You have been assigned a compare and contrast essay but what is it and where do you even begin?
The purpose of this type of essay is to focus on two or more topics examining them for subtle differences and unexpected similarities. These topics can be closely related, say a zebra and a horse, or they can be vastly different, like a pizza and salad. The focus of a compare and contrast essay is to bring to light something unknown, show whether one is superior to another, argue a point with supported facts, or clear up a misunderstanding. Using similarities and differences a meaningful argument can be made about the subjects.
What is a compare and contrast essay?
A compare and contrast essay is exactly what the name implies. Taking two, or more, topics analyze them critically to bring out similarities and dissimilarities. Your topic could be about characters in a book, places to visit, a concept, idea, or anything that holds some amount of similarity. The similarities and dissimilarities can be simple to spot or they can be difficult. The essay will bring them to light.
Preparing to write
To begin you will need to decide what two (or more) topics to compare and contrast. These topics need to be different enough to allow comparison. You have to be able to answer the question of why it is useful or interesting to compare and contrast these two subjects.
Begin by brainstorming the similarities and differences of your subjects. Write lists of traits that each subject possesses and take note of where the differences are. Brainstorming will bring to light the major points. This will help you determine what you will want to focus on.
Once you have your main topics, a list of similarities and differences, and an idea of the major points you can begin outlining the skeleton of your essay. (See How to Write an Essay Outline)
Begin your outline by deciding whether you will be structuring your essay subject by subject, point by point, or compare then contrast. Let’s use Zebras and Horses as an example.
Let’s compare and contrast these three structures.
A subject by subject essay outline of horses and zebras
- Body Paragraphs
- Physical traits
- Physical traits
A point by point essay outline of horses and zebras
- Body Paragraphs
- Physical Traits
A compare then contrast essay outline of horses and zebras
- Comparisons of horses and zebras
- Contrasts of horses and zebras
Let’s compare and contrast these outlines.
A subject by subject outline gives you the advantage of discussing one topic at a time. The difficulty of this structure is that the comparisons and contrast do not become evident till the end of the essay.
A point by point structure is very clear what you are comparing and contrasting, however you must be careful in clearly identifying which subject you are referring to as it can become easy to confuse them.
A compare then contrast outline emphasizes contrast. However, since it begins with the comparisons it is difficult to maintain your readers interest in seeing the purpose of the essay.
Once you have chosen your structure it is time to write your essay.
Writing your compare and contrast essay
Begin your comparative essay with an introduction and thesis statement. In one or two sentences present the topic of your paper and the position you will be defending. Your thesis statement will help you in the writing of your paper to stay focused and clear. It should be specific and cover only what you will be supporting in your paper.
Compare and contrast essay thesis example: “While horses and zebras have many things in common it is their differences that led to the domestication of horses. These difference help explain why we domesticate some animals and leave others in the wild.”
Your body paragraphs will need to provide concrete evidence to support your thesis. This is where you will organize and share research. Begin by writing down a main idea. This will be a paragraph’s topic sentence. Next write supporting points for the main idea and fill it in with the research collected. The paragraph will end with a conclusion sentence supporting the main idea. The number of body paragraphs you write will depend on the structure of your compare and contrast essay as well as the number of similarities and contrasts you choose to highlight.
Here is a sample paragraph for a body paragraph using a point-by-point comparison.
“While there are many similarities in the appearance of a horse and a zebra there are also strong differences in their physical makeup. A horse’s hooves tend to be larger in size and softer than a zebra. The main of a horse is long and lays over the neck while a zebra’s is stiff, short, and stands upright. The tails are also different. A horse has a full haired tail while a zebra’s tail only has hair at the end.”
Finish the essay with a conclusion. The conclusion is where you summarize everything you have already written. This is where you restate the main idea and summarize the main points of your essay. Here is where you leave your reader with any final impressions.
The paragraph below is an example conclusion.
