What is a comparative essay?
A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare
- positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
- theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
- figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
- texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamletand Macbeth)
- events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008–9)
Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.
Make sure you know the basis for comparison
The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself.
- Provided by the essay question: The essay question may ask that you consider the figure of the gentleman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The basis for comparison will be the figure of the gentleman.
- Developed by you: The question may simply ask that you compare the two novels. If so, you will need to develop a basis for comparison, that is, a theme, concern, or device common to both works from which you can draw similarities and differences.
Develop a list of similarities and differences
Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them.
For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations, being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity.
The list you have generated is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan.
Develop a thesis based on the relative weight of similarities and differences
Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases:
- Differences outweigh similarities:
While Callaghan’s “All the Years of Her Life” and Mistry’s “Of White Hairs and Cricket” both follow the conventions of the coming-of-age narrative, Callaghan’s story adheres more closely to these conventions by allowing its central protagonist to mature. In Mistry’s story, by contrast, no real growth occurs.
- Similarities outweigh differences:
Although Darwin and Lamarck came to different conclusions about whether acquired traits can be inherited, they shared the key distinction of recognizing that species evolve over time.
Come up with a structure for your essay
- Alternating method: Point-by-point patternIn the alternating method, you find related points common to your central subjects A and B, and alternate between A and B on the basis of these points (ABABAB …). For instance, a comparative essay on the French and Russian revolutions might examine how both revolutions either encouraged or thwarted innovation in terms of new technology, military strategy, and the administrative system.
A Paragraph 1 in body new technology and the French Revolution B Paragraph 2 in body new technology and the Russian Revolution A Paragraph 3 in body military strategy and the French Revolution B Paragraph 4 in body military strategy and the Russian Revolution A Paragraph 5 in body administrative system and the French Revolution B Paragraph 6 in body administrative system and the Russian Revolution
Note that the French and Russian revolutions (A and B) may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.
When do I use the alternating method? Professors often like the alternating system because it generally does a better job of highlighting similarities and differences by juxtaposing your points about A and B. It also tends to produce a more tightly integrated and analytical paper. Consider the alternating method if you are able to identify clearly related points between A and B. Otherwise, if you attempt to impose the alternating method, you will probably find it counterproductive.
- Block method: Subject-by-subject patternIn the block method (AB), you discuss all of A, then all of B. For example, a comparative essay using the block method on the French and Russian revolutions would address the French Revolution in the first half of the essay and the Russian Revolution in the second half. If you choose the block method, however, do not simply append two disconnected essays to an introductory thesis. The B block, or second half of your essay, should refer to the A block, or first half, and make clear points of comparison whenever comparisons are relevant. (“Unlike A, B . . .” or “Like A, B . . .”) This technique will allow for a higher level of critical engagement, continuity, and cohesion.
A Paragraphs 1–3 in body How the French Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation B Paragraphs 4–6 in body How the Russian Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation
When do I use the block method? The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:
- You are unable to find points about A and B that are closely related to each other.
- Your ideas about B build upon or extend your ideas about A.
- You are comparing three or more subjects as opposed to the traditional two.
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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