Meaning Of Comparison And Contrast Essay

Comparison and contrast essay is one of the most common assignments in American high schools and universities. In this type of essay students have to compare two (in some essays several) things, problems, events or ideas and evaluate their resemblances and differences. This type of essay advances and develops your critical thinking as well as your argumentation and understanding of importance of the events and things that you compare.

Examples of the headings in compare/contrast assignments are:

  • Compare and contrast the weather conditions for cotton-growing areas of Texas and California.
  • Compare the approach to the Soviet Union of F. D. Roosevelt and H. Truman. What are the similarities differences of their policy?
  • Compare and contrast the movies “God Farther” and “Once upon a time in America.”
  • Sometimes, you may be asked to compare, sometimes you can be requested to contrast, and on several occasions both actions mentioned should be performed.
  • Yet, at the same time comparison/contrast can be a part of an essay as well. In this case, you compare and contrast some events or things in order to develop an argument later.

Here are the examples of several topics, where compare/contrast parts should be included.

  • Hatred and love, how these topics are treated in Hamlet?
  • How two main historians we have studied define the term "d`etente"?
  • Compare the programs to reduce the level of pollution in New York and Los Angeles. Which one is more effective?
  • Comparison/contrast techniques.

Some students use comparison/contrast techniques in their essays, in order to develop argument in later stages of their essay writing assignments. For example if you assert that the approach to the USSR was more effective during Truman's presidency than during Roosevelt's presidency, then the comparison/contrasting technique will help you to develop your contention.

Comparison/contracting techniques.

One of the most effective ways of comparison/contracting techniques is the drawing of Venn diagram. Drawing this diagram allows you to compare and contrast two or even several things/events. To design a Venn diagram, draw several overlapping circles, each should represent some event or idea that you research. In the space of overlapping, write down the similarities, which two objects have. In the space that does not overlap, list the features that make things/events different.

In order to draw a chart you should understand the features of the things to be compared.

The left side is assigned to one criterion. The names of the items are listed across the top. Each box right now corresponds to one criteria. Write down existing facts in the boxes that help you understand what features you have discovered.

Once all major points of comparison/ contrast have been listed, one should concentrate on the main aim of the comparison/contrast assignment. On this stage of the writing process you should have a clear idea of the purpose of this essay.

Try to answer the following questions: Why was this type of essay assigned to you? Does this type of assignment have any similarities with the ones you have completed before? What should be emphasized in this type of essay?

The following is a list of some questions on several topics that might be helpful in designing of your comparison/contrast essay. Certainly, you should use them as the guide, only. Try to formulate your own questions and arguments after you have studied the listed questions.

First ask several typical questions, such as: Who? How? Where? What? Why? If you research some objects you might try to concentrate on its physical features, like size, weight and height.

If you are assigned to compare two historical events, one should ask the following questions: When did it happen? Who was involved in it? Why did it happen? How did it influence further events? Why is this event important?

If you are assigned to compare two ideas/theories. you can pose the following questions to help you get on the right track.

What are these ideas? Who comes up with them? Why are they defended? How have they influenced people? How are they used? Which one is more credible?

After you have completed your list of differences and similarities, you should evaluate which of them are more interesting and important for your essay. In order to facilitate this process, you should ask these questions:

What differences and similarities are relevant to my assignment?

In your opinion, which similarities or differences are more important?

If you are assigned to compare and contrast two novels, you should cautiously evaluate the importance of different facts and features. Some physical features of the characters would be of less importance for this type of assignment; emphasize on psychological differences and similarities of the characters, the differences of the plots and attempts of the writer to research and investigate some problems or events.

In some essays it is pivotal to stress particular points of comparison. If you are assigned to compare the novels of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins for example, you should not emphasize that both of these authors are classical English writers. This fact is common knowledge and it is well-known to your tutor, essay writers and students. Talking about different analysis approaches to human minds would better show your understanding of the novels.


Thesis is one of the most important parts of your comparison/contrast essay. It is the central feature of your essay, the guide of your writing process. Unlike thesis in other types of essays, thesis of compare/contrast essay should be specific and backed up with highly argumentative analysis. The most common question that should be asked in the designing of this type of the thesis is "why?". You should show the importance of things and events that you compare.

