A comparison and contrast essay explores two or more topics (for example, items, people, or ideas), comparing and contrasting their similarities and differences. The goal is to provide evidence that the topics are alike and different, thus building a case that they belong in different categories or groups.
Comparison and contrast essays are used most commonly in academic settings to discuss and explain concepts by looking at how different things are from each other. For example, a student could study two countries in depth by looking at how they are similar and different. Or, he or she could explore two ways of doing something and conclude which is better by comparing and contrasting them.
In order to complete a successful comparison and contrast essay, you must be able to clearly define both your topics' similarities and differences. Then, using these examples, you should be able to write a coherent essay explaining why the topics are suitable for comparison and contrast analysis and how they fit into their respective categories.
Compare and contrast essays are usually assigned as part of a group project in which you have to analyze several topics and then write about one particular topic. You will need to do some research on the others too, so don't worry about not having time to write them all down!
A compare-and-contrast essay examines two themes through comparing, contrasting, or both. The goal of writing a comparison or contrast essay is to highlight subtle differences or surprising parallels between two subjects rather than to express the obvious. Effective comparisons and contrasts are clear and precise, focusing on what matters most in the essay question.
Often, comparison and contrast essays are called "outline" essays because they follow a basic structure that includes a topic sentence, three main points, and a conclusion. The topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph or essay. The three main points expand on this idea by explaining it further and giving examples. Each point should be followed by a supporting example or anecdote. The last point should restate the main idea in its strongest form possible. This helps the reader understand the connection between the three original ideas and supports any conclusions made during the analysis of the topics.
Comparisons and contrasts are important tools for understanding concepts better. When writing a comparison or contrast essay, it is helpful to think about what you want the reader to learn from the exercise. For example, if you were writing about athletes who have similar traits but play different sports, you would want the reader to understand that even though these people have some things in common, they are still unique as individuals. Using comparisons and contrasts can also help clarify your own thinking.
A comparison essay generally focuses on the similarities of two items, whereas a contrast essay focuses on the contrasts. Thus, they are similar in that they both discuss multiple things about which you have knowledge, but they differ in their treatment of these topics. For example, in a comparison essay, you might discuss several features of people that are common to both Jesus and Mohammed. You could then go on to say that although they are alike in many ways, they also have some important differences too. This would be a comparison essay because it is discussing several related things.
In a contrast essay, you would discuss each person's traits that are unique to them. For example, you could write that while Jesus was kind and loving, Mohammed was violent and retributive. This would be a contrast essay because it is discussing two different things that are being compared.
There are various other types of essays as well. An argument essay discusses something through analysis of evidence, whereas a synthesis essay brings together information from different sources.
An overview essay is very broad. It usually covers a topic over a long period of time or across multiple disciplines. An exploration essay goes into detail on one particular subject.
The key to writing a solid compare-and-contrast essay is to select two or more subjects that are meaningfully related. The goal of the comparison or contrast is to highlight minor differences or surprising commonalities rather than to express the obvious. For example, if you were to write a paper on the similarities and differences between dogs and wolves, you would not try to show that both animals are very good at hunting or that they share many other traits; instead, you would focus on what makes dogs different from wolves - their need for shelter and food, their ability to learn language, etc.
When choosing topics for your essay, be sure to take into account your school or department's requirement that it be relevant to some current issue. If there is no such requirement, you can pick any subject you like!
For example, if you're writing an English course, you could choose to compare and contrast William Shakespeare with Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton, and Ben Jonson. Or you could look at the differences between 19th century novelists George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austen. The possibilities are endless!
Once you've decided on your topics, it's time to start writing. Begin by identifying important concepts in each topic. For example, when comparing two authors, you might want to identify themes, styles, or devices that they shared.
Choosing a topic for a compare and contrast essay is the first step. You want to compare and contrast two objects that have both similarities and contrasts. Some students make the error of writing solely about similarities or only about differences because they fail to see the big picture. They think that these narrow views will be enough to satisfy their teachers and parents. This is not so! To write a good compare and contrast essay, you need to look at both the positive and negative aspects of those objects.
The next step is to decide what kind of essay this will be. There are three main types of essays: analytical, comparative, and summative. An analytical essay questions facts and provides conclusions based on evidence from primary sources. It answers specific questions about a topic. For example, an analytical essay asking why some people choose to pursue an education beyond high school would question different factors such as economic opportunity or personal interest and conclude that an education provides a better job opportunity than other careers. A comparative essay looks at two or more subjects side by side to show their similarities and differences. For example, a comparative essay about college campuses in the United States and Canada might talk about their similarities (academic programs, student body makeup, etc.) as well as their differences (university policies, admission standards, etc.). A summary essay gives a brief overview of a topic. It may discuss several topics but needs to include only relevant information from each one.