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The Ultimate Guide For Compare and Contrast Essay

I think you’ll agree with me that writing compare and contrast essays can sometimes be confusing. Although this type of essay is a common requirement in schools, often we find ourselves lost in a sea of similarities and differences while comparing and contrasting, and the many different ways to write them.

So this blog article provides you a step-by-step guide on writing compare and contrast essay with compare and contrast essay free samples!

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Step 1: Determine the subjects of comparison for your compare and contrast essay.

In writing compare and contrast essays, often, professors provide instructions for the topics and subjects of comparison that are easy to recognise.

These topics usually have compare and contrast words like “compare” “contrast” “similarities” “differences” “and differentiate”.

However, there are some instructions that do not directly state or make it difficult to spot the compare and contrast word commands.

For example:

How does technology evolve between 18th century to 21st century?” Or “Explain how capitalism was discussed by Adam Smith and Karl Marx.

See? There are no compare or contrast command words in the sample questions above.

By clearly understanding the topics you are to write is the first key towards writing your essay correctly.

Sample Essays with subjects and topics clearly stated for comparison: Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx, Technology and Workforce: Comparison between the Information Revolution and the Industrial Revolution

Step 2: Know the basis for comparison and contrast in order for you to have clarity of your topic.

One of the common mistakes in compare and contrast essays is making illogical comparisons or simply put, comparing unrelated items. One easy solution to avoid this is to clearly determine the basis for comparison.

In order to do this, make sure that your basis is connected and relative to the topic and not randomly chosen. This is the best way to start a compare and contrast essay as it gives you clarity and understanding of your topics.

For example, if the topic is about legitimising LGBTQ marriage, the comparison should be about supporting and opposing arguments.

Another example is, if an essay is about comparing the effects of monetary awards to employee performance, do not merely compare and focus too much on the similarities and differences between monetary awards themselves. Be sure that your essay focuses on the similarities and differences of the “effects of different monetary awards to employee performance“.

Believe me, some students make these mistakes.

Once the basis for comparison has been established, it will help you create the correct thesis for your essay.

The thesis statement for compare and contrast essay is quite different than other types of essay, it depends on how the subjects for comparison are relative to each other.

One common way is by stating the relationship between A and B.

For example:

Whereas Adam Smith explained capitalism through the maximisation of self-interest as a product of equilibrium, Karl Marx explained capitalism through the concept of exploitation.

Free compare and contrast essay examples: Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson and Karl Marx on the Division of Labour

In the example above, it is noticeable that the basis for comparison were clearly stated by mentioning that Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson “shared a keen interest in the social, economic and individual effects of specialization”.

While the basis for contrasting the subjects were also stated clearly by mentioning “nevertheless their approaches differed significantly”.

Step 3: Categorise the attributes of your subjects in order for you to understand the subjects more clearly.

Once the basis for comparison has been established, it is important to clearly determine the similarities and differences of your subjects in order to avoid comparing unrelated items.

There are two ways that can help you categorise your attributes.

First is through listing the attributes of your subjects. In doing so, create similarities and differences categories. In completing these categories, focus on attributes that are shared and conflicting between the two subjects.

Second is through creating a diagram for outlining similarities and differences. This way, it’s easier to get an organised and clear visual representation of the subjects.

Free compare and contrast essay example: Compare and Contrast Essay

Step 4: Organise your structure to establish coherence of your essay

In any essay, a well-organised structure is important for writing logically, for compare and contrast essays, this may be challenging because comparisons and contrasts should be related and logical.

If a structure is faulty, a writer may fail to present points in a clear manner.

There are 3 easy ways to organise your compare and contrast essays:

First is through discussing using point-by-point structure which means writing point after point by alternating compatible points between Subject 1 and Subject 2.

For example:

  1. Adam Smith’s argument on capitalism.
  2. Karl Marx’s argument on capitalism.
  1. Adam Smith’s discourse on economic system.
  2. Karl Marx’s discourse on economic system.
  1. Adam Smith’s view of an ideal society.
  2. Karl Marx’s view of an ideal society.

Look, be careful with using point-by-point structure as you may end up writing too much transitions or discussing too many points. If this happens, your compare and contrast essay may end up difficult to read.

One way to avoid this is to make sure your points are not repetitive and that your points are grouped accordingly.

You may observe this proper organisation of the points during listing or making a diagram in the categorisation process (Step 3).

Free compare and contrast essay examples: Microsoft vs. Apple

In the example above, it can be noticed that differences were discussed point-by-point.

The writer first pointed out Apple’s use of closed operating system, then immediately pointed out the difference thereafter by stating “Microsoft, on the other hand chose to run softer OS on an open source platform”.

It can be seen that the discussion of similarities and differences were made simultaneously.

Second is through block structure, which can be done through addressing all points for Subject 1 and then Subject 2.

For example:

  • Adam Smith’s argument on capitalism.
  • Adam Smith’s discourse on economic system.
  • Adam Smith’s view of an ideal society.
  • Karl Mar’s argument on capitalism.
  • Karl Marx’s discourse on economic system.
  • Karl Marx’s view of an ideal society.

Free compare and contrast essay examples: Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx

In the example above, notice how all points about Karl Marx were written first followed by the discussion of all points regarding Adam Smith. Notice how neatly parallel the topics were written in block structure.

