagram listing the similarities and differences between a fish and a whale. 


Compare and Contrast Essay Venn Diagram Sample

Once you're contented that you've listed everything you could think of, highlight the main points in each list. Afterward, try matching the opposites from one circle to another. Eventually, review your list and try to categorize your points into broader categories (essay discussion points). And you're good to go!

Answer the Journalistic Questions

Conventionally, when journalists are investigating an issue, they ask the questions, who, what, when, where, why, and how? If you're writing about objects, you may want to consider general properties (e.g., weight, shape, color, texture, size, etc.) By applying these basic questions to your topic, you'll begin to get a better picture of each topic or perspective.  

Better yet, try to consider the purpose of your assignment, and the focus of your class. Ask yourself, 

  • What does the professor want me to learn through this assignment?
  • How does it fit with the coursework as a whole?
  • Do you have any clues regarding what to focus on for the assignment?

We've tried to compile some basic questions about various items you may have to compare. You can always formulate more questions as our list will only help you generate ideas.

Historical Events

  • When did the events occur?
  • What caused the occurrences?
  • What happened/changed?
  • What crafts did people engage in?
  • Who were the involved parties?
  • Why are the events significant?

Theories

  • What do the theories entail?
  • When were they proposed?
  • Who proposed them?
  • Who subscribes to or defends the ideas?
  • How are they applied?

Creative works

  • What is the piece about?
  • Who created it?
  • When were they created?
  • What is their form/mood/tone?
  • What themes do they address?
  • Why do you think they were created?

3. Determine your Main Points

By now, you must have come up with a substantial list of similarities and differences. The next step is deciding which points seem interesting, significant, or relevant enough to be featured in your paper. 

Asking the following questions will help you find the best points to include in your comparative analysis essay. 

  • What applies to the assignment?
  • What's pertinent to the course?
  • What's captivating, yet informative?
  • What's basic and must be mentioned, although obvious?
  • Overall, which points are most significant? Similarities or differences?

The truth is that you cannot fit all your points in one compare and contrast essay. That's why you must choose those points you deem most significant. 

4. Note The Gaps in Your Research

See, when writing an academic essay, you must support any argument or claim you make with credible sources, as opposed to writing solely from an opinion standpoint. As such, once you've completed brainstorming ideas for your topic, review your main points, and try to find the areas that may need more research. 

This step is more crucial if you're discussing a topic that's related to academia, social matters, or current issues. 

Despite whichever topic you choose, you must be prepared to research your topic in more depth as the evidence you present will determine the quality of your essay. 

5. Craft your Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement serves as a roadmap and will help you narrow down your argument's focus. While a compare and contrast essay thesis can follow various courses, it's best if yours argues the importance of putting your two subjects together. As a rule of thumb, a specific and detailed thesis statement beats a vague and general thesis any day. 

You can use various approaches to craft a killer thesis statement for your comparative analysis essay. 

Firstly, you can try to show your reader why one is more desirable than the other. 

For example, dogs make better pets than cats because they are more autonomous, more adaptable, and require less maintenance.  

Secondly, your thesis could outline the primary similarities and differences between the two subjects.

For example, both dogs and cats are perceived as ideal household pets, although their breeding practices and temperaments set them apart. 

Thirdly, your thesis statement should explain to the reader why they should care about your topic. Why should anyone care about cats and dogs, as opposed to other household pets such as birds, rodents, or reptiles? Try your best to answer the "So What" question. 

Eventually, your revised thesis, after considering the above questions, should look something like this:

  1. Dogs and cats are seen as ideal household pets and prove more popular than other pets such as birds and rodents. However, cats' aloof temperament and low maintenance make them a better choice for most households.
  2. Cats and dogs make excellent household pets, although the ideal choice depends on the owner's finances, lifestyle, and living space. (More concise)

Organize your Essay

You can structure your compare and contrast essay in more ways than one. The approach you choose will depend on the structure that works best for your ideas. You shouldn't be too caught up in determining the framework as you can always change your compare and contrast essay outline. 

6. Decide on a Structure

Block by Block

This approach is also known as the subject-by-subject or text-by-text. This method of organizing your ideas in a comparative analysis essay addresses the discussion points from one subject first and the second subject's evidence later. That said, you should use at least one paragraph to discuss one point per item unless you want to cram all your ideas into one paragraph. 

For instance, you might have a section about how a cat affects the owner's finances, lifestyle, and living space. Afterward, you'd have three similar paragraphs about dogs, followed by your conclusion. 

Unfortunately, using this approach may make your essay look like a list of points, which isn't generally what college instructors want from a compare and contrast essay. As such, if you're going to use the text-by-text structure for your compare and contrast essay outline, you must include a compelling analytical thesis and an extra body paragraph that ties all of your various points together. 

Point by Point

Alternatively, you can discuss one aspect of comparison per paragraph. Depending on the amount of evidence you've got for each subject, this approach can take your essay in two different directions. 

If you don't have much evidence, you might discuss in a single paragraph how a particular point of comparison or contrast relates to everything you're addressing. For instance, in one section, you can compare the financial aspects of keeping both a cat and a dog. In another paragraph, you may discuss the amount of room a cat needs, compared to a dog's accommodation needs, and so on.

If you've got a lot to discuss regarding each point, you can devote an entire paragraph to explain how each discussion point relates to each item. For instance, you can have a whole paragraph about a cat's financial needs, then a similar section on dogs, and so forth.

