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.
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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.
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Students like writing compare and contrast essays as they have enough space for creativity. Such papers allow expressing your thoughts regarding some contradictive issues. It makes more fun to draw a parallel between two people or objects instead of describing a single issue.
It does not mean, however, that compare and contrast essay is an easy assignment to complete. There are so many possible compare and contrast essay topics, and some of them are hard to carry out.
Keys to Writing Compare & Contrast Essay
Before you start, it is crucial to choose topics that you really know well. Most often, you should find two things that have enough differences and similarities. You can take two pets, cats and dogs, while comparing a food (i.e., banana) with music (i.e., hard rock) basically, makes no sense.
Of course, if you're a part of Arts class where tutor appreciates uncommon parallelism, you may try your luck in your compare and contrast essay. You may talk about a sense of taste and the book of your favorite author. For instance, you may try to explain how it tastes to be Dracula. Or you can highlight how it smells to be Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from famous novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Such creative comparisons are often appreciated and awarded with more than "A." Original and unexpected compare and contrast essay topics serve as your ticket to special universities where Arts are studied. Along with a personal statement written by professional writers, such essay will increase your chances to get enrolled.
Sources to be Used
In any case, writing about things to compare and contrast is an activity which requires your full attention and creativity. But when you have to compare things objectively, you should operate facts. Just like an argumentative essay, your text will need corresponding evidence. Search for the primary and secondary sources on the given topics before you start your first draft. Make sure these sources are no older than 5 years. They should be as relevant as possible. Don't forget to apply only credible sources to reveal your topics. Those are:
- Academic journals
- Scientific magazines
- Official reports
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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
The traditional essay tips won't work with compare and contrast paper. We have gathered the best ideas online to share with students. If you write such assignment for the first time in your school or college life, read information from us.
You need to keep in mind the most common writing mistakes school and college students make to avoid them.
Start with the type of your compare and contrast essay topic. The topics are divided into 4 different groups:
- Events (point to the differences and similarities of some historical events or episodes from the book)
- Situations (choose to compare two different cases or episodes from your life)
- People or fiction characters (choose the story)
- Places (describe different locations)
No matter what comparison and contrast topics you write on, you need to keep to the traditional structure of the academic paper.
Start with a capturing and interesting hook. Outline what your topic is. Point to the main argument of your topic known as a thesis statement. This sentence or two usually come in the last sentence of your first paragraph.
- Developing your arguments
You need to research your topic to choose three claims. Include evidence with the supporting points next to each argument. There should be up to three supporting points in each body paragraphs.
- Refuting opponent's arguments
This time, you need to research the topic to view the facts that contradict your thesis. It is important to choose at least one example and develop a paragraph with the counter-argument as well. Write down maximum two opposing views followed by a couple of your refutations.
Restate your thesis statement and stress why your side is right once again.
You can learn more information on the structure of five-paragraph paper online.
Writing Tips Used by Smart American College Students
Moreover, use such helpful words as "because,""for example," "the writer mentioned...," "according to the book/movie," "from the given reading, we know that...," "on the following page, I have found..."
"Why do you believe Americans will win the next Olympic games?"
"According to the reading I have found in my college library, their team showed better results than Canadians during the last games."
- Check possible examples of compare and contrast essays when working in your hook sentence. It has a great influence on the reader's decision whether to read your text on a specific topic or not. You may add numbers, figures, facts - whatever to make your reader interested. On the whole, there are many types of hooks:
- Anecdotes and jokes
- Literary quotes
- Quotes of famous people
- Lines from poetry
- Setting scenes
- Scientific facts
- Questions and rhetorical questions
- Metaphors and similes
- Thesis statements
We think it is better to write a thesis statement in the last sentence of the argumentative essay’s introduction to conclude.
- Brainstorm all the time. The best way to decide on two good compare and contrast topics to analyze is to brainstorm and write down possible versions on a blank paper. Once you choose the subjects, you have to organize your thoughts. Prepare a table where you will mention both similarities and differences between the two subjects.
- Get professional help and examples. Find online educational services which help to choose some good sources on the given topic. Those can be movies, books, articles, etc. It is the last pre-writing stage which is known as a literature review. School and college students conduct in-depth research to enrich their compare and contrast essay drafts with important details. If you miss any words to finish your essay, a literature review is a brilliant way to reach the necessary word count.
- Don't forget about the formatting and in-text citations. Apply direct and indirect quotes to make your text longer and more persuasive. Citations will serve as the strong evidence to support your compare and contrast topics.
It was just a short preview of every section of your compare and contrast paper in English. Selecting the proper topics might take a while if you don't have a list of sample topics in front of you. We are ready to share the best compare and contrast essay subjects with you right now. You may use any example as the subject for your comparative essay when the theme is not assigned to you.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
We have divided the topics into several categories to make it easier to select one. The list starts with the most relevant subjects college students usually discuss. Other categories are full of great ideas too.
- School vs. College: What's New?
- Students Who Work and Unemployed Students: Who Takes the Best of This Life?
- Research Paper and Essay: What Is More Responsible?
- American English vs. British English: Major Differences
- What Makes Education and Employment Similar?
