Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on what a compare and contrast essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use compare and contrast structure words, and how to make sure you use appropriate criteria for comparison/contrast. There is also an example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.
What are compare & contrast essays?
To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences. This essay type is common at university, where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc. Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure. For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first, and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards. This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for cause and effect and problem-solution essays. For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.
The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.
Object 1 - Point 1
Object 1 - Point 2
Object 1 - Point 3
Object 2 - Point 1
Object 2 - Point 2
Object 2 - Point 3
Compare and Contrast Structure Words
Compare and contrast structure words are transition signals which show the similarities or differences. Below are some common examples.
Criteria for comparison/contrast
When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.
Although this sentence has a contrast transition, the criteria for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong). We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this type of paragraph or essay. Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).
Below is a compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the point-by-point structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.
Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away. Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.
Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task, ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication are similar in their general form, they differ in regard to their speed and the range of tools available.
One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication. In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls. Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms. Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition, oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.
However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances, the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination. In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent. In the past, if it was necessary to send a short message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate. This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.
Another significant difference is the range of communication methods. Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter. By comparison, there are a vast array of communication methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned, but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities, such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences, chiefly in relation to the speed of communication and the range of communication tools available. There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future, and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.
GET A FREE SAMPLE
Like the website? Try the book. Enter your email to receive a free sample from the recently published title, EAP Foundation: Academic Presentations.
Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
You need to login to view the exercises. If you do not already have an account, you can register for free.
It is always a big question for beginner writers how to write a compare and contrast essay.
Briefly talking, you just need to learn that classic five-paragraph essay format and compare two subjects in the body section of your paper.
If you want to learn more, just proceed reading and get few interesting compare and contrast essay topics as a bonus.
ORDER A WINNING COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
7 Tips on How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
Compare and contrast essay is, as we said before, a simple and interesting paper format to deal with. The main idea lies right on the surface and its name talks for itself. You need to compare two subjects that sometimes are absolutely unrelated to each other. You need to analyze both things and come up with a conclusion. Your text may be a search for some solution of a broader problem or just describe a particular aspect. Compare and contrast essay writing can be divided into seven main stages:
- Stage 1: Get yourself a topic
- Stage 2: Create an outline
- Stage 3: Introduce the topic
- Stage 4: Start with the body paragraphs
- Stage 5: Identify the main contrast between subjects
- Stage 6: The conclusion
- Stage 7: Editing and revising
One of the most important stages of your writing would be the introduction where you should present your clear thesis statement. You should come with few thesis statements at once and then choose the best one you can handle. And just after that part is done you can start with the real comparison and composition.
If you would ever ask an experienced writer about successful writing tips, he will tell you that the deal is about your experience and knowledge. Our experts will tell you absolutely the same, but after teaching you how to write a compare and contrast essay. Let’s start with five paragraph paper.
How to Write Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
Any paper should have its outline. It is a must if you want your writing process to be easier and clear. It is great to be able to write from scratch the whole paper, but the working process will flow easier if you create an outline. Compare and contrast essay outline is nothing different from any other outlines people write for another type of articles.
If the topic you are working with is exciting for you, we are sure it is absolutely easy to work with it. But you should note that it is still important to be competent on the topic you are writing about. Or you are risking of getting blocked by bad knowledge of your topic and inability to develop the idea as it should be.
Here is how a typical outline should look for subject by subject comparison:
- Presentation of the general topic
- Your specific topic and clue
- Your main goals you’re trying to reach in this very essay
- Subject 1 – three or more aspects with detailed descriptions.
- Subject 2 – three or more aspects with detailed descriptions.
- A short list of main results.
- Possible future development, solution or evaluation.
And for the outline, try to feel free with your writing. Just get those marks you want to include into your paper with no doubt. There can be lots of those ideas and while writing and editing some of them may fall off. It is normal and even necessary if too many ideas you have. And remember that organization is a key to your comfortable working process. And the good organization is the key to your successful work.
A compare and contrast essay example:
How to Write Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction
Compare and contrast essay introduction is no different from any other introduction you may have already done or read before. The principles you used for your definition essay are absolutely the same for your compare and contrast paper. It should be just one paragraph long.
- Do it brief and striking.
- Identify the main idea behind your theme.
- Synchronize it with your outline.
- You may write this part the last one to get a good connection with a conclusion.
Any good introduction is just a perfect start. And it means you need to make it convincing and strong no matter how conflicting your topic is. It should be clear and understandable for any type of a reader. You can get some interesting info on the topic you are writing about. Some writers prefer asking questions that make their readers involved from the start. If you decide to ask a question, don’t forget to hint at the answer in the next part of your paper.
Writing of Compare and Contrast Essay Example of Body Paragraphs
The next part is the body. Those paragraphs are the main place for the comparison and the story you are going to tell. And with your starting draft, you need to list and describe all the ideas you have in your outline. Just use everything you can remember from the topic you are working with.
Each paragraph of the body gives the reader exact description and analysis of the subject. And then it offers a comparison of those two subjects based on those previously described features. Here is how the body section may look like if you use a classic three paragraphs in body section style:
Similar marks vs. Difference
- 1st paragraph in the body section is going to tell about similar marks of both your topic masters.
- 2nd paragraph of the body will talk about all those parts that are different.
- 3rd paragraph talks about the place both subjects get in the field covered by the topic.
A subject vs. B subject
- 1st describes the A subject and tells about its features
- 2nd paragraph of the body tells about the B subject of your paper and gives a strong analysis of its features.
