How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay In 8 Steps

The compare and contrast essay gives you a chance to investigate two sides of one phenomenon or two opposite views concerning a particular problem. It always involves two subjects that share a common ground. Otherwise speaking, you cannot write an essay about two unrelated (or just slightly related) things. While writing a compare and contrast paper, you need to highlight both similarities and differences. Thus, you cannot also observe two identical subjects or those that are not attributed to one particular category. For example, you can discuss one historical period in two different countries, political regimes in two states, two novels written in the same period, etc. 

The compare and contrast essay may seem to be a hard nut to crack as writing about two subjects at the same time might be challenging. But in the end, there is no reason to panic. Relax, it is just an essay. So, it has a set of particular rules you should follow to produce a winning paper. Like Gustave Flaubert, a French novelist, once said, – “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe”. And here is the key to successful essay writing – pick the topic you are passionate about and support the thesis you believe. 

And yet, how to write a compare and contrast essay? Let’s find it out!

Writing A Compare and Contrast Essay In 8 Steps

Structure, format, writing style, and the types of arguments are what you have to pay attention to while learning how to write any type of essay that is new for you. The compare and contrast paper might appear confusing. But it is easier to produce it than it seems. And this step-by-step guide is meant to help you.

  1. Define your topic

    The compare and contrast essay should have strong reasoning behind it. Thus, it is not a good idea to write about identical or very similar things as well as about subjects that fall into different categories. Your topic should touch upon two subjects, having both similarities and differences like men and women, cats and dogs, Mozart and Salieri, people of faith, and atheists. If you want to discuss the policies of different leaders, they should either live in one historical period or govern the same state. If you write about two personalities, they should have something in common, for example, being artists, etc.

  2. Look into similarities and differences

    As soon as you have come up with the topic, make a list of similarities and differences. To define them, you can use brainstorming techniques or turn to visual aids such as overlapping circles. They are meant to illustrate the similitude (the overlapped area) and the discrepancy (independent areas). This visual aid is known as the Venn diagram, which is often used for brainstorming comparisons and contrasts. However, you can opt for another method that suits you most. If you cannot find sufficient similarities and differences, you should think about whether your topic is relevant.

  3. Make a statement

    A decent compare and contrast essay does not come down to the list of similarities and differences. You have to elaborate on the core idea of your paper – the statement you will build your essay around. Analyzing what you know about the topic can help you make a decision on the statement. What conclusions can you draw from these similarities and differences? And why do they matter? Addressing these questions will allow you to come up with a great thesis statement for your essay.

  4. Elaborate on the structure

    There are two major types of structures for the compare and contrast essay. The first one is known as a block structure. While following it, you need to discuss the first object and then reflect on the second one. A similar structure is often used when writing a problem-solution or cause-and-effect essay. 

    Another type of compare and contrast essay structure is known as point-by-point. It refers to the simultaneous discussion of both objects. Thus, while following this structure, every similarity and difference of one object should be coupled with the similarity and difference of another one. While the first structure is more implicit but easier to follow, the second one looks more straightforward and consistent.

  5. Create an outline

    The compare and contrast essay outline will help you manage the writing process. So, do not neglect this step. Note that the outline should be aligned with the structure of your essay as well as with its objectives. The essay usually comprises one paragraph for the introduction, three or four paragraphs for the body, and one for a conclusion. However, the length of your assignment may differ from the traditional format. So, check your course requirements before writing an outline and a paper itself.

  6. Find bulletproof arguments

    The arguments should stem from the similarities and differences underlined and be related to the thesis statement. The nature of your arguments and the way you design them will depend on the topic. However, all of them should be bulletproof and leave no doubt to the reader. Facts, statistics, scientific observations, and research data are the best types of evidence. While referring to your personal experience may seem less persuasive, in some cases, this approach proves itself. If you write an essay in humanities, quotes and some historical anecdotes can also be relevant. Do not be afraid to be creative where it is possible. 

    Where to find strong arguments for your essay? 

    Professional journals;
    Research papers;
    Surveys, polls, etc. 
    Online libraries and databases, etc.

  7. Integrate signaling transitions

    Your style of writing should demonstrate the relation between your arguments, comparisons, and contrasts. So, there is nothing to do without signaling expressions that convey these relations directly. They are also known as transitions. Some of them convey the contrast, others express the comparison. 
    The contrast:

    On the other hand;
    On the contrary;
    Still, etc. 
    The comparison:
    In common;
    As well as, etc. 

    These linking phrases will help you to organize your essay in a more effective manner. Besides, they make the text more consistent and readable as it is much easier for readers to understand what is what. 

  8. Revise and refine your essay

    It is hardly possible to produce a perfect paper without revising it. So, after you have finished your assignment, take a break and get to revising it. Take into account that reading your paper once is typically not enough to detect all errors. So, I would recommend undertaking three rounds of revising. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, spelling, stylistic, and logical mistakes. You can also use this checklist to make your revision more productive and thorough. 

As soon as you have detected all of the mistakes, do your best to eliminate them. If you have any issues with refining your essay, do not hesitate to ask your peers, friends, or relatives for help. A fresh pair of eyes might be essential to get an A+. 

Plus, always check your assignments for plagiarism. Universities usually strongly disapprove of papers that lack uniqueness. So, use plagiarism checkers as well as the best techniques to avoid plagiarism.

In Wrapping Up

Frankly speaking, the compare and contrast essay is not the easiest type of assignment. But it is definitely not as difficult as writing a research paper. Yet, a good essay cannot do without some research. So, do not hesitate to dig deeper and test your arguments for strength. In the end, it is much better to reveal that your topic is invalid before you actually start working on the paper.

Be careful with revising. If you lack time to proofread and edit your assignment and no one is there to help you, you can turn to the proofreading and editing services. But beware – by far not all of them earn the trust of users. So, check these guidelines if you are going to employ editing services.

To sum up, while writing a compare and contrast essay, keep in mind the following highlights:

  • Define the topic of your essay (prioritize those subjects that can be compared and contrasted);
  • Consider similarities and differences (if they are insufficient, opt for another topic);
  • Make a statement (define the main idea of your essay);
  • Elaborate on the structure (choose the block or point-by-point structure);
  • Work on the outline (check the compare and contrast essay templates);
  • Select the strongest arguments;
  • Use signaling transitions to make an essay more expressive;
  • Revise your essay, check it for plagiarism, and refine if necessary.
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