The plan of your essay.

As we have mentioned earlier, the contrast/compare essay is a specific type of essay. That is why composing this type of an essay might differ from other ones. The following are several methods of organizing and designing this type of essay.

Item by item.

First, list all information on the first subject of comparison. Then you should go further, and list all points of another subject of comparison. Then you should do the same with the third subject (and so forth, depending on the number of subjects of comparison).

Certainly, if your paper is not long, one paragraph might comprise several items; however it is better to devote one paragraph to one item of comparison. The danger of such comparison is that your paper might be transformed into a simple list of points of comparison. Do not succumb to this mistake. Remember, your tutor would like you to compare and contrast these subjects, and not only provide the list of differences and similarities. In other words analytical work is expected from you. In order to complete this type of essay one should develop and design analytical thesis and paragraph (one or several of them, depending on the topic of your essay) that can combine your several points together.

This item-to-item comparison is frequently used when you design so called "lens" comparison. In this assignment you are asked to use one thing for better understanding of another. In this case you should describe in a nutshell the main points on the first thing and then move on discussing how the points mentioned are similar/different to another thing.


This method is used to compare each point of the objects, rather than describe one thing at a time. For example, if you are assigned to compare two sport venues, your first paragraph might comprise the comparison of their locations. Your second one can be devoted to the description of the designs of the venues. In the third paragraph you may describe sport events that these venues host.

There is no universal rule in designing of compare/contrast essay. Certainly, it should have logical, comprehensive and consistent structure. Remember that the last point is of particular importance, because your reader will judge your essay by it. If, for example, you attempted to prove that the stadium “Universal” is much better than the stadium “Albano” you should wind up by stressing the fact that stadium “Universal” is better, rather than leaving reader with the statement that “Albano” might look better as well. If you think that differences rather than similarities are more important for your essay, you should end up with stressing differences, and vice versa.

A student has to understand how to start an essay first, have complete understanding of what to be writing. In a compare and contrast essay, you discuss equally the comparisons and the differences between two topics or subjects. Comparison or contrast essay are written determining what the comparisons or differences are. Start the paper so that it will be perfect and effective defining which comparisons and differences to emphasis on. A comparison essay records either similarities, or similarities and differences. A contrast essay records only differences.

What is a Comparison Essay?

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The aim of a compare and contrast essay is to examine the differences and/or the similarities of two different topics. Pick two subjects that can be compared and contrasted in a significant way, then you can begin to frame the thesis and work out the paper. Students should critically evaluate any two subjects, finding and pointing out their similarities and/or dissimilarities. If you want to write a considerate and convincing comparison and contrast essay, make a point or serve a purpose. 

Comparison Essaysclarify something unknown or not well understood leading to a fresh insight or an absolute new way of viewing something. Comparison Essays bring one or both the subjects into sharper focus showing that one subject is better than the other but they have to be similar enough to be compared. The same points should be conversed for both subjects; it is not obligatory, however to give both topics the same notch of growth.

Topics to consider when writing Comparison Essays:
  • The careers of two different players
  • The quality of two different cafés
  • Two movies
  • Two stories
  • Two countries
  • Two historical periods
  • Two events

Comparison Essay Structure

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You may be someone who can start an essay with ease; many people find it challenging to even write out an outline before beginning. Bearing in mind the right structure for your essay is one of the essential key facts of success. There are two recommended outlines for a comparison essay:

1.    Point-by-point or alternating pattern
2.    Subject-by-subject or block pattern

Sticking to a recommended essay structure is the only way to appropriately outline and write it, without mistakes paragraph by paragraph from the introduction to conclusion.The order in which points are introduced in the introduction is the order in which one should introduce them in the essay. It’s always good to have a frame work completed before beginning to write an essay. Knowing how to start a compare and contrast essay is the first step to writing an attention-grabbing essay that will keep readers involved all the way to the end.

