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.
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
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:
TOP 30 COMPARE AND 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.
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:
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.
HOW TO WRITE A COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
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.
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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Comparing and Contrasting London and Washington, DC
Both Washington, DC, and London are capital cities of English-speaking countries, and yet they offer vastly different experiences to their residents and visitors. Comparing and contrasting the two cities based on their history, their culture, and their residents show how different and similar the two are.
Both cities are rich in world and national history, though they developed on very different time lines. London, for example, has a history that dates back over two thousand years. It was part of the Roman Empire and known by the similar name, Londinium. It was not only one of the northernmost points of the Roman Empire but also the epicenter of the British Empire where it held significant global influence from the early sixteenth century on through the early twentieth century. Washington, DC, on the other hand, has only formally existed since the late eighteenth century. Though Native Americans inhabited the land several thousand years earlier, and settlers inhabited the land as early as the sixteenth century, the city did not become the capital of the United States until the 1790s. From that point onward to today, however, Washington, DC, has increasingly maintained significant global influence. Even though both cities have different histories, they have both held, and continue to hold, significant social influence in the economic and cultural global spheres.
Both Washington, DC, and London offer a wide array of museums that harbor many of the world’s most prized treasures. While Washington, DC, has the National Gallery of Art and several other Smithsonian galleries, London’s art scene and galleries have a definite edge in this category. From the Tate Modern to the British National Gallery, London’s art ranks among the world’s best. This difference and advantage has much to do with London and Britain’s historical depth compared to that of the United States. London has a much richer past than Washington, DC, and consequently has a lot more material to pull from when arranging its collections. Both cities have thriving theater districts, but again, London wins this comparison, too, both in quantity and quality of theater choices. With regard to other cultural places like restaurants, pubs, and bars, both cities are very comparable. Both have a wide selection of expensive, elegant restaurants as well as a similar amount of global and national chains. While London may be better known for its pubs and taste in beer, DC offers a different bar-going experience. With clubs and pubs that tend to stay open later than their British counterparts, the DC night life tend to be less reserved overall.
Both cities also share and differ in cultural diversity and cost of living. Both cities share a very expensive cost of living—both in terms of housing and shopping. A downtown one-bedroom apartment in DC can easily cost $1,800 per month, and a similar “flat” in London may double that amount. These high costs create socioeconomic disparity among the residents. Although both cities’ residents are predominantly wealthy, both have a significantly large population of poor and homeless. Perhaps the most significant difference between the resident demographics is the racial makeup. Washington, DC, is a “minority majority” city, which means the majority of its citizens are races other than white. In 2009, according to the US Census, 55 percent of DC residents were classified as “Black or African American” and 35 percent of its residents were classified as “white.” London, by contrast, has very few minorities—in 2006, 70 percent of its population was “white,” while only 10 percent was “black.” The racial demographic differences between the cities is drastic.
Even though Washington, DC, and London are major capital cities of English-speaking countries in the Western world, they have many differences along with their similarities. They have vastly different histories, art cultures, and racial demographics, but they remain similar in their cost of living and socioeconomic disparity.
Online Compare-and-Contrast Essay Alternatives
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Deborah Tannen compares and contrasts conversation styles in Sex, Lies and Conversation: Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?
Alex Wright examines communication patterns, old and new, in Friending, Ancient or Otherwise: