Compare and Contrast Essay – The Only Writing Guide You Need

The compare and contrast essay is a confusing assignment. Most students don’t even know how to start. Should they compare and contrast? What methods do they use? Should they include their own arguments in the paper or solely focus on facts? What’s a good hook for these papers?

It’s time to put an end to the confusion. We’ll explain what this assignment is and we’ll give you quick rules for writing.

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

Before we get any further, let’s start with a simple definition.

A compare and contrast essay analyzes the similarities and/or differences between two different subjects. Although it seems simple at first, it’s a bit more complex when you get deeper into the writing process. The compare and contrast essay should not simply expose the ways the two subjects are different or similar. It should involve strong argumentation that makes your paper unique.

What Does It Mean to Compare and Contrast?

Let’s take World War I and World War II as examples of subjects you’d compare and contrast. You’ll need to identify the causes, development, and outcome of each of these wars. Then, you’ll identify the similarities and differences in all these aspects, and you’ll write a paper elaborating on those similarities and differences.

How Many Paragraphs Does a Compare and Contrast Essay Need?

Most college essays are consisted of five paragraphs:

  • Introduction
  • Three body paragraphs
  • Conclusion

The compare and contrast essay follows that format. It doesn’t make a difference whether you’re a middle school, university, college, or high school student. Most of the time, you’ll need to write five paragraphs. The difference may be in the word count. If you’re writing a more complex essay of university level, the paragraphs will be longer. If they are too long, you may consider breaking the structure in shorter paragraphs. But in essence, the paper will still contain an introduction, three main arguments for the body, and a conclusion.

What’s the Difference between Compare and Contrast?

The difference is simple:

  • To compare means to identify the similarities. If we take the example of a topic from above, we’ll easily see that both WWI and WWII had similar causes: alliances, nationalism, militarism, and imperialism. You’ll write about these similarities in the comparison section of your paper.
  • To contrast means to identify the differences. In WWI and WWII, the two warring groups were different. The triggers were also different. The major difference, however, was in the way these wars were fought. The first one was fought in the lines trenches, whereas the second one was fought with advanced weapons.

Sometimes your teachers will ask you to write a comparison essay. Sometimes they will ask you to write a paper that only exposes the differences between the two subjects. Most of the time, however, you need to write a compare and contrast essay, which covers both the similarities and differences.

The Compare and Contrast Essay Format

The last step before writing a compare and contrast essay is getting informed about the way you can approach this assignment.

  1. The subject-by-subject method

Also known as the block method, this approach requires you to expose all arguments related to subject A before you start exposing the arguments related to subject B.

  • It’s important to present all points in the same order. If, for example, you’re writing about WWI, you’ll write about the causes, development, and outcomes. Then, you’ll cover the same points when writing about WWII, so the reader can easily identify the similarities and differences.
  • As you’re writing about subject B, you’ll connect the discussion by writing about the similarities and differences when compared with the things you wrote about subject A.
  • You may also list everything about subject A in the first body paragraph and everything about subject B in the second body paragraph. In the third body paragraph, you’ll make the connections between the two subjects.
  1. The point-by-point method

This approach requires you to alternate arguments, covering the same points of the two subjects one after another.

For example, you’ll write about the causes of WWI and then you’ll follow that argument with the causes about WWII. You’ll accompany each point with strong argumentation, making the links between subject A and subject B.

Easy Steps: How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

Finally, let’s go through some simple tips for writing. They will make this process easy for you.

  • First, you need ideas for the topic. If your professor didn’t give you a precise topic, you can get inspired through brainstorming. Or you can go through our list of compare and contrast essay topics to get inspired.
  • You can’t start off a comparison essay before conducting thorough research. Find all information you can find about the two topics. Still, it’s important not to go all over the place. If you start going through all info about WWI and WWII, you’ll have to write an entire dissertation. For a simple essay, few hours of thorough research should be enough. Find facts that you can compare.
  • Write an outline. Are you going to follow the step by step or point by point method? Whatever your decision is, the outline should cover all points. It’s a plan that will guide you through the writing process.
  • Write a strong thesis statement. It should fit at the end of the introduction, and it should encompass the thesis you’ve developed by comparing and contrasting the two subjects.
  • If you need help writing compare and contrast essay, you can easily get it. It’s possible to hire a professional writer, who will take your directions and complete a unique paper for you.

Words to Use When Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay

We’ve covered the most important guidelines on how to write a compare and contrast essay. Now, let’s go through a list of words that will help you complete it:

  • Similar to
  • Similarly
  • At the same time
  • In like manner
  • Likewise
  • In the same way
  • On the other hand
  • Despite
  • Regardless
  • Conversely
  • Nevertheless
  • However
  • Although
  • On the contrary
  • Unlike

The first list of words will help you express the similarities, whereas the second one helps you make transitions between contrasts.

Now, you’re ready to start writing that paper!

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