Compare and Contrast Essays: Writing Your Own

Lesson Content

Inquire: It’s Time to Begin!

Overview

You’re now ready to write your own compare and contrast essay! Make sure, as with all essays, that you walk through the entire essay-writing process from brainstorming to editing. Each step is vitally important in ensuring that you finish with a product you are proud of! You’ll begin first by brainstorming, using tools like venn-diagramming and charting, before you move into outlining and drafting your essay. Finally, you should engage in the revision and editing process to create a completely polished final essay.

Decorative

Big Question

How does the writing process apply to compare and contrast essays?

Read: Beginning Your Compare and Contrast Essay

Overview

You’re now ready to start writing your compare and contrast essay, but where do you begin? As with any essay, you will need to walk through the full writing process: brainstorming, planning, outlining, drafting, revision, and editing.

Choosing Your Topic

There are many kinds of essays you could write that compare and contrast two things. If your teacher has provided you with a prompt that guides you to a specific topic, then you have a starting point. If your teacher has not provided this, you have some more freedom of topic, but you need to do more work to get started.

So, what kinds of things can you write about? You can compare and contrast any of the following (and more!):

  • People
  • Historical events
  • Works of entertainment
  • Services
  • Businesses
  • Ideas

DecorativeThese represent only a few possible categories you could use to explore and identify subjects for your compare and contrast essay.

Narrowing Your Topic

Now that you have a few subjects to compare, it is time to start generating similarities and differences. One of the best ways to go about doing this is by brainstorming.

DecorativeAn excellent brainstorming strategy for discovering similarities and differences is the venn-diagram. A venn-diagram is a diagram composed of two or more circles that overlap in the middle. This serves as a visual representation of the similarities and differences for the concepts represented by each circle.

Venn-diagramming can be a good place to start in discovering similarities and differences between your subjects, but charting is a good next step to help you sort those similarities and differences into different categories. A chart organizes a list of items into common categories. Now is the time for you to review your venn-diagram to help you figure out any common categories you can turn into a chart.

After identifying a few ways to focus in on your topics, you’ll be ready to start writing your essay.

Outlining Your Essay

Your compare and contrast essay can be structured three ways. Read over the methods below and find the one that works best for you. Once you’ve chosen an organizational structure, you’re ready to begin outlining your essay and its evidence.

Subject-to-Subject Comparison

A subject-to-subject comparison is when you structure your paper around separate discussions of your subjects. So, if you were to use this structure, you might structure your essay in the following way:

1. Subject #1

  1. Point 1
  2. Point 2
  3. Point 3

2. Subject #2

  1. Point 1
  2. Point 2
  3. Point 3

3. Subject #3

  1. Point 1
  2. Point 2
  3. Point 3

This structure allows you to investigate each of your subjects in-depth, enabling your reader to draw their own conclusions. Alternatively, in this structure, you could use your conclusion to provide an overall assessment or conclusion to the content outlined in the body paragraphs.

Similarities-to-Differences Comparison

A similarities-to-differences comparison works best with only two subjects. In this kind of comparison, you structure your essay into two sections: similarities and differences. You would structure a similarities-to-differences comparison like this:

1. Subject #1 and Subject #2 are similar in the following ways:

  1. Similarity 1
  2. Similarity 2

2. Subject #1 and Subject #2 are different in the following ways:

  1. Difference 1
  2. Difference 2
  3. Difference 3

This structure allows you to examine both the similarities and the differences of a topic by direct comparison.

Point-by-Point Comparison

Finally, you can structure your essay in the fashion of a point-by-point comparison. The name of this style of comparison says it all; you’ll compare your subjects to each other point-by-point. A point-by-point comparison would look like this:

1. Point #1

  1. Subject #1
  2. Subject #2
  3. Subject #3

2. Point #2

  1. Subject #1
  2. Subject #2
  3. Subject #3

3. Point #3

  1. Subject #1
  2. Subject #2
  3. Subject #3

This method of comparison allows you to have a direct comparison for each of your subjects. In this structure, you can then use your concluding sentences to provide an evaluation of the best performer for each category.

Drafting Your Essay

DecorativeOnce you’ve settled on an organizational structure and used it to outline your essay, you’re ready to begin writing! Take your time considering your rhetorical situation. For whom are you writing? What do they value and want from you as a speaker? What is your overall purpose in writing? Try not to think too much about the way you phrase things; you can fix that in revision and editing.

Reflect: The Writing Process

Poll

If you want to make sure your paper is polished before turning it in, what step in the writing process would you pay most attention to?

Expand: Polishing Your Compare and Contrast Essay

Discover

Now that you have a draft of your essay, you’re almost done! Taking the time to go through the revision and editing process before turning in your paper can go a long way in improving your essay.

Revising Your Essay

Once you’ve written your essay, it’s time to engage in revision. As you read back through your essay, give special thought to how you appeal to your audience. Remember the audience for whom you are writing the essay; which of your claims might they take issue with? How can you make sure that you are not alienating them or pushing them away with your claims?

DecorativeTry to read carefully back through your paper as if you’re reading for the first time, and as a member of your target audience. Keep in mind the level of knowledge and understanding your audience has. Is the topic completely new to them? If so, make sure that you take the time to explain important terminology and key concepts. If, however, your audience generally has expertise in the subject, don’t waste your time by explaining things they already know.

Finally, as you reread your essay, be sure that you’re considering what kind of ethos you are projecting to your readers. Do you come across as knowledgeable? Do you come across as trustworthy? Do you support all of your claims with reasonable and reliable evidence? Is your language professional and courteous?

Revision is also the time for you to review your essay’s structure. Did you choose the style of comparison that makes the most sense? Does everything flow smoothly? If not, consider revising your essay to another method of organization or incorporating more transitions in your writing.

Editing Your Essay

DecorativeTake the time now to read carefully back through your revised essay for any proofreading or editing errors. Use methods like reading aloud or reading sentences backward to catch mistakes you might otherwise miss. You should also consider handing your essay over to a friend at this point in time, as a fresh pair of eyes can catch things you may miss after looking at your own paper for too long.

Check Your Knowledge

Use the quiz below to check your understanding of this lesson’s content. You can take this quiz as many times as you like. Once you are finished taking the quiz, click on the “View questions” button to review the correct answers.

Lesson Resources

Lesson Toolbox

Additional Resources and Readings

Compare & Contrast Essays

A resource providing additional tools for the compare/contrast writing process

Compare and contrast essay structure

A video guide to structuring compare/contrast essays

Comparing and Contrasting

More tips on writing compare and contrast essays

Lesson Glossary

Terms

AJAX progress indicator
  • chart
    a diagram that organizes a list of items into common categories
  • point-by-point comparison
    when you divide your essay according to individual points, and you compare each of your subjects by how well they meet or align with these individual points
  • similarities-to-differences comparison
    when you divide your essay into two sections: one for similarities and one for differences
  • subject-to-subject comparison
    when you structure your paper around separate discussions of your subjects
  • venn-diagram
    a diagram comprised of overlapping circles that allows the user to visualize similarities and differences

License and Citations

Content License

Lesson Content:

Authored and curated by Cady Jackson MA, MSE for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA 4.0

Media Sources

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