“The differences between horses and zebras help explain why some animals are domesticated and some are left in the wild. While there are many similarities in the physical makeup of these animals it is the differences in aggression and physique that led to the domestication of the horse. When looking at wild animals to domesticate it is important to weigh carefully the benefits to both human and animal before doing so.”
Compare and Contrast Essay Writing Tips from Our Team
- Brainstorm similarities and differences. Write all similarities on one side of a piece of paper and differences on another.
- Figure out your why early on. What value does comparing and contrasting these two subjects bring your reader?
- Take detailed notes while researching your subjects.
- Edit. Edit.
Writing a compare and contrast essay outline - involved and difficult
The most common outline for compare and contrast essay projects is known as the "point by point method." Here, the outline is split into three separate sections; the first is the introduction. This, of course, introduces the two subjects that are to be contrasted or compared. A statement is made which defines the purpose of the whole essay, and the main reasons for the comparison are then outlined point-by-point.
The second section of the outline is the body. This is where the supporting detail is noted, and again, this is done point by point. As an example let us compare cats with dogs. In the outline, subject A will be the dog, and subject B the cat. Let us suppose that we are comparing the ability to be left alone - we could say that a dog does not like being left alone, but with a cat this would be no problem. We would list this as point one.
We would then give supporting detail - in this case; cats are happy to be left alone, as they tend to be solitary animals, whereas dogs are pack animals, and hate to be left alone.
Provide an Example and Support
The last part of each point is to provide an example of these supporting details. Here we could describe details of cats happily sleeping on beds or in baskets with their owners at work, whilst dogs can be shown ripping up the house, and destroying furniture in their frustration at being left.
The third and final section of the point by point method is the conclusion. This is the grand finale of your outline for compare and contrast essay and consists of a summary of the main points of your paper, followed by a restatement of the thesis statement.
The second type of outline is known as the block type. Here there is a similar introduction, which presents the two subjects that are being contrasted and compared, and again, includes an overview of the project and its purpose. This is followed by the thesis statement, and again, the main reasons for the comparison are then outlined in points.
In contrast to the point by point method, the block type method lists the points, supporting detail, and examples, one after the other, for each of the categories.
To go back to the dog and cat comparison - rather than list, point by point, the supporting detail, all of the attributes that you want to contrast and compare are presented as a block. For example, if I were wanting to make the case for dogs I would list, one after the other, all of my supporting detail and examples; dogs are happy to go for walks, dogs fetch sticks, dogs will keep intruders away, and so on.
When I had finished this list I would then go on to cats, and using the same method; I would make the case for cats. Again, for example, cats do not annoy the neighbors by barking, cats do not need to be taken for walks, cats do not fetch sticks, and so on.
Again, the third and final section of the block method is the conclusion. This is the grand finale of your outline compare and contrast essay and consists of a summary of the main points of your paper, followed by a restatement of the thesis statement.
Know The Difference
To illustrate the difference between the outlines but there are two templates which will show, in greater detail, the contrast between the two methods.
So, by way of a summary, and to put some context into the compare and contrast essay outline template above; the three things which you need to make sure are present in your contrast and comparison paper are, the supporting details and the purpose of your essay, the structure and organization of it, and the coherence and transitions of the points you are making by using the examples provided above.
We will leave you with a fabulous Resource that we found this list of some compare and contrast essay outline example pieces which back up what we have said here and we hope that you will find this useful in your studies.
Finally, as you will have gathered, the key to these types of essays is the planning and research of them. Allow yourself plenty of time and think through how you are going to prove your examples. Try to think outside the box and approach your subjects in a way that your tutor may not have seen before.
If the subject is unusual or particularly complicated or contentious, make sure that you can back up and give examples for, any of the points that you make.
Good luck with it - whether you use point-to-point or block - go compare.
Posted by: Emilie
Emilie Dufresne, a blogger for ExpertPaperHelp.com residing in L.A. California, USA.
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