Tip: When planning your compare and contrast essay outline, remember that there are no stringent rules. Your objective is to demonstrate the similarities and differences between the two subjects and their significance to your reader. 

You can check out our resource center for free samples, and learn more about developing a compare and contrast essay outline. You'll also learn how to craft good topic sentences and transitions (more about this later.)

Write your Essay

7. Outline your Essay

This bit will be much easier now that you've already decided which compare and contrast essay outline you want to use. A skeleton comes in handy as it serves as a template when developing your argument. Overall, despite the organizational structure you decided on, your comparative analysis essay must include the following paragraphs. 

Introduction

As your first paragraph, the intro should present the necessary information about the subjects you'll be comparing and contrasting. 

Are you wondering how to write a compelling compare and contrast essay introduction? Here's how.

  1. Start with a hook – A thought-provoking hook serves as an attention grabber. It helps you to immediately engage your reader, especially if your topic is somewhat complicated. A hook can be an intriguing example, a provocative question, or a brilliant anecdote. 
  2. Be assertive and clear – A reader is more likely to buy your argument if you come off as an expert on your topic. That's why you should avoid statements that make you appear less of an authority on the subject. Instead, you should progress with your introduction boldly, with clarity and assertion.  
  3. State your thesis – Writing a great compare and contrast essay hinges on your ability to develop a compelling argument. Your thesis for such an essay can either be evaluative or explanatory. An explanatory thesis statement compares/contrasts two subjects without taking a stance. An evaluative thesis statement, on the flipside, provokes opposition; it states that one item is better than the other. 

Overall, your introduction should set up your essay and let the reader know why he should care about your topic. 

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of your essay are where you lay out your entire argument. It is where you provide all the details and evidence to explain your ideas. Remember, every one of your body paragraphs should discuss one thought. What's more, it is in your body paragraphs where you present your evidence and analyze it, to connect it to your thesis.

When developing your body, remember to answer the question, "WHY"? Many students make the mistake of letting the points of comparison or contrast to "explain themselves" instead of explaining the significance of comparing the two subjects. 

A standard essay, be it a compare and contrast essay, descriptive essay, or an argumentative essay, usually has three body paragraphs. However, you should use as many as you deem fit to relay your argument. 

A college essay body paragraph should have the following elements;

  1. Topic Sentence – It's the first sentence in a paragraph. It introduces the topic of discussion. What's more, it can provide a transition from the previous section, thus improving the flow. 
  2. Body – A paragraph's body consists of sentences that provide the necessary evidence to support your thesis' claims.
  3. Conclusion – A concluding sentence helps to wrap up the ideas in a paragraph and may also link to the opinions of the next section. 

Conclusion

As the last paragraph in your essay, your compare and contrast essay conclusion should summarize the content of your entire paper. In a way, the ending provides more information than the introduction. 

A good conclusion paragraph should:

  1. Be short – Avoid telling stories in your conclusion 
  2. Restate your thesis – for starters, you must paraphrase the thesis in your compare and contrast essay conclusion. Your statement must be firm, as you've already supported your argument.
  3. Give your opinion – Try to deviate from the objective info, and give your idea regarding your hypothesis, without adding new information and wandering from the scope of the conclusion. 
  4. Leave a lasting impression – It's your chance to ensure that your reader doesn't forget about your essay as soon as he's done reading it. Consequently, you can add something interesting that will linger in his mind for a while. You can also give your reader something to think about; it could be an expansion of your ideas, or a proposition of future developments. 
  5. Tie all the aspects of the essay together – This is the primary goal of your compare and contrast essay conclusion. 

Is all this information too much to take in? Perhaps looking at some of our free compare and contrast essay samples will help! You'll also find various compare and contrast essay outline examples you can use in your writing. 

Review Your Essay

This step is as crucial as brainstorming, organizing, or writing your essay. We always advise the students we tutor to start writing their comparative analysis essay assignments early, to allow them sufficient time for crucial amendments. 

When you're done writing, take a break for a day or two, then you can come back to review it with a fresh pair of eyes. Finding holes in your organization or logic will be much easier if you took a break from your essay. 

In this step, you're checking for any faults in grammar, redundant ideas, run-on sentences, among other common writing mistakes.

Use the following tips to polish-up your compare and contrast essay.

  • Avoid bias – Ensure that your essay is well-balanced; it should contain the same amount of information for each topic. Also, you shouldn't use negative language to show that you disapprove of a particular subject.
  • Avoid using personal pronouns unless instructed otherwise. 
  • Read your essay out loud – It will allow you to catch awkward phrasing and spelling mistakes.
  • Ask a friend to help proofread your work

Need Help Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay?

At custom writing bee, we know that it's not just about getting good grades; improving your writing ability can change the course of your life. That's why we're keen to provide the best writing tips. Even better, we also offer assignment help to ensure that your learning experience is as smooth as possible. 

If you need help writing a compare and contrast essay, we're here for you. Our team of writing experts can write well-researched, plagiarism-free essays, regardless of your educational level. 

Finally, if this is your first time writing a compare and contrast essay, you'll benefit from reading papers written by our custom writing experts. Our resource center has a massive collection of free compare and contrast essay samples that could prove invaluable to your writing. 

Order your custom compare and contrast essay now and have it delivered in your email in a few short hours.


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