Contrast And Comparison Essay Meaning

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

Unlike other types of essays (see top 10 essay types), a compare and contrast essay is used to explore both the similarities and the differences between two subjects by comparing and/or contrasting them against each other.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

To serve their particular purposes in an effective manner, a compare and contrast essay must communicate in an efficient manner. This means that compare and contrast essays should start with an opening paragraph, which will directly state what the writer is trying to say. Afterward, they can move onto the body, which will support the opening paragraph by providing supporting evidence. Once the supporting evidence has been listed, compare and contrast essays can conclude by reemphasizing their opening paragraphs in order to produce a lasting impression on the mind of the reader.

Comparative Analysis

With that said, a compare and contrast essay cannot be completed without conducting a comparative analysis, which the writer can use to lay out their thoughts about the subjects before sorting them into a neat and organized form. Fortunately, this process is as simple as creating a Venn diagram (see below) before filling it with the characteristics of the subjects, while making sure to put shared characteristics in the overlapping area. Once the writer is satisfied with their brainstorming, they can sort through the characteristics for the ones with the most relevance to the point that they are trying to make, which is important because weaker arguments can actually drag down their stronger counterparts when placed in the same essay.

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

Pre-Writing Phase

How to start a compare and contrast essay? Students are normally assigned a topic to write on, yet sometimes professors give their students the freedom of selecting the topic on their own. In the latter case choosing one out of top compare and contrast essay topics can become a challenge. While working on the topic selection it is important not to choose two totally unrelated subjects, otherwise finding similarities can get problematic. Start out with a subject that has some basic similarities, e.g. two novels, two paintings, speeches etc.

Looking for the things to compare and contrast? Here is a list of top 30 compare contrast essay topics:


Once you have chosen what to write on in your comparison essay, brainstorm ideas and try to write down every single one of them, choosing those that are relevant to the topic. You might want to divide your sheet of paper into two main sections and start jotting down everything that comes to your mind, including similarities and differences.

Writing Phase - Venn Diagram

An effective technique for finding similarities and differences is using a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is a scheme that represents logical relations between two objects. Graphically it can be depicted as two overlapping circles, each of the circles denoting some entity. The overlapping part is the area denoting similarities, while the parts that do not overlap, are the differences (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Venn Diagram: Comparing Apples and Oranges (Compare and Contrast Essay)

A very important point in writing an effective compare and contrast essay is a correct selection of the lines of comparison: if you are comparing two objects, you should be comparing them against one and the same parameter. For example, looking at the picture above you will see that oranges and apples are compared in regards to things like origin, place of growth, a thickness of peel etc. All of these features are inherent in both objects. If you say that an apple is different from an orange because an apple is green and the orange is juicy, you will be “comparing apples and oranges” – this time in the figurative meaning of "likening two incomparable things".

Organization: Typical Structure of a Compare and Contrast Essay

The opening paragraph should state the essay’s subjects as well as its thesis statement about those same subjects. From that point on, the body of a compare and contrast essay tends to be structured in one of two ways:

The first way: a writer can list the characteristics of one subject and then the characteristics of the other before bringing them together by analyzing their similarities and differences. This means that the body of the essay will begin with a number of paragraphs about one subject, continue with a similar number of paragraphs about the other subject, and then finish with a crucial paragraph that will use the listed characteristics to compare and contrast the two subjects.

The second way: a writer can list the similarities between the subjects and then the differences between the same. This means that the body of the essay will begin with a number of paragraphs about their similarities and finish with a number of paragraphs about their differences. With this structure, there is no need for an analysis at the end because its content is spread throughout the preceding paragraphs.

  1. Introduction
  2. Origin
  3. Climate
  4. Peel
  5. Conclusion

Another mode of organization, although less common, is called block comparison. According to this pattern, you will be required to separate the body of your compare and contrast essay in two parts. The first part of the body will be dedicated to Object A, while the other half will be centered around Object B. Together with the introduction and the conclusion, the overall essay length will be 4 paragraphs. In case of block comparison the overall essay structure will take the following form:

  1. Introduction
  2. Oranges
  3. Apples
  4. Conclusion

Once the body of the essay is complete, its conclusion should restate the thesis statement but in a more confident manner because it has proven its point. Sometimes, a conclusion will summarize the preceding paragraphs for a bolder and blunter emphasis, while other times, a conclusion will let them provide their support in a more implicit manner.


