How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

If you are asked to write a compare and contrast essay, one of the first steps in the process requires the writer to take two items and identify new connections or differences between them. In a task like this, the word “new” is the key. 

Choose any two objects or items that could belong to one particular category but that are also different in some ways. Here are a few suitable examples: 

  • Music and painting (these are both types of art but differ in a number of ways)
  • Sheep and horses (these are both types of animals but differ in a number of ways)
  • Volleyball and basketball (these are both ball games but differ in a number of ways)

Jot down the various features, traits and/or characteristics of each of the items on your list to generate a few ideas for your essay. Make a particular note of any likenesses and differences.

Before your start writing your first draft, the following are a few important questions to ask yourself:  

  • Has your professor or tutor asked you to compare and also to contrast the selected items, or were you asked to do only one element i.e. compare the items or contrast them? 
  • Would you say the chosen items are alike or different in one aspect at least?
  • Are you sufficiently knowledgeable in your chosen topic to write an informative essay on it?

Must you compare and contrast the items or do you only need to cover one aspect?

There are times when a tutor will want you to look only at selected items in terms of their similarities, while others will want you to focus on how items are different. Either way, it is essential to make sure your central thesis statement reflects the instructions you are given. For example, if your topic concerns the different features and/or usefulness of various social media platforms, you may need different thesis statements to suit the instructions you were given.     

The following is one sample of a possible thesis statement for an essay dealing only with the contrasting of items: “The MySpace website is better for those who want to a platform that accommodates personal style whereas Facebook is more suitable for sharing everyday news with fellow users.” 

The following is a sample of a possible thesis statement for an essay that both compares and contrasts: “Although both Facebook and MySpace are suitable websites for meeting others with common interests, MySpace is better for those who want a platform that accommodates personal style.”      

Have you been asked to compare items that are similar and/or different in one significant way at least?

If you want to produce an interesting essay, try not to highlight likenesses and differences that are already very obvious. For example, it is well-known that the number of players in a football team is greater than the number in a basketball team and it is well-known that horses are much larger than dogs.   

Focus on things that your readers are not likely to notice or know already!

It would be better to mention how horses and dogs are human-friendly animals or that football depends more on teamwork than basketball.     

To make sure your essay is a success, you do not need to be especially clever in the way you compare and contrast things. It is often just a question of looking at everyday items from a new perspective or in a way that is more innovative.  

Are you sufficiently knowledgeable in your chosen topic to write an informative essay on it?  

Try to choose a couple of items you are familiar with and feel comfortable discussing unless, of course, you have been specifically asked to undertake some research for your writing project.

On occasion, a professor or tutor may request that a number of similarities and differences are identified. Therefore, prior to starting, prepare yourself to write a well-developed and meaningful paper on a subject you know well.  

Organizing a Compare Contrast Essay

There are essentially two primary ways of organizing this type of essay:

  • Piecing: This method involves writing informative pieces on each chosen item in separate paragraphs e.g. organizing information by topic.  

Chunking: This method means including all the information you have on each item in a single chunk or paragraph. From there, you should choose the likenesses, which you can then use for transitional purposes.