Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on what a compare and contrast essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use compare and contrast structure words, and how to make sure you use appropriate criteria for comparison/contrast. There is also an example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.
What are compare & contrast essays?
To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences. This essay type is common at university, where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc. Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure. For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first, and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards. This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for cause and effect and problem-solution essays. For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.
The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.
Object 1 - Point 1
Object 1 - Point 2
Object 1 - Point 3
Object 2 - Point 1
Object 2 - Point 2
Object 2 - Point 3
Compare and Contrast Structure Words
Compare and contrast structure words are transition signals which show the similarities or differences. Below are some common examples.
Criteria for comparison/contrast
When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.
Although this sentence has a contrast transition, the criteria for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong). We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this type of paragraph or essay. Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).
Below is a compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the point-by-point structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.
Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away. Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.
Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task, ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication are similar in their general form, they differ in regard to their speed and the range of tools available.
One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication. In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls. Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms. Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition, oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.
However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances, the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination. In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent. In the past, if it was necessary to send a short message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate. This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.
Another significant difference is the range of communication methods. Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter. By comparison, there are a vast array of communication methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned, but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities, such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences, chiefly in relation to the speed of communication and the range of communication tools available. There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future, and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.
GET A FREE SAMPLE
Like the website? Try the book. Enter your email to receive a free sample from the recently published title, EAP Foundation: Academic Presentations.
Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
You need to login to view the exercises. If you do not already have an account, you can register for free.
“Samsung is a better mobile phone than iPhone because I prefer Samsung.”
That does not sound persuasive or informative, do it?
“Samsung is a better solution than iPhone because iOS devices have limited access to various apps, games, and other entertaining content, and they are more expensive for no good reason.”
This statement sounds better. It is just one out of many possible compare and contrast essay topics. If you wish to learn how to write a compare and contrast essay to improve your GPA or handle another homework assignment, the text below would be helpful.
GET A CUSTOM SOLUTION FROM US
Those students who are looking for more than information on how to write a 5 paragraph compare and contrast paper – feel free to find a helping hand in the face of online writing service.
How to Write Compare and Contrast Essay: Defining This Type of Paper
This type of assignment is an academic paper, which depicts 2 or more similar yet different things by focusing on what they have in common and what makes them different. The purpose is to make a reader see the way chosen objects are interconnected.
It makes sense a person should start by picking a couple of good subjects to differentiate and draw parallels.
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: 2 Different Approaches
A compare and contrast essay outline is far more complicated than the rest of the academic paper outline templates. It depends on which strategy the author chooses to present the chosen objects. In case the best option to introduce both topics is through point-by-point comparison, obey this structure:
- Introductory paragraph
- Presentation of overall idea
- Particular issue to discuss
Fields the author is going to explore
Issue 1 - Aspect 1
Issue 2 - Aspect 1
Issue 1 - Aspect 2
Issue 2 - Aspect 2
Issue 1 - Aspect 3
Issue 2 - Aspect 3
- Review of the basic ideas
- Assessment and/or potential developments (forecasts)
In case of subject-by-subject comparison, simply focus on the topic 1 at the beginning (list issues & aspects) and then move to the second topic. Conclude on their differences and similarities in the closing paragraph.
GET IT DONE NOW
Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction
An introduction reveals the main point and shares the primary data about the selected elements with the reader. Add a thesis statement. The opening paragraph must contain a brief explanation of the selected ideas to be analyzed (stress why the offered text might be valuable for the reader). Inspire the person to read the paper from cover to cover by initiating a powerful hook sentence.
Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion
Once a student is done with the body paragraphs, he/she should start working on the closing part of the paper, which often leaves the last impression. It means a writer should try hard to leave positive impressions. In a conclusion, provide a summary of the introduced evidence, restate the thesis statement by rewording it (do not copy-paste a thesis sentence from the introduction).
How to Write a 5 Paragraph Compare and Contrast Essay: Rundown
Based on everything said before, keep in mind these outtakes when working on the discussed type of academic paper:
- Apply some organizational instruments like a Venn diagram or Mind Map to arrange the idea obtained via intensive brainstorming & research.
- Keep away from the vague thesis statement.
- Narrow a broad idea to a couple of main points, leaving some space for the in-depth evaluation.
- Edit the final draft before submitting it to the instructor; a professional team of online editors will proofread and fix the mistakes for cheap!
20 Interesting & Creative Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
To make it easier, our experts have divided some of the best topics into 4 different categories. Have a look at the offered ideas. Those are the possible examples, so try to come up with a unique, exciting idea to impress the teacher!
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
- Economic Theory of Karl Marx with Contemporary Capitalistic Movement
- Constitution of the United States verus the Constitution of the United Kingdom
- Political Regimes in the United States Today & a Century Ago
- Working as a Marketing Specialist and Being a Human Resources Manager: Duties They Have in Common and Things That Make People of These Professions Different
- Renaissance & Baroque Art: Specific Features That Make These Genres Similar Yet Different at the same Time (include professional terminology to stress your in-depth knowledge of the problem)
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for High School
- Private Schools & Public Schools: Differences Plus Similarities
- Should People Live in Official Marriage or Civil Union?
- The Government of the US versus the Government of Student’s School
- Early specimen & Christopher Columbus: Differences & Similarities
- Football Clubs from Europe or Football Clubs from the United States
Compare and Contrast Topics for Middle School
- Celebrating Christmas in the United States is Better Than in Europe
- Role Models for Teens & Role Models for Grown-Ups
- Cars versus Trains: A More Comfortable Transport to Ride Long Distances
- Fiction and Non-Fiction Literature: Which Is a More Fun to Read?
- What Are the Benefits of Remote Education over Traditional Learning?
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for 6th Grade
- Marvel’s Spiderman or Iron Man
- Super Mario Land versus Sonic for PlayStation 2
- Nintendo or Xbox: Why One Replaced Another over Time
- Playing Games Outside or Staying at Home with TV
- Winter Sports against Summer Sports: Pros & Cons of Each Type
Compare and Contrast Essay Example
That is how to deal with it! Another thing that may help a school/college student to develop a good homework assignment comparing several objects is a good example. Discover a plenty of free paper examples, helpful writing tools, ideas, and cheap custom writing services without leaving your home!