During their university career, students often need to produce compare and contrast essays on various areas of their study. Such papers are to provide similarities and difficulties of the two subjects. What is the purpose of compare and contrast essays? How should a student start and structure the paper to demonstrate good knowledge of the issue and excellent writing skills? Read on to learn some tips on how to manage a strong, well-organized A-grade compare and contrast essay.
What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
Put simply, to compare is to find how two (or more) things are similar while to contrast is to tell the ways they differ. Therefore, a compare and contrast essay is a multi-paragraph composition focusing on similarities and differences. This type of assignment is common in universities when professors test your understanding of the subject by asking to analyze two methods, two theories or two characters of a novel, for example. Usually, it is a five-paragraph exam essay. However, sometimes compare & contrast is just a part of a paper, or only similarities or differences (not both) are discussed.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Two Approaches
There are many possible ways to organize a compare and contrast paper. Here are the main and most commonly used two.
- Point-by-point comparison
This organizational method is effective when writing long essays, such as short stories, novels or two articles. The body is organized by analyzing one point at a time to the very end, providing similarities and differences and summarizing how it applies to both subjects of discussion prior to proceeding to the next point.
- Subject-by-subject comparison
Here the author simply focuses on the first topic, provides aspects and issues and then moves to the second one. Similarities and differences are concluded in the last paragraph.
How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay?
Before starting an essay, there are some things to consider. Firstly, select the topic that will help you show your analytic and writing skills, unless, of course, this topic is already assigned by your professor. Then, think about the text structure. You need to decide on the number of your paragraphs. If it is a 400-word essay, try to be brief, you do not need a lot of paragraphs in it. The next step is writing a proper intro.
Introduction of compare and contrast essay is merely the same as for other essay types. In this part, you are to feature the overall subject and actually the specific situations, events or items you have to analyze.
Usually, the introductory part consists of:
- Introducing the main topic: start with a hook sentence (a question, quote or even anecdote if it fits) and specify the details of the topic itself.
- Mentioning compare & contrast subjects – sure thing, you can’t write about differences and similarities from the clear blue sky. At first, specify the two items under the overall central theme.
- Providing a thesis statement – it is going to mark the tone of your entire essay and catch the attention of readers. It should be concise and specific, one or two sentences is enough.
Once you are done with the introduction, feel free to move on to the other body paragraphs.
How to Write a Thesis for a Compare and Contrast Essay?
Much like other types of essays, compare and contrast one relies on a strong thesis. Without an effective thesis statement, your essay is likely to be weak enough and not to convey the main idea. Here, you may develop either evaluative or explanatory thesis.
Evaluative thesis provokes opposition and states that the two items are no longer equal, one is better than the other. For example, “Although solar panels and wind turbines don’t cause greenhouse effect as much as fossil fuels, still solar panel are considered much more eco-friendly”.
In contrast, the explanatory thesis statement examines two items without asserting a particular position. Similar and different points should call readers’ attention and enlighten them about thinks they might not have known before. For example, “While solar panels and wind turbines have some weaknesses, they both present numerous advantages comparing with traditional sources of energy”.
How to Write a Conclusion for a Compare and Contrast Essay?
After all this tedious process of arranging your points in a quick and organized fashion, the conclusion should be a neat icing on the cake. You have already nailed down a fascinating thesis statement, made a thorough analysis of similarities and differences and arranged the body paragraphs properly. The only thing left for you to do is to put this all together by:
- Summarizing your main points – it should not be a simple conclusion but rather a unification of your thesis and information in the body paragraphs.
- Providing your own evaluation – it’s your personal analysis of all the information you have written down before. You need to answer one simple question: “What does my essay mean?” As you wind up, also keep in mind that your conclusive part should make a circle returning to your introduction.
And last but not least, you won’t get better at writing assignments without regular practice. Remember, even a simple compare and contrast paper demands continuous writing and perfection.