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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay?


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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay at a high school or college is an important part of the educational process. It serves the important purpose of teaching students how to analyze pros and cons and how to make informed decisions. In this post, you will learn everything about writing a compare and contrast essay.  

What is to compare and contrast

In a compare and contrast essay, the matter of what is to compare and contrast becomes the matter of choosing the topic. To put it differently – by choosing your objects or subjects to compare, you essentially choose the topic of your paper.

In an academic setting, be it a high school or a college, students are typically free to choose their essay topics. They can write about their immediate disciplines, e.g., if someone studies Arts, they can compare and contrast two or more prominent pieces of classic visual art, or music.

It would also be a great idea to do brainstorming and to come up with a unique focus, for instance, comparing and contrasting something from other disciplines. However, be careful with what you choose, as by analyzing something that nobody knows much about, you are running the risk of not capturing the attention of your readers, and inflicting evaluation difficulties on your teacher.

The best topics to compare and contrast are the ones that are well known and studied. You can show all your knowledge and critical thinking abilities by bringing something new and original to the analysis of those well-studied topics.

What is the purpose of a compare and contrast essay?

The major purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to make a comparison and to pick up the distinctive characteristics of two or more objects (subjects, events, notions, etc.). In the process of writing this type of essay, the writer explores the differences and similarities of the chosen subjects. In a greater scheme of academic writing, this is a pure analytical type of work, requiring students to summon all their research skills and talents.

Here is an exhaustive list of all possibles objectives of a compare and contrast essay:

  • To pick up and analyze similarities
  • To pick up and analyze differences
  • To develop the critical thinking abilities of the writer
  • To provide important insights (for the studied discipline, the class, the writer’s future academic pass, etc.)
  • To refine the writing skills of the writer
  • To inform and persuade the target audience  

Speaking about persuasion, a compare and contrast essay is not much different from other types of essays. It also has a thesis statement in the introductory paragraph, which later in the text has to be addressed by using various compare and contrasting techniques. The latter may include a point-by-point comparison, the Block Method, analogies and metaphors, cause and effect comparison, etc. 

How to start a compare and contrast essay

Writing becomes so much easier when you have a clear outline ready. Thus, always aim to outline before starting your essay. There, you can include your thesis statement, the introductory sentences containing a “hook” (something special and interesting to catch the readers’ attention), a high-level analysis of the similarities and differences of your reviewed subjects, and a few ideas on what to put into the conclusion. 

Even if you make a simple table with strengths and weaknesses or pros and cons in advance, that would be a massive help for you to start writing a compare and contrast essay. Otherwise, staring at an empty sheet of paper, not knowing how to begin, can be very demotivating.

The first paragraph of your essay should always be the introduction. For a long essay of 3–5 pages, the introductory part can occupy two, sometimes even three paragraphs. The general rule is to allocate around 10% of the entire text volume to the introduction.

In this first paragraph, consider highlighting the significance of your chosen topic by saying how vigorously it is debated among the public, and how other researchers have failed to spot the really meaningful differences or similarities between the subjects under review.

How to make a compare and contrast essay

To make a perfect compare and contrast essay, ensure the three critical elements are in place: outline, structure, and format.

Compare and contrast essay outline

The outline is your plan of writing action. It’s a rough sketch of what your entire essay is going to be about. The most popular outlining techniques include Roman numerals lists, bullet point lists, hierarchical structure, mind mapping (using diagrams and drawings to connect interrelated ideas), the Cornell Method (dividing a sheet of paper into two columns: topic column and detail column), and others.

Which method to choose is up to you. Some people prefer graphical representation of outlines, i.e., mind mapping, while others feel more comfortable with tables and lists. 

Compare and contrast essay structure

The structure of your essay should consist of the following three parts: the introduction, the main body, and the conclusion. 

Compare and contrast essay structure

In the introduction, you need to inspire and motivate your reader with your chosen topic. Various attention-grabbing techniques are used, including startling statistics or facts, anecdotes, intriguing questions, powerful quotations, vivid descriptions, bold or contradictory statements, and humor after all! 

The main body in a compare and contrast essay is used to analyze the subjects under review, while the conclusion represents a summary of your findings and a reiteration of your central statement.

Compare and contrast essay format

If not otherwise specified in your essay assignment, consider applying the following standard format to your text.

Title page: include the relevant author information (your name and study course), and your immediate professor’s name in the upper left corner of your first page, just above the title.

Text font and style: Use 12-size font, Times New Roman, Areal, or Calibri.

Line spacing: one and a half or double-spacing are both acceptable.

Page margins: use one-inch margins on all sides.

Referencing: APA referencing style is most commonly used in compare and contrast essays.

To recap, a compare and contrast essay is a type of academic paper that develops our analytical skills and attention to detail. Students can choose any two subjects or objects to compare and contrast, however, it is advisable to select something well-known and popular. Anyone will be more successful in writing this type of paper, if they secure a good outline first, and ensure a proper writing structure, and format.

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