Additional Tips on Comparison and Contrast Essay Writing

Fig. 2. Comparison and Contrast Signifiers

Compare and Contrast Words

An important thing about writing any essay is using special cue words that will make your essay more coherent and logical. In the case of a compare and contrast essay you will need to use cue words signifying comparison, for example:

Words to compare: like, compared to, similar to, similarly, by analogy, likewise, in the same way, as well as, both, too, at the same time, correspondingly, in addition, same as, etc.

The cue words signaling contrast are:

Words to contrast: unlike, conversely, however, nevertheless, still, although, while, but, even though, although, despite, yet, regardless, on the one hand … one the other hand, etc.

Post-Writing Phase

Once the first draft of an essay is complete, it is time for the writer to put the finishing touches:


Proofreading is a key factor because errors can break the reader from the flow of the essay, thus robbing it of its power to persuade. Writers should always read through their own work to check for typos, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, as well as lines that should be rephrased for a better result. However, they should also get other people to proofread for them because their closeness to their writing can make it hard for them to pick up on its problems. After all, they already know what they are trying to say, meaning that they are not looking at their work with the same perspective as the reader.


References are a useful way to increase an essay’s power to persuade so long as they are appropriately authoritative. For example, referencing a politician is probably not going to be much use in a philosophy essay unless it is in the context of their philosophical writings. Furthermore, references are needed to use someone else’s arguments without taking credit for them in the process, which is necessary to prevent plagiarism. Not coincidentally, this also makes it easy for the reader to check the sources so that they will know, that somebody really said so if the reader is skeptical. Finally, references should be done in the style that is appropriate for the essay’s subjects for the convenience of different people in different fields. For example, most essays about the sciences should use APA, while most essays about the humanities should use MLA since those are the conventions.

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A student has to understand how to start an essay first, have complete understanding of what to be writing. In a compare and contrast essay, you discuss equally the comparisons and the differences between two topics or subjects. Comparison or contrast essay are written determining what the comparisons or differences are. Start the paper so that it will be perfect and effective defining which comparisons and differences to emphasis on. A comparison essay records either similarities, or similarities and differences. A contrast essay records only differences.

What is a Comparison Essay?

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The aim of a compare and contrast essay is to examine the differences and/or the similarities of two different topics. Pick two subjects that can be compared and contrasted in a significant way, then you can begin to frame the thesis and work out the paper. Students should critically evaluate any two subjects, finding and pointing out their similarities and/or dissimilarities. If you want to write a considerate and convincing comparison and contrast essay, make a point or serve a purpose. 

Comparison Essaysclarify something unknown or not well understood leading to a fresh insight or an absolute new way of viewing something. Comparison Essays bring one or both the subjects into sharper focus showing that one subject is better than the other but they have to be similar enough to be compared. The same points should be conversed for both subjects; it is not obligatory, however to give both topics the same notch of growth.

Topics to consider when writing Comparison Essays:
  • The careers of two different players
  • The quality of two different cafés
  • Two movies
  • Two stories
  • Two countries
  • Two historical periods
  • Two events

Comparison Essay Structure

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You may be someone who can start an essay with ease; many people find it challenging to even write out an outline before beginning. Bearing in mind the right structure for your essay is one of the essential key facts of success. There are two recommended outlines for a comparison essay:

1.    Point-by-point or alternating pattern
2.    Subject-by-subject or block pattern

Sticking to a recommended essay structure is the only way to appropriately outline and write it, without mistakes paragraph by paragraph from the introduction to conclusion.The order in which points are introduced in the introduction is the order in which one should introduce them in the essay. It’s always good to have a frame work completed before beginning to write an essay. Knowing how to start a compare and contrast essay is the first step to writing an attention-grabbing essay that will keep readers involved all the way to the end.