The first respective paragraphs for both subjects talked about respective backgrounds of Marx and Smith.

The second paragraphs were dedicated to the respective discussions of Marx and Smith regarding economy and business.

The third paragraphs talked about morals and rational choice of individuals in retrospect of economy accordingly to the two political thinkers.

Lastly, the fourth paragraphs talked about Marx and Smith’s principles as economists.

Third is through similarities to differences structure, which can be done through writing an entire paragraph or section dedicated to similarities and another paragraph or section dedicated to differences.

For example:

  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx similarities in their view of production.
  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx similarities in their view of society.
  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx similarities in their view of economy.
  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx differences in their view of economy.
  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx differences in their view of business.
  • Adam Smith and Karl Marx differences in their view of morals.

There’s another way of writing similarities to differences structure, it is by writing differences according to the subjects’ similar aspects such as the sample essay below:

Free compare and contrast essay free sample: Analysis and Comparison with Android and iPhone Operating System

In the example above, notice how differences of Android and iPhone were discussed in block form for each subject according to similar basis, in which case, their respective development language.

That’s not all, here below I give you a more complicated comparison essay, the paragraph is dedicated to comparing liberal democracy to an entirely different form of government, communism.

Notice how the writer is able to establish similarities (despite two completely opposing subjects) while also providing supporting arguments.

Free compare and contrast free sample: Unlikely Twins: On Similarities Between Communism and Liberal Democracy

Whereas, similarities to differences structure is almost similar with block structure in terms of form since both use parallel strategy in writing.

However, the former may tend to create balance in terms of comparing and contrasting since there should be separate paragraphs dedicated to both similarities and differences respectively.

While the latter may tend to focus on differences since in using block structure, subjects are discussed accordingly (per paragraph) usually highlighting each of their unique traits, characteristics and points.

(Also, see what I did here? I used a point-by-point structure in writing these two paragraphs).

Step 5: Use transitional expressions or transition signals to establish connection of ideas

Aside from choosing how to organise your structure, make sure that you are also able to link your Subject 1 and 2 in the body of your essay.

Why does this matter? Because one of the ways to establish logical arguments and come up with a coherent essay is to make sure that all points discussed relate to your essay’s thesis.

In compare and contrast essays, coherence is established through relating your Subject 1 and 2. In order to demonstrate these links, transitional expressions or transition signals for compare and contrast essays are useful.

For comparisons: in the same way, in common with, at the same time, as well as, similarly, likewise, also, like, both

For contrasts: whereas, even so, in contrast, on the contrary, notwithstanding, nevertheless, nonetheless, otherwise, but, still, yet

Free compare and contrast essay free sample: Microsoft vs. Apple

In the example used for Step 4 point-by-point structure, notice the use of the transition phrase “on the other hand”. Also, notice how the relationship between the two subjects (Apple and Microsoft) was established in the first sentence of the paragraph by stating that the two companies are “very similar software companies”.

This also establishes the basis and logic behind comparing and contrasting the two subjects.

Free compare and contrast essay free sample: Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson and Karl Marx on the Division of Labour

In the same example used for Step 2, aside from clearly stating the basis for comparison and contrast, the writer of this essay through the first two sentences (please see highlighted parts) was also able to relate her subjects accordingly despite the complex similarities and differences between the subjects.

The writer discussed that although the two authors shared the same interests, this has led to differences in their arguments and approaches in the same field of academics.

Conclusion

Do follow all steps 1 to 5 and the examples provided and it will make your compare and contrast essays comprehensive and easier to write!

Another tip for writing essays, and I cannot emphasise this enough: clarity and coherence are important factors to observe. You may have good points to discuss, but if your arguments are not presented clearly and coherently, your essays might still score poorly.

I hope this ultimate guide has given you compare and contrast essay ideas! Don’t forget to share your comments below and share this link to your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

Update: Additional tips for writing compare and contrast essay!
  • When you compare: Identify the similarities and differences between two or more phenomena. Say if any of the shared similarities or differences are more important than others. ‘Compare’ and ‘contrast’ will often feature together in an essay question.
  • When you contrast: Similar to compare but concentrate on the dissimilarities between two or more phenomena, or what sets them apart. Point out any differences which are particularly significant.

The Writing Center of University of North Carolina also provides tips on what to search for and compare provided these common comparative topics:

Two Historical Period or Events

  • Time, date and duration of the periods and events
  • Causes of periods and events, and their consequences in the future
  • Information on people during these periods and events: work they do, relationships and valued material or ideals
  • Governments, notable people

Two Ideas or Theories

  • Origin
  • Creators and notable proponents
  • Primary thesis of these ideas and theories
  • Claims, goals and conclusions
  • Evidence
  • Application
  • Which is more plausible, how broad is their scope

Two Pieces of Writing or Art

  • Titles
  • Creator, place of creation, reason for creation, themes that they address
  • What they describe or depict
  • Tone, mood, form
  • For writing: plot, characterisation, setting, theme, tone, and type of narration
  • Which one has higher quality or greater merit

Two People

  • Birthplace
  • Personal details: such as age, gender, race, class
  • Achievement or other things they are notable for
  • Personal traits, work, beliefs
  • Traits and facts that stand out most about each of them

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