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Compare and Contrast Essay: Full Writing Guide

Compare and Contrast Essay: Full Writing Guide

A compare and contrast essay sees the student use critical analysis skills to establish similarities and differences between two or more subjects.
Analyzing and evaluating information is a part of everyday life for a student. That is why being able to write a good compare and contrast essay is such a valuable skill.
In this article, we dive into the type of essay with topic examples and a few simple writing tips from professional writers on EssayPro.


Table Of Contents

Compare And Contrast Essay Definition

So what is a compare and contrast essay? It’s an academic paper in which a student analyses two or more subjects with each other.
To compare means to explore similarities between subjects. To contrast means to look at their differences.

Good compare and contrast papers focus around a central point, explaining the importance and implications of this analysis.

A compare and contrast essay thesis must make a meaningful comparison. Find the central theme of your essay and do some brainstorming for your thesis.

Finding the Best Compare and Contrast Essay Topics For You

Firstly, choose a topic which you’re passionate about. You never want to come across dull and uninspiring in your work.
Here are some excellent ways to brainstorm for a topic:

Finding the Best Compare and Contrast Essat Topic

Find categories: Choose a type (like animals, films or economics) and compare subjects within that category: wild animals to farm animals, Star Wars to Star Trek, private companies to public companies, etc.

Random Surprising Fact: Dig for fun facts which could make great topics. Did you know that chickens can be traced back to dinosaurs?

Movie vs. Book: Most of the time, the book is better than the movie - unless it’s Blade Runner or Lord of the Rings. If you’re a pop culture lover, compare movies vs. books, video games, comics, etc.

Looking to steal a topic from us? Here are some good compare and contrast essay topics by our top writers. Feel free to get ideas and get creative!

25 Great Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students

College brings out the individual in everyone. This is the time to look at some challenging and controversial essay topics. Make your writing relatable to the college experience, and you’re guaranteed to gain the attention of your peers.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

  • Studying hard vs. studying smart- how do you learn more?
  • Compare an Ivy League college to a standard one.
  • Homeschooling vs. college in 2018.
  • Similarities and differences between a teenager and a young adult.
  • Reading books vs. listening to audiobooks.
  • Native English speakers vs. international English speakers - is there a huge difference?
  • American vs. Japanese school system.
  • American tradition vs. Native American tradition - how are they different?
  • Adderall vs. proper sleep - which helps you study better?
  • Studying home vs. studying abroad.

Sports

compare and contrast sports

Many college students do sports. It balances out the monotony of studying and keeps the mind and body fresh. Here are some excellent sports-related topics:

  • Working out alone vs. going to the gym.
  • Running vs. biking.
  • Traditional sports vs. cybersports.
  • Dota 2 vs. Chess.
  • American sports vs. European sports.

Media

compare and contrast media

Communications studies include film, journalism, music, art, and much more. Pop culture is an inexhaustible source of compare and contrast essay ideas!

  • Blockbuster movies vs. ‘meaningful’ films.
  • Pop music vs. underground or alternative music.
  • Esthetic art vs. provocative art.
  • The portrayal of heroes vs. villains in pop culture.
  • 50s music vs. 60s music.

History and Politics

compare and contrast history and politics

Political science presents many topic ideas. Analyzing the definition of ‘justice’ in different countries can generate a debate that will have Plato scratching his head.

  • Compare and contrast Europe before and after the Renaissance.
  • Nazism vs. Soviet Union ‘Communism’.
  • Donald Trump vs. King Jong Un
  • American vs. Ancient Greek Democracy.
  • American North vs. South Upbringing Mentality Before the Civil War.

Finding a Central Theme

When looking at similarities and differences in two subjects, it’s essential to tie your observations into a central theme.
Let’s say we’re looking at Pepsi vs. Marlboro. Without a central issue, the comparison would look like this:

Pepsi produces sugar drinks while Marlboro produces cigarettes.

This is one of the cases when the reader asks “So What?” The central theme is important because it answers that question.
Let’s say we’re looking at Pepsi vs. Marlboro with the central theme of addiction:

“A can of Pepsi shares no similarities with a pack of Marlboro cigarettes at first glance. However, if we look for points of comparisons, we notice that both are mass produced products. Both product designs are iconic, the Pepsi logo, and the Marlboro logo. Both products contain additives that have been found to cause addiction, and their over-consumption can lead to severe health issues. Cigarettes increase the chances of lung disease. Canned soda drinks with a lot of sugar can cause obesity. Marlboro cigarettes have almost erased their logo from the packet and launched anti-smoking ads across the world. On the other hand, Pepsi has gone full retro, releasing bottles and cans with classic 20th-century designs. They frequently sponsor events and promote their company through various means. Can we conclude that Pepsi takes advantage of substance abuse to increase their profit? “

This is a much more detailed comparison because of it all ties to a central theme.

Try it yourself! Find compare and contrast paper ideas and do some brainstorming to find a central theme. This will help you a LOT with forming your argument.

Classic Essay Outline

Before we learn how to write a compare and contrast essay, let’s refresh the classic 5-paragraph-essay structure:

Introduction. The intro must be captivating and present a thesis, stating the purpose and direction of the paper. When thinking about how to start a compare and contrast essay - make it memorable.

Body. Share the main information shown in the essay outline. Introduce a topic sentence in each paragraph, and make every argument flow logically into the next. Make sure you are using the correct compare and contrast essay format!

Conclusion. Summarize your essay and present final thoughts on the compare and contrast essay topic. Offer a solid argument and give the reader something to think about. What was the purpose of this essay? Why was this comparison significant?

