How to Write a Compare / Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay is used to examine similarities and differences between two places, people or ideas. Writing a compare and contrast essay helps us understand the two items in a new light.

Introduction

The first paragraph introduces the subject to be compared or contrasted and gives background information to help the reader understand the topic. Then the thesis statement contain the two topics that are being compared, and the points of comparison.

Thesis Statements

In the first example below apples and oranges are the two topics being compared.  Where they are grown and how they are used are the two points of comparison.  In the following examples taste, smell, and texture are the points of comparison.

Note that a compare and contrast thesis statement can have two sentences.  The first one with the two topics and the second one with the points of comparison.

  • Apples and oranges are different (similar) in two fundamental ways; where they are grown and how they are used.
  • Apples and oranges differ in three ways.  They have unique tastes, smells, and textures.
  • Apples and oranges have both similarities and differences.  While they are grown and used in similar ways, they are distinct in taste, smell, and texture.
  • While apples and oranges are similar in where they are grown and how they are used, they differ in taste and texture.

Organization

A compare and contrast essay is generally organized in two ways.  We can use the point-by-point method, or we can use the block method.

Thesis Statement: Apples and oranges are different in two fundamental ways; where they are grown and how they are used.

Block Method

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraph 1:Apples
    1. Where they are grown
    2. How they are used
  3. Body Paragraph 2:Oranges
    1. Where they are grown
    2. How they are used
  4. Conclusion

Point-by-Point Method

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraph 1:Where they are grown
    1. Apples
    2. Oranges
  3. Body Paragraph 2:How they are used
    1. Apples
    2. Oranges
  4. Conclusion

Essay Outline using the point-by-point method

A. Introduction

1. Hook

2. Connection

3. Thesis Statement: Two topics / two or three points of comparison

B. Body Paragraphs

1. Topic sentence: First Point of Comparison

a. Contrast or compare the first point

b. Details, facts, definitions, explanations, examples

c. Concluding sentence that leads to next paragraph

2. Topic sentence: Second Point of Comparison

a. Contrast or compare the second point

b. Details, facts, definitions, explanations, examples

c. Concluding sentence that leads to next paragraph

3. Topic sentence: Third Point of Comparison

a. Contrast or compare the third point

b. Details, facts, definitions, explanations, examples

c. Concluding sentence that leads to next paragraph

C. Conclusion

1. Restates the thesis statement

2. Summarizes main points

3. Leaves closing remarks

 

Venn Diagram

When we brainstorm we often use a Venn Diagram to help us visualize the differences and see more clearly their relationships to each other.