- 3rd paragraph compares and analyzes both subjects.
Each paragraph and we have three of them in this part, should be researched separately and consciously. Don’t pay too much attention to the difference between the facts, but the topic you are writing about. And to make your paper absolutely high level, you need to get even deeper than you can and another writer usually so. Try to find something that is completely unknown and make discoveries if it is possible.
How to Write Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion
Some students make their writing mistakes just at the very end of their papers. Compare and contrast essay conclusion is the place where you may just get into a serious trouble, and it is great to keep it in mind before subscribing your work as the finished one. Some experts say that this final paragraph is even more important than the introduction. We must say that this is totally true.
In your introduction, you present the subject and make the first impression. And here you need to make the final strike and convince your reader that you are right. And it will be the last words you can write about the entire thing. Don’t make it sound just like a simple summary, but convincing and ripe position. Don’t forget to make few references to the body paragraphs of your text. Here are few basic tips you need to keep in mind:
- Answer the question "So What?"
- Synthesize, don't summarize
- Redirect your readers
- Create a new meaning
Winning Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
You need to understand that well-written compare and contrast essay example is just a half of your way to success. Correct and interesting compare and contrast essay topics are another part you need to reckon with. Here is the list of topics you can suggest for the start:
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
- Apple vs. Microsoft
- Christianity vs. Islam
- Trump vs. Obama
- North Korea vs. South Korea
- Analog vs. Digital
- Electricity vs. Petroleum
- Communism vs. Capitalism
- Hydropower stations vs. Solar power stations
- Nuclear Power vs. Solar Power
- Red wine vs. Beer
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for High School
- Contemporary art vs. Classic art
- Rome Empire vs. Nazi Germany
- Monarchy vs. Democracy
- Meat eater vs. Vegans
- Jesus vs. Buddha
- England Colonies vs. French or Spanish Colonies
- Game of Thrones vs. Lord of the rings
- Ancient China vs. Japan
- Saltwater life vs. Freshwater life
- Greek Mythology vs. Roman Mythology
- 1914 vs. 1939
- Godfather vs. The Sopranos
- Rock vs. Pop
Compare and Contrast Topics for Middle School
- Pacific ocean vs. Atlantic ocean
- Plastic vs. Wood
- School vs. College
- Mozart vs. Bach
- Comedy vs. Drama
- Chinese language vs. Korean language
- Rap vs. Metal
- English vs. German
- Daytona vs. F-1
- Theatre vs. Classical Music
- Children vs. Adults
- Math vs. Literature
- Physics vs. Chemistry
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for 6th Grade
- Fanta vs. Sprite
- Father vs. Mother
- Dogs vs. Cats
- Darth Vader vs. Sauron
- Medieval knights vs. Samurais
- Shark vs. Orca
- Mammals vs. Birds
- Lions vs. Tigers
- Watercolor vs. Oil
- Airplanes vs. Cars
- Subway vs. Railway
- Apples vs. Pears
- Batman vs. Shadow
- Football vs. Basketball
GET A PERFECTLY-WRITTEN COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
How to Write a 5 Paragraph Compare and Contrast Essay
If you don’t know how to write a 5 paragraph compare and contrast essay, we should calm you down, it is simpler than it seems. The format of five paragraph paper considers 1 to 3 to 1 scheme where intro and conclusion have one paragraph and the body has three. But with this type of articles, you are free to experiment and to get something really unique.
Five paragraph format is a classic way to deal with most essays out there. No matter what topic do you have, this format will fit it perfectly. Writers often call it a subject to subject style. Its scheme would look like this:
- 1 paragraph – to present the topic
- 3 paragraphs – to identify and describe features of the subjects
- 1 paragraph – to make a summary
You can create an article with four or six paragraphs just using the proper scheme of mixing those paragraphs. It also depends on the outline you have created before starting writing. And we will tell you how to write a proper article with just two or three paragraphs in the body section.
Every good paper should start somewhere. And to start, you need to understand that this type of essays is about similarities and differences of two sometimes absolutely unrelated things. And don’t let the word comparison confuse you. It is not just about listing similar and different features of two subjects. It is more about discovering new aspects and revealing information that can be new to your reader.
And at the end of it all here are few great tips you should keep in your mind:
- Make your title encouraging
A successful paper always has a good title. It is sharp, brief, and to the core. It can be a question or complex type of a sentence, but it should strike and hit all the aspects of your topic and the problem you are going to define in your paper.
Don’t be afraid to stop and reload. It is important if you write a big paper and your thoughts are already messed around. It would give you a chance to see your work with a fresh eye even if you were resting for an hour.
Both of these things are crucial. A successful article can’t be completed without editing reviewing. Check every aspect of its grammar and structure. Make it flow smoothly. This makes the entire paper sound more diverse and interesting. But don’t just compare two subjects. Get few convincing contrasts between them. Yes, don’t forget that it is not just a compare essay but contrast also.
Students often get confused because of this type of papers. There are lots of other hard to deal with tasks, but this one makes you feel like it is simple from the start. But it may fool you around with that fake simplicity. Sometimes it gets very difficult to compare two unrelated subjects and find those not so obvious contrasts between them. Start writing and you see that ides don’t come easy. It is challenging, and you should be prepared for this. And if you still have any doubts about any aspects of this task, our professional team is here to help you 24/7. Just place an order or ask for help in any other comfortable way and we will be there with our skills, experience, and respect.