What are Compare and Contrast Essays?
Compare and contrast essays, also called comparative essays are a popular form of academic writing. To compare means that you examine the similarity between two things while when you are asked to contrast, you have to show differences. Your compare and contrast essay might, therefore, ask you to examine and discuss the similarities and differences between two or more things, or just focus on the similarities or differences only.
Teachers frequently seek to examine student’s understanding by requiring them to write a compare and contrast essay about two characters in a novel, historical periods, or theories among others. It is important that you therefore readily hone your skills to write a compare and contrast essay.
Purpose of a Compare and Contrast Essay
A compare and contrast essay does not require that you only list the similarities and differences between two objects. You have to show your insight and comprehension of the topic forming your essay.
The popularity of compare and contrast essays derives from the ability of this form of writing to promote critical thinking. Therefore, make sure you show why it is important to see the similarities or differences in the object or objects of study.
Other objectives that you might find necessary to include in your essay include:
- Express something unknown
- Clear some misunderstandings
- Illustrate the superiority of something over another
Now that you understand what constitute comparative essays and why they are important, let us explores some guidelines that will help you produce an outstanding paper.
- Develop your argument
This should be the starting point of your comparative essay. Before you write anything down, begin by reading through the requirements carefully to fully understand your task. As you go through the requirements, make draft notes with the points that you consider significant to the essay.
You can brainstorm and create a list of the fundamental similarities, differences, or both, in relation to what is your object. Make sure that you note anything that passes through your mind, irrespective of how insignificant that might seem.
- Determine the points that will form your main arguments
Once you prepared your list to satisfaction, go through the material again and pick out the points that you feel are the most significantly different or similar. At this point, your aim should be determining the things that feel can make the most compelling arguments in your essay. For instance, you can choose qualities that are fundamental to either of your works or objects. You can also consider elements such as the main themes, messages, and major characters of your objects of study. For example, if you are comparing two texts having a common basic theme, you can break down points showing how both works explore such a theme in a common or different ways.
- Prepare an outline of your essay
Generally, your compare and contrast essay should assume the conventional structure of an essay consisting of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. By now you are probably well acquainted with the structure of an essay outline. If not, you can always refer to our section on how to write an essay outline for a succinct but comprehensive guide to writing the same.
Normally, the number of points you include in your essay outline should correspond to the size of the essay you intend to write. However, contrast and contrast are usually about six paragraphs long. In your introduction, ensure that you present the general idea of your argument, usually expressed through a thesis statement. After that, you can embark on creating the body outline of your compare and contrast essay.
Your essay outline should adopt the technique that you will use to write your essay. Normally, there are two approaches to presenting your arguments in a compare and contrast essay:
- Subject-by-subject approach
The approach involves making all the arguments you have prepared in one subject first, and then moving on to make all the arguments about the second subject or object, and so on. Your outline should, therefore, list all points about the first object, and then move on to the points about the second object and so on if you are comparing or contrasting more than two things.
Although this approach is acceptable, the subject-by-subject approach poses the danger of just becoming a list of arguments. This is because you will first cover a number of particular points in one subject, and then a number of arguments about another. Teachers usually do not like this approach since they generally expect you to conduct a direct comparison of similarities or differences between things, instead of just listing their traits.
- Point-by-point approach
Instead of arguing each subject at a time in your essay, you can argue one element of comparison at a time. This technique can be organized in two ways whereby the first involves you discussing a particular point of contrast/comparison as relates to all the objects of your study in one paragraph. This style is however applicable if the argument per point is not too long such that it might exceed one paragraph.
The second approach under the point-by-point approach is more applicable if you have much to say about each object under every point. It is advisable to devote an entire paragraph to discussing how an item of comparison/differentiation relates to a particular point, and then another whole paragraph in relation to another item, but the same point.
Note that it is important that your compare and contrast essay outline reflects the technique that you will utilize in writing your essay.
All you have to do now is write your essay in accordance with the outline, revise, edit, and then submit to your teacher or publish. Just remember that there are no fixed rules concerning the organization of your compare and contrast essay. All you have to do is ensure that you meet all the requirements of the assignment and that your paper is organized so that the reader can understand all that is going on!
Compare and Contrast Essay Examples