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline - Point-by-Point and Block Methods

Compare and contrast papers rely heavily on factual analysis. Two outline methods can help you organize your facts.
Use the block method or point-by-point method to write a compare and contrast essay outline.

Point by Point Method

point by point method

Intro

  • Introduce the topic;
  • Specify your theme;
  • Thesis - Cover all areas of the essay in one sentence: Cars and motorcycles make for excellent means of transportation, but a good choice depends on the person’s lifestyle, finances, and the city they live in.

Body Paragraph 1 - LIFESTYLE

  • Topic Sentence: Motorcycles impact the owner’s lifestyle less than cars.
  • Topic 1 - Motorcycles
    • Argument: Motorcycles are smaller and more comfortable to store.
    • Argument: Motorcycles are easy to learn and use.
  • Topic 2 - Cars
    • Argument: Cars are a big deal - like a second home.
    • Argument: It takes time to learn to be a good driver.

Body Paragraph 2 - FINANCES

  • Topic sentence: Cars are much more expensive than motorcycles
  • Topic 1 - Cars
    • Argument: Parts and service are expensive if something breaks.
    • Argument: Cars need more gas than motorcycles.
  • Topic 2 - Motorcycles
    • Argument: You can buy a good motorcycle for under 100$.
    • Argument: Fewer parts, more accessible to fix.

Body Paragraph 2 - CITY

  • Topic sentence: Cars are a better option for a bigger city with wider roads.
  • Topic 1 - Cars
    • Argument: Big cities are easier and comfier to navigate by car.
    • Argument: With a car, traveling outside the city is much easier.
  • Topic 2 - Motorcycles
    • Argument: Riding motorcycles in a big city is more dangerous than cars.
    • Argument: Motorcycles work great in a city like Rome, where all the streets are narrow.

Conclusion

Block Method

block method

Intro

  • Introduce the topic;
  • Specify your theme;
  • Thesis - Cover all areas of the essay in one sentence: Cars and motorcycles make for excellent means of transportation, but a good choice depends on the person’s lifestyle, finances, and the city they live in.

Body Paragraph 1

  • Topic Sentence: Motorcycles are cheaper and easier to take care off than cars.
  • Aspect 1 - Lifestyle
    • Argument: Motorcycles are smaller and more comfortable to store.
    • Argument: Motorcycles are easy to learn and use.
  • Aspect 2 - Finances
    • Argument: You can buy a good motorcycle for under 100$.
    • Argument: Fewer parts, easier to fix.
  • Aspect 3 - City
    • Argument: Riding motorcycles in a big city is more dangerous than cars.
    • Argument: Motorcycles work great in a city like Rome, where all the streets are narrow.

Body Paragraph 2

  • Topic sentence: Cars are more expensive but more comfortable for a big city and travelling.
  • Aspect 1 - Lifestyle
    • Argument: Cars are a big deal - like a second home.
    • Argument: It takes time to learn to be a good driver.
  • Aspect 2 - Finances
    • Argument: Parts and service are expensive if something breaks.
    • Argument: Cars need more gas than motorcycles.
  • Aspect 3 - City
    • Argument: Big cities are easier and comfier to navigate by car.
    • Argument: With a car, traveling outside the city is much more comfortable.

Body Paragraph 3

Use the last paragraph to evaluate the comparisons and explain why they’re essential. Giving lots of facts can be intense. To water it down, try giving the reader a real-life application of these facts.

Conclusion

There are other methods of writing a compare and contrast essay, but these two are the most widespread. They are easy to write, and they give a coherent structure to your essay.

Important Details That Will Get You The Top Grade

Now that you’ve got the outline it’s time to create a rough draft.

The devil is in the details. Points get deducted for incorrect use of the format, title, and bad grammar. Make sure you pay attention to the following parts of your essay not to lose points!

Title

The title has to be informative and grab the attention of your reader. If you’re presenting your essay to a class, grab their attention with a joke. In a more serious setting, keep it informative and professional.

Good essay titles are an art, and we have an entire blog post dedicated to essay titles!

Format

Most academic assignments are in MLA format. Use our blog guide to MLA format if you need some reference. It was done by pro essay writers who write in MLA all the time.

Proofreading & Finalizing

After you’re finished writing it’s best to leave your essay for a while.

Come back to it and proofread it with a fresh mind. Also, try giving your piece to a fellow student or parent for an outside opinion.

Helpful Final Tips

The biggest tip we could give you is to have the right attitude when writing a compare and contrast essay and actively engage the reader in the discussion. If you find it interesting, so will your reader!

Here are some compare and contrast essay tips that will help you polish yours up:

  • Compare and contrast essays make powerful use of transitions. Try learning more about transition sentences.

  • Cue words such as ‘likewise, similarly, nevertheless, despite, on the other hand,’ etc., can tell the reader whether you’re comparing or contrasting.

  • Always clarify the concepts you introduce in your essay. Always explain lesser known information - and don’t assume the reader must know it!

happy writing

Compare and Contrast Essay Examples

You’ve learned what is a compare and contrast essay is. Now let’s take a look at some compare and contrast essay examples to solidify your knowledge. These have been written by our top essay writers and feature all of the structural requirements of a classic academic essay.

Different countries across the world have diverse cultural practices, and this brings out the difference in work relationships and development. Geert Hofstede came up with a structured way of comparing cultural dimensions...

In fact, the popularity of organic foods has exploded tremendously with consumers spending a considerably higher amount of money on them as compared to the amount spent on inorganic foods. Besides, the US market registered an increase in sales of more than 10% between 2014 and 2015 (Brown, n.p).


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