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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

October 20, 2015 - Posted to How to: Essay writing tips
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

You wrote these types of essays in high school. You may have compared or contrasted two characters in a piece of literature; you may have contrasted mitosis and meiosis in biology class; you may have compared or contrasted life in the North and the South just before the Civil War. So, you have had some experience with comparison/contrast essays. You may need a review of the concept or the process so that you can produce good ones now that you are in college, because the topics will get complex, to be sure.

What is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

This essay is essentially what it is titled. You will be comparing two people, things, ideas; you may be contrasting them; or you may be doing both. Your essay will attempt to enlighten the reader about the similarities, differences, or both.

There are three types of essays of this type:

  • Comparison Only: You will address similarities
  • Contrast Only: You will address differences
  • Comparison and Contrast: You will address similarities and differences both

Selecting a Topic

If you have the option to select a topic, great! You can choose one that interests you and you can adopt a style that best suits you. You can be serious or humorous. The most important thing in topic selections is to choose two people, groups, things or ideas that can be compared and/or contrasted. Trying to compare a musician and a welder could be a bit difficult, although there have been many humorous essays written comparing two seemingly unrelated topics. On one occasion, for example, an author compared her office to a Kindergarten classroom – it was hilarious. So be creative if you want, but just be certain that you have criteria that you can use to compare and contrast.

Structuring Your Essay

Writing a compare and contrast essay is easy if you use a good organizational design. The best one is a Venn diagram, so that you can put similarities in the space where the two circles overlap and differences on the outsides of the two. This will give you the perfect structure from which to write the essay.

  • Comparison Only: If your essay is only to compare two things, then you will focus on the area where the two circles overlap.
  • Contrast Only: If you are contrasting two things, you will focus on the outside areas of the circles.
  • Compare & Contrast: You will address similarities and then differences.

An Example

Suppose you are going to compare and contrast two groups of students – jocks and nerds. How are they similar? Well, they are both students; they attend the same classes and have the same coursework assignments; they both live in dorms and apartments; they both have friends with whom they socialize. How are they different? Jocks focus on physical fitness while nerds focus more on their studies; jocks are very concerned about their looks and dress; nerds are less concerned about these things. Jocks may end up working for someone else; nerds may be those people jocks end up working for.

Your Introduction and Conclusion

Present your topic in your introduction along with a thesis statement. Try to open with a compelling and engaging statement. If you are unsure how to conclude a compare and contrast essay, your conclusion can address the analysis that two things are more alike than different or that two things are more different than similar.

If you are careful with your structure, the comparison/contrast essay should not be difficult to write.

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