Compare and contrast essays do just what they say. They identify the similarities and the differences between two subjects. Typically, the subjects will fall under the same umbrella. For example, you might compare and contrast two different dog breeds or two different tourist attractions in the same country.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to formulate these essays with clarity and cohesion. After all, you're discussing not one, but two main topics. So, the next time you find yourself wondering how to write a compare and contrast essay, fear not! Here are six easy steps to help you pull it all together.
Allow these steps below to help you draft a winning compare and contrast essay. We'll begin with what's sometimes the hardest part - choosing a topic.
The first step is to choose two topics worth a spotlight of similarities and differences. Remember, they can be different, but must be plucked from under the same umbrella. If you want to compare and contrast two artists, make sure they performed in the same medium. Pair two painters or two sculptors, rather than a painter and a playwright.
An outline is par for the course when drafting an essay. But, with compare and contrast essays in particular, it's helpful to start with a good ol' fashioned list. Take a sheet of paper; draw a vertical line down the center; and list the similarities and differences between the two subjects.
If you were writing an essay about two famous painters, start with their similarities. Perhaps they both painted with acrylics. Once you've covered as many similarities as you can, move on to their differences. Perhaps they received different training or came from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
A nice, long list is helpful because you can never know too much about your subject. Now, it's time to pull out your highlighter and hone in on the most significant elements.
Don't just talk about the painters' different backgrounds. Ask yourself what's significant about that. Perhaps the two painters came from different backgrounds but reached similar levels of success. Perhaps they also used two different kinds of brushes. Interesting… but is that going to play into some further point? Is that really the most significant of all the elements on your list?
Depending on length requirements, most basic school essays have an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, compare and contrast essays tend to be meatier. As such, you might want to extend the length of the body. This part is really up to you.
You can discuss two similarities and then lead to two differences, or vice versa. Or, you can focus on one of the subjects first, and then focus on the the second subject. See what starts to come together more naturally for you. It's typically easier to discuss similarities and then differences, instead of going subject by subject, but see takes shape for you.
As soon as you decide on a topic for an essay, it's wise to do a cursory online search to make sure your topic has been covered enough by other scholars. Now that you're comfortable with your topic and the direction of your essay, it's time to gather supporting evidence.
In these informative essays, statistical evidence is helpful. This includes facts, stats, and evidence. You'll also want to explore testimonials, expert opinion, or even a personal encounter if it's relatable.
If you can, gather personal statements about the subject. In the case of the two painters, see what type of commentary you can gather from them to support their similarities and differences. Cite statistics about the neighborhoods they grew up in if you're going to focus on their upbringing and background. This way, it's not just your personal perceptions but factual evidence.
With all these tools in your arsenal, it's time to write. Your introductory paragraph is going to introduce the two subjects to the readers. Offer a short tidbit about each subject, noting why you've chosen to compare and contrast the two. Then, close this opening paragraph with your thesis statement. That's a sentence or two summarizing what's to come in the essay.
For example, "Although Henri Matisse and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec both produced their work during Paris' famed Belle Époque period, their finished products stood in stark contrast to one another." This gives the reader an idea that you're going to be discussing two painters who lived and painted during the same period, but had unique approaches to their artform.
Next, you'll move on to the body of the essay. This will be approximately four (or more) paragraphs focusing on key similarities and key differences, allowing for one paragraph for each point made. Alternatively, you may choose to focus subject by subject. Again, see what's most comfortable for you.
Then, it's time to bring it all home in the conclusion paragraph. Briefly summarize the similarities and differences by reiterating your thesis statement in different terms. A nice way to close out any kind of essay is to propose a rhetorical question or cite some sort of call to action. Ask the readers what the art world would look like without the influence of these two painters or invite them to study the painters' work in finer detail.
With compare and contrast essays, it's easy to take a unique spin to an otherwise basic subject. Just remember the golden rule for these types of essays. They must be of the same category. With that in mind, let's see if any of these topic ideas get your own wheels turning.
American English vs. British English: What's the Difference?
Android vs. iPhone: Which Has the Best Bang for Your Buck?
Aphrodite or Hercules: Which Greek God Possessed More Power?
Border Collies vs. Labrador Retrievers: Which Breed Is Better for Young Families?
Coffee vs. Tea: Which One Is Healthier?
Commuting or Dorming: What's the Best Way to Enjoy College?
Facebook or Instagram: Which Will Help Your Business Grow?
Irish and Scottish Mythology: Do They Share Common Themes?
Liberal Arts or the Sciences: Which Degree Program Offers More Job Prospects?
Music and Poetry: Which Is More Personal?
Music from the 1950s and the 1970s: Who Rocked It Out Better?
PC vs. Mac: Which Computer Lasts Longer?
The Bible vs. the Quran: What's the Difference?
Compare and contrast essays are wonderful fodder for the fire. You might conclude that music is more personal than poetry but your best friend, a Literature major, might disagree wholeheartedly. In which case, prepare to write your finest argumentative essay!
There's no right and wrong in compare and contrast essays, in this way. All that's required is solid evidence to support your claim. So, cite those stats and quote those expert opinions. Then, sit back and watch the conversation unfold.