- SAT and TOEFL: Differences and Similarities
- How Are Master Degree and Ph.D. different?
- Persuasive and Argumentative Paper: Different or the Same
- Traditional Education or Remote Learning?
History and Political Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Comparison of Lincoln's and Washington' Ideas
- Renaissance vs. Baroque Epoch
- Anthropology vs. Religious Studies
- American Government vs. Soviet Government
- US President vs. UK Prime Minister
- North and South Before the Civil War in the US
- Henry VIII vs. King Louis XIV
- Fascism and Nazism: Different or the Same?
- World War I and World War II: Difference in Events
Compare and Contrast Topics for Beginners
- Compare Apple and Orange
- Night Time and Day Time: Advantages Each Period Has
- What Makes People Completely Different from Animals
- Living in Poverty and Being Rich
- Coffee and Tea: The Effects of Both
- Living in Big City or Staying in Village
- Feeling Sad against Feeling Lonely
- Differences and Similarities between American and British Traditional Dishes
- Camping in the Woods or Resting by the Sea?
Opposite Things to Compare and Contrast
- Females and Males
- Coke vs. Pepsi
- Red vs. White
- Country in War Compared to Country in Peace
- Driving a Car or Riding a Bus
- Love and Hatred
- Bad and Good Aspects of Overwork
- Moon and Sun
- Dolls or Soft Toys: What Should Parents Buy to Their Children?
Ideas Teenagers May Use in Their Papers
- Childhood vs. Adulthood
- Living at Home or Living on Campus
- Reading or Watching Screened Versions: What Teens Prefer
- Working in Office or Being a Freelancer?
- Academic Writing vs. Scientific Writing
- TV Shows and Radio Shows: What Is More Trendy?
- Education or Professional Career: What Is Easier and What Is More Difficult?
- Greek and Roman Culture: Differences and Similarities
- Comparing Art and Science Classes
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IT & Social Media Compare & Contrast Ideas
- E-mail or Traditional Mailing: What Will Happen in the Future?
- Online vs. Traditional Commerce
- Online Dating vs. Real-Life Relations
- Computer Games, Video Games, or Smartphone Games
- Choosing between New York Times and Forbes
- FaceBook or MySpace: Which Social Network Offers More Opportunities?
- Searching for Job Online or Traditionally?
- Using Online Writing Services against Traditional Writing Services
- Benefits Marketing Specialists Get from Using Online Advertising vs. Traditional One
Movie & Music Compare and Contrast Themes
- Buffy, the Vampire Slayer or Charmed?
- Books against Movies: Why Reading Is Preferred
- Jazz vs. Rock
- Sam vs. Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings)
- Gandalf vs. Dumbledore
- American Cinematography vs. Soviet Union Cinematography
- Thor and Loki: Friends or Enemies According to Movie of 2009?
- Horror Films and Thrillers: What's in Common?
- Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy?
Literature Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Comedy vs. Drama
- Greek vs. Roman Mythology
- Beauty and the Beast: Lessons Learned
- Prose or Lyrics: What People Prefer More and Why?
- Poetry of XIII Century and Nowadays Lyrics
- Shakespeare's Othello Compared to Hamlet
- Fiction or Non-Fiction Literature: When You May Need Different Types?
- Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter: Which Fantasy Book Is Better?
- Literature of the Past against Literature of the Future
Scientific Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Oven vs. Microwave
- Physics vs. Chemistry
- Our Galaxy, Milky Way, and Andromeda, the Closest
- What Makes Earth Different from Mars
- First Mission to Moon and Second Visit: What Are the Differences and Similarities?
- Thomas Jefferson or DaVinci: Whose Innovations Matter More?
- Earthquakes or Tsunami: Which Consequences Are Worse?
- Limited Control Tools or Software with Fool Access to Navigation
- Formulas of Two Different Chemical Reactions
Popular Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Soccer vs. Football
- Chinese vs. Korean
- Public Opinion vs. Personal Point of View: Discuss Subjectivity & Objectivity
- Juice and Water
- Light Beer vs. Dark Beer: Which One Is More Popular?
- Anorexia Nervosa and Obesity: What Is More Dangerous?
- Marriage and Divorce: Two Sides of the Coin
- Windows or Linux: Paid vs. Free OS
- Marxism vs. Other Ideas of Capitalism
Philosophy Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Is Home Really a Better Place Than Miami Beach?
- Life and Death: Various Philosophical Views
- Living in Your Dreams or Living in Reality: Pros and Cons
- Friends and ... Where Is the Edge?
- Physical & Mental Needs of Human Beings
- Reality or Fantasy World?
- Main Philosophical Ideas of Macbeth against the Main Ideas of Hamlet
- Dogs and Humans: They Are More Similar Than We Think
- Sources with Free Access and Rights Reserved: Should We Protect Intellectual Property?
- Greek Philosophers vs. Roman Philosophers
Compare and contrast essay topics for college students might be tricky to choose. The whole process of academic writing is even longer and more complex. Online help from expert writers will save you a plenty of time. You just need to order a good essay from experts with the highest academic degrees in a variety of fields.
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