How to write a compare and contrast essay


One of the essential writing skills is to compare and contrast in an academic essay. Simply, it is a type of essay where you evaluate the differences and similarities between two subjects.

You may compare a range of subjects, including but not limited to historical figures, research methods, political approaches, or even literary works.

Step 1: When to compare and contrast

You’ll be asked to write a compare and contrast essay both in high school and university. In your assignment instructions, you’ll be likely to have such essay topics:

On the other hand, some instructions are not clear whether you should compare and contrast. However, writing a compare and contrast paper would be a good approach for such topics:
When you’re assigned these topics, it is always better to compare these topics with past examples. For example, after a while, you may compare the 2008 Crisis with the Great Depression. Or, you may as well compare the Covid outbreak with other historical pandemics.
When you’re assigned these topics, it is always better to compare these topics with past examples. For example, after a while, you may compare the 2008 Crisis with the Great Depression. Or, you may as well compare the Covid outbreak with other historical pandemics.

Step 2: Learn how to effectively compare and contrast

This type of paper is all about comparing and contrasting two topics. As long as there are strong grounds for the both, you may contrast two different subjects, or you may compare two similar topics with a lot in common.

Therefore, regardless of the essay type, you should first understand the importance of argumentation. You should come up with a topic, claim, or idea that triggers a sense of discussion and curiosity in the reader.

You might contrast American Society before and after the Civil War. You’ll likely find many differences in terms of social structure, politics, and social life.
These refer to that you’ll have strong grounds for contrasting as Civil War is a compelling historical incident.
It’s always better to clarify your contrast and comparison in your thesis statement so you and your reader can keep track of the paper.
Later on, you can create your paper based on your thesis statement, including comparing and contrasting or even both.
Remember, every paper has an aim. Consider what you’re trying to achieve with your compare and contrast paper. Then, develop your thesis statement and body paragraphs accordingly.

Step 3: Find a good topic & find similarities and differences

Right off the bat, you need two different subjects for a compare and contrast essay. However, these two must eventually have similar grounds. We provided some examples below, let’s check them out. 

After finding the topic, list the similarities and differences. It’s always better to visualize knowledge so that you can create well-organized academic essays.

Step 4: Prepare an outline and write a thesis statement

Upon listing all the differences and similarities between the two subjects, you need to define your main argument and prepare an outline.

Writing the thesis statement

When you look at your list of differences and similarities, you need to choose the most striking difference as your thesis statement. This will intrigue the reader.

For example, if you compare and contrast Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the number of goals might be your main argument. You can base the whole essay on total scores and mention them in your thesis statement.

Preparing the outline

In any academic essay, preparing an outline is very important. You can make use of a traditional essay outline, as shown below.


This example is based on a common 5 paragraph compare and contrast essay (introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion). If you’re planning a longer essay, you may add more contrasting and comparing paragraphs.

There are different structures of writing a compare and contrast essay. For example, you may write a detailed paragraph for the first subject and switch to other one in the next.

You can also construct your paragraphs to talk about both subjects. You can certainly present similarities and differences on the same paragraph.

Step 5: Add supporting evidence

When you write your body paragraphs, don’t forget to support your arguments with research and quotes (APA or MLA) when necessary.

As you see, research and reference are quite crucial in an academic paper. So, when you’re writing a compare and contrast paper, don’t miss this step. This is where your essay becomes serious and credible.

Step 6: Proofread your essay carefully

We tend to make a lot of writing mistakes when we’re deep into it. So when you finish, you should proofread your paper for grammar and punctuation mistakes such as tense selection, capitalization, and passive voice.

Writing an essay is almost like telling a story. You either tell formally or informally. So, a story without good storytelling is boring. Transition phrases make your story progress smoothly.

Lastly, make use of spell check and grammar tools during this step. After the grammar check and proofread, you’re done! If you’ve followed these steps carefully, you wrote a great compare and contrast essay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Start the compare and contrast essay by finding two different topics with a similar background or setting. Then, to properly start the writing process, define these subjects in the introduction.

The classic five paragraph structure for this essay type can be achieved by writing an introduction, three compare and contrast body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Highlighting the most striking contrast of the two subjects might be a great idea for a compare and contrast essay hook.

First, you need to write down your thesis statement. After that, construct your introduction, each body paragprahs in detail, and conclusion. It’ll make it easier for you to write the actual essay.

Thank you for reading. If you need further information, feel free to have a look at our essay samples or contact us at live chat.

Ibrahim Akturk
Ibrahim Akturk
Content editor at Tamara Research. Translation major, huge coffee and baking nerd. Addicted to good music and great articles.

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