Structure of a Comparison Essay Alternating Pattern
Introduction ⇒ Comparison Point 1 ⇒ Comparison Point 2 ⇒ Comparison Point 3 ⇒ ConclusioIn Alternating pattern you will need to successively compare and contrast each of the comparisons and differences in the given subjects:
  1. In the introduction state the thesis
  2. Discuss both the subjects together for each point of comparison and contrast
  3. In the conclusion restate the thesis and shortly summarize the essay
Structure of a Comparison Essay Block Pattern Introduction ⇒ Subject 1 → Comparison Point 1 → Comparison Point 2 → Comparison Point 3 ⇒Subject 2 → Comparison Point 1 → Comparison Point 2 → Comparison Point 3 ⇒ Conclusion In Block pattern also known as "subject-by-subject comparison" separates the body of the compare and contrast essay in two parts. The first part of the body will be dedicated to the first subject, while the significant other will be focused around the second subject:
  1. In the introduction state the thesis
  2. Discuss the first subject
  3. Discuss the second subject
  4. In the conclusion you restate the thesis and shortly summarize the essay

Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay

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Before determining how many paragraphs or sections to break the essay into, first find out approximately how long the essay is going to be. Depending on the topic, there may be many ways of planning the paragraphs. Once you decide on the length of the essay, a student must determine how the paragraphs are going to be split into various topics. Is it going to have four paragraphs an introduction, a paragraph on the first topic, a paragraph on the second topic, and a conclusion? Or five paragraphs an introduction, the similarities between the two subjects, the differences between the two subjects, and a conclusion?  

Another important thing to consider is the audience. Differentiate if you’re writing for a Grade Five goer or are you writing for college professors? The audience will mainly affect the tone and voice of your essay, as well as the sentences, words, phrases, and grammar used throughout it. 

The Introduction

The introduction of an essay is very important. It gives the reader first impression of the comparison essay’s script. The introduction should lure readers into reading the essay, ensure you start out robust. You may begin by stating one motivating fact about one of the topics, or by asking a question that will be answered later in the essay. Use interesting ways to lead into your topic as the introduction will introduce general outline of the essay.

Give a brief historical analysis of the topic to help readers for a better understanding. Twitch from a little story or an anecdote that leads the reader into the topic. Use a surprising statement something revolting, ecstatic or even appalling. "Dropping" the name of an eminent person usually gets the reader's attention. State straight what your essay is going to be about, simple and clearly. Remember first impression counts! Grab that reader’s attention.

The Body

Every great essay starts with a great brainstorm of ideas. Begin by writing down every bit of information you have on the paper, ensuring, that you are keeping the two topics or subjects unconnected from each other. The differences in the topics are fairly evident, but pick out similarities, dig a little deeper. What is it that you know about your subjects? What are you going to need to research further? When researching, try to find information that may not be common. 

  • State the point
  • Provide supportive details
  • Use suitable transitions for comparison and contrast

Begin by saying the whole thing you have to say about the first subject that is planned to be discussed, then move on and make all the points about the second subject. You may wish to talk about one point of comparison or contrast at a time. There are no hard or fast rules about forming a comparison/contrast essay, of course. Just be sure that your audience can easily tell what’s going on! Keep in mind that the last point made is the one you are leaving your reader with. Spend most of the essay discussing how the points are similar to or different from the ideas about the second.

The following words may be helpful to you in beckoning your intentions:

like, similar to, also, similarly, likewise, unlike, again, compared to, yet, while, even though, in contrast, in like manner, nevertheless, contrasted with, on the contrary, in the same way, at the same time, however, although, still, but, conversely, regardless, despite, on the one hand … on the other hand.


The conclusion should cover the entire essay and not leave any unfinished business. Whatever you told readers you were going to express about all through your essay, make sure you write a brief summary of it in the conclusion. Once you have the outline of the essay, the rest will fall in place. You’ll find that starting a compare and contrast essay is easier than you may have imagined. Whether you’re a learner or a professional, you’ll find valuable info that will help you become more succinct! If you’re looking for more ways to improve your writing skills, sign up with TutorVista for online tutoring on excellent essay writing.


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