How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay:  Guidelines to Successful Writing

If you have been assigned an essay where you have to compare and contrast some phenomena, subjects, events, people, things, etc., you need to be well-versed in the structure of such piece of writing. Such essays demand specific organization, so you need to carefully follow specific rules of paper organization on how to write a compare and contrast essay:

Follow a specific compare and contrast essay structure

There exist a few ways of writing a compare and contrast essay. It is important to choose the one that you find easier and more understandable personally for you. Besides, your choice should depend on the goal you want to reach by your writing. In any case, the structure can be changed at any time before you submit the essay to the professor. So, even if you have written a rough draft according to one structure but have later decided that it does not look good, you are free to change it. 

  • Subject-by-subject way of writing a compare and contrast essay. 

When you select this type of paper organization, you have to first deal with subject 1 and later cover the points of another subject. For example, if you are writing a paper about school education and online learning, you may first fully discuss the subject of school education and only then switch over to all the details about online learning. In each part, you need to cover as many points as possible in order to make sure the topic is thoroughly discussed. The main advantage of this compare and contrast essay format is that you do not have to jump between the points regarding different subjects or notions but you are consistent in discussing one and later the other. The main disadvantage, however, is that the actual comparison and contrast is not evident unless you read the essay till the very end. Besides, if the essay is rather long, it is difficult to keep in mind all the points from the first subject to later compare them with the points from the second. So, be prudent when choosing this type of structure and keep in mind the length and type of your order. 

  • Point-by-point manner of organizing a comparison and contrast paper

Here you switch between similar and different points between the chosen subjects. You do not need to focus first on one subject and then on the other. You just choose a few aspects of comparison and structure your essay based on them. In particular, as in the former example of an essay on school education and online education, you might choose to compare these kinds in terms of time-management, efficiency, convenience or any other points that come to your mind. 

The main advantage of this method of organization is that it becomes distinctly clear from the very first body paragraph in what ways the subjects differ. The main disadvantage is that many students find it really challenging to organize the points logically and concisely. Therefore, make sure you use appropriate transitions to pinpoint to the logical relations between the points and to make it clear where each point is discussed. Here also remember that you should not choose too many points but rather a few of the most important points to discuss. 

  • First compare and then contrast

This type of organization denotes that you first need to compare similarities between the chosen phenomena and then move on to focusing on the differences. This way is pretty common and widespread as it is easy to structure and to make it logically clear and consistent. However, as in the base of subject-to-subject method of essay organization, it may be hard to see for the readers from the beginning in what ways the subjects are different. 

Provide a compare and contrast essay outline

With the help of a properly developed outline, you will focus on the most important aspects of comparison and contrast and will not forget about them (as you have previously worked out the plan). Many students do not fully realize what an important role a properly devised outline plays for the paper success. Most importantly, it provides a clear compare and contrast essay template on how to organize the paper into paragraphs and what issues to cover. 

If you still do not know how to create a perfect compare and contrast essay, make sure it contains the following paragraphs:

Introductory paragraph. A compare and contrast essay introduction should be written as the very first paragraph and should provide background information on the subjects of discussion and the points of comparison and contrast. It should actually set the scene for your paper. At the end of the introduction, please provide a strong and clear compare and contrast essay thesis statement. 

Main body. The body paragraphs are the tastiest part of your paper as you provide details and further elaborate on each of the subject and points of comparison and contrast. Each paragraph should be devoted to a separate point, topic, subject, or proof for some point of discussion (depending on the length of the essay). 

A pre-conclusive paragraph where you acknowledge counter-arguments. Here you admit that the other arguments exist but also refute them (i.e. pinpoint to how they are not applicable). 

Conclusion. In a compare and contrast essay conclusion, you summarize the presented arguments. You will restate the thesis but keep in mind: restate does not mean rewrite. Here you will provide more confidence and sophistication unlike in the introduction. 

  • If you have chosen a subject-to-subject method of essay structuring, then make sure to outline details for each subject

Also consider that each of the points should not be too long (for example, three pages each). Therefore, if you have a long paper to submit, make sure you choose a more proper way of essay organization. 

  • Provide an outline for point-by-point mode of comparison

This is a more familiar way for students to compare and contrast things. Here you should organize the paragraphs according to the points of similarities and differences, not subjects. 

  • Create an outline for “compare and then contrast” essay structure

This scheme works best if you want to place attention on the contrasts between the subjects. Enlisting all the similarities and then highlighting the differences will make the difference vivid. 

  • Make sure you devote sufficient time to organizing separate body paragraphs in terms of format and organization

This step should be done after you have decided on one of the three aforementioned ways of paper organization. So, to properly structure a body paragraph, make sure it starts with a strong and clear opening sentence that provides a claim on the subject or point of comparison and contrast. Topic sentences may not only inform about a new idea but also provide a transition from the previous point to the new one. Next, make sure you provide ample supporting evidence, examples, and discussion to make sure each subject is properly covered. Provide a well-developed conclusive sentence (closing sentence), which makes the paragraph logically complete and also provides a link to the idea/ ideas that will be expressed in further body paragraphs.  

Six Steps towards Successful Writing of Compare and Contrast Papers

  1. Closely examine the two texts you are asked to compare and contrast. You cannot write an efficient literary compare and contrast essay if you have not read the texts. Therefore, make sure you devote yourself ample time for this activity. In the process of reading, make sure you make notes about the most important points you notice; especially the points that will help you organize a proper comparison and contrast paper. This pre-writing stage is really crucial for the future success of your paper as you gather details and set the mood for your writing. 
  2. Create a list of similarities and differences between the texts. As soon as you have read the texts for your comparison and contrast essay, make sure that you organize two separate lists or columns of similarities and differences. Afterwards, you might choose the most important ones that you want to discuss in the paper and focus on them more closely and in greater detail. When making the list, just write down anything that comes to your mind. In any case, you will decide on which are the most important ones later.
  3. Pick a few most important points and think of which argument you can make with them. Once you have created the lists, pick 3-5 points of comparison (actually, the number should depend on the length of the paper and its requirements) and think of which claim you can put forward about them. Choose those that could make your paper most compelling and attractive for the reader. 
  4. After you have decided on the points of comparison, outline your essay. Make sure that you provide a plan on how you will break your essay into parts. Also think how many body paragraphs you will have. Start with an introduction that provides general ideas about the topic and later make sure you provide succinct and logical body paragraphs.
  5. Fill in the missing textual details in your paper. Your outline is like a skeleton of your paper. Now it’s the time to fill your skeleton with flesh and internal organs, so think of details, examples, illustrations, and supporting evidence that will make your essay well-developed. 
  6. Proofread and edit. After you have finished writing your paper, proofread and edit it in terms of content, grammar, stylistics, punctuation, spelling, and possible typos.

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