I. What is a compare and contrast essay?
A compare and contrast essay is an essay that examines the characteristics of two or more topics. The purpose of the essay is to highlight interesting or important similarities and differences between these topics. A compare and contrast essay may have an unbiased (‘fair’) point of view, or may seek to convince the audience to agree with one side or another.
A compare and contrast essay will choose several points that can connect to both topics. These points are then used to show how the topics are similar or different.
II. Examples of compare and contrast essays
Compare and contrast essays are often phrased as [topic 1] v. [topic 2]. The ‘v.’ between the topics is an abbreviation of the word versus, which means ‘against’. In other words, a compare and contrast essay takes topic 1 and puts it up against topic 2.
|Topics of Essay||Points to compare and contrast|
|1||Pop music v. Classical music||Types of instruments used; length of song; use of vocals; musical structure|
|2||Xbox v. PlayStation||Games available; processing speed; ability to be used online; cost|
|3||Traditional schools v. Charter schools||Core classes; extra-curricular activities available; setup of a typical school day|
|4||Science Fiction stories v. Fantasy stories||Common characters; typical settings; themes|
|5||Geology v. Astronomy||Information studied; methods of observation; important discoveries; effects on modern society|
III. Types of compare and contrast essays with topics
The types of compare and contrast essay depends on the writer’s purpose. The writer typically has one of two goals:
- To differentiate between similar topics.
- To show that one thing is better than another.
a. Compare and contrast to differentiate between similar topics
The purpose of this type of essay is to help the reader gain a better understanding of two or more similar topics. It describes the differences so that the reader can tell them apart.
American English v. British English
Many English speakers assume that the language is identical everywhere in the world. This essay would point out differences in vocabulary (flashlight v. torch), spelling (color v. colour), and pronunciation. The reader would gain a better understanding of both American and British English. An ambitious writer might even want to compare Australian English along with the other two!
Crocodiles v. Alligators
These two large reptiles are often confused. This essay would compare and contrast physical characteristics, behavior, and habitats of these animals to help the audience be able to tell them apart.
Brand A v. Brand B
A common compare and contrast essay will show the similarities and differences between similar products made by different companies. This type of essay is very useful to people who are looking to buy something. For instance, an essay could compare and contrast three brands of basketball sneakers so that athletes could buy the one best suited for them.
b. Compare and contrast to show that one thing is better than another
The purpose of this type of compare and contrast essay is to show the reader the reasons or traits that make one thing better than another.
Renewable Energy v. Fossil fuels
A person who wanted to argue that our country should use more renewable energy sources, like the sunlight or wind, could use this type of compare and contrast essay. The writer could focus on points such as the positive environmental impact, extra availability, and lower cost of renewable energy to convince the audience of their argument.
Dogs v. Cats
A dog lover could use this type of essay to convince their parents to buy a dog instead of a cat. The writer could choose to compare and contrast the animals’ intelligence, ability to protect, and friendliness.
Android v. iPhone
If you want to convince your friends that your choice of smartphone is the right one, you would use this type of compare and contrast essay. You might consider points such as: cost, available apps, ease in updating, and style choices.
IV. Parts of a compare and contrast essay
Your thesis is your statement about the purpose of your essay. It also gives your audience an idea of the type of essay (see part III) they will be reading.
b. The points you will use to compare and contrast the topics
These points need to be identified so that the reader knows what you will be using to compare and contrast the topics. For example, in part III, Android v. iPhone, the points are: cost, available apps, ease in updating, and style choices.
c. Description of similarities
For each point, show the similarities between the topics.
d. Descriptions of differences
Show how each topic is different for the points you have chosen.
V. How to Write a compare and contrast essay
- Choose two or more similar topics
- Do any necessary research
- Choose the points of comparison that best fit the purpose of the essay
- List the similarities and differences
- Organize your information- You may choose to organize your information in a few different ways:
- Similarities and then differences – Include all of the ways that the topics are similar. Once you have covered all of the similarities between the topics, then move on to all of the differences.
- Point by point – Compare and contrast both topics on one point, and then move on to the next point. Continue until you have covered all of the points.
- All about one topic, and then all about the other – Start with one topic and describe how it fits each of the points you choose. Once one topic is covered completely, do the same with the next topic.
- Write your paragraphs, using the organization style you chose above.
- Conclude by highlighting the findings that support your argument or purpose for writing the piece. Again, look back at part III to decide what information you want to highlight in order to achieve your goal.