Structure of a Comparison Essay Alternating Pattern
Introduction ⇒ Comparison Point 1 ⇒ Comparison Point 2 ⇒ Comparison Point 3 ⇒ ConclusioIn Alternating pattern you will need to successively compare and contrast each of the comparisons and differences in the given subjects:
  1. In the introduction state the thesis
  2. Discuss both the subjects together for each point of comparison and contrast
  3. In the conclusion restate the thesis and shortly summarize the essay
Structure of a Comparison Essay Block Pattern Introduction ⇒ Subject 1 → Comparison Point 1 → Comparison Point 2 → Comparison Point 3 ⇒Subject 2 → Comparison Point 1 → Comparison Point 2 → Comparison Point 3 ⇒ Conclusion In Block pattern also known as "subject-by-subject comparison" separates the body of the compare and contrast essay in two parts. The first part of the body will be dedicated to the first subject, while the significant other will be focused around the second subject:
  1. In the introduction state the thesis
  2. Discuss the first subject
  3. Discuss the second subject
  4. In the conclusion you restate the thesis and shortly summarize the essay

Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay

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Before determining how many paragraphs or sections to break the essay into, first find out approximately how long the essay is going to be. Depending on the topic, there may be many ways of planning the paragraphs. Once you decide on the length of the essay, a student must determine how the paragraphs are going to be split into various topics. Is it going to have four paragraphs an introduction, a paragraph on the first topic, a paragraph on the second topic, and a conclusion? Or five paragraphs an introduction, the similarities between the two subjects, the differences between the two subjects, and a conclusion?  

Another important thing to consider is the audience. Differentiate if you’re writing for a Grade Five goer or are you writing for college professors? The audience will mainly affect the tone and voice of your essay, as well as the sentences, words, phrases, and grammar used throughout it. 

The Introduction

The introduction of an essay is very important. It gives the reader first impression of the comparison essay’s script. The introduction should lure readers into reading the essay, ensure you start out robust. You may begin by stating one motivating fact about one of the topics, or by asking a question that will be answered later in the essay. Use interesting ways to lead into your topic as the introduction will introduce general outline of the essay.

Give a brief historical analysis of the topic to help readers for a better understanding. Twitch from a little story or an anecdote that leads the reader into the topic. Use a surprising statement something revolting, ecstatic or even appalling. "Dropping" the name of an eminent person usually gets the reader's attention. State straight what your essay is going to be about, simple and clearly. Remember first impression counts! Grab that reader’s attention.

The Body

Every great essay starts with a great brainstorm of ideas. Begin by writing down every bit of information you have on the paper, ensuring, that you are keeping the two topics or subjects unconnected from each other. The differences in the topics are fairly evident, but pick out similarities, dig a little deeper. What is it that you know about your subjects? What are you going to need to research further? When researching, try to find information that may not be common. 

  • State the point
  • Provide supportive details
  • Use suitable transitions for comparison and contrast

Begin by saying the whole thing you have to say about the first subject that is planned to be discussed, then move on and make all the points about the second subject. You may wish to talk about one point of comparison or contrast at a time. There are no hard or fast rules about forming a comparison/contrast essay, of course. Just be sure that your audience can easily tell what’s going on! Keep in mind that the last point made is the one you are leaving your reader with. Spend most of the essay discussing how the points are similar to or different from the ideas about the second.

The following words may be helpful to you in beckoning your intentions:

like, similar to, also, similarly, likewise, unlike, again, compared to, yet, while, even though, in contrast, in like manner, nevertheless, contrasted with, on the contrary, in the same way, at the same time, however, although, still, but, conversely, regardless, despite, on the one hand … on the other hand.


The conclusion should cover the entire essay and not leave any unfinished business. Whatever you told readers you were going to express about all through your essay, make sure you write a brief summary of it in the conclusion. Once you have the outline of the essay, the rest will fall in place. You’ll find that starting a compare and contrast essay is easier than you may have imagined. Whether you’re a learner or a professional, you’ll find valuable info that will help you become more succinct! If you’re looking for more ways to improve your writing skills, sign up with TutorVista for online tutoring on excellent essay writing.

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