You are probably aware by now that there are many different types of essays. There are argumentative essays, persuasive essays, and cause and effect essays among others. Apart from the examples mentioned, another common type of essay you will write is the compare and contrast essay. A lot of people are sometimes confused by this term. Many assume that the term is redundant. Students think that to compare is just the same as to contrast. As we will come to see later, comparing is actually different from contrasting. So what exactly is a compare and contrast essay? How to write a compare and contrast essay? What are the ways to ensure that you write a good essay? In this discussion, we will answer these questions and provide some tips for successfully writing a compare and contrast essay.
What a compare and contrast essay really is
A compare and contrast essay, also known as a comparison essay or a comparison and contrast essay, is a type of written work that requires you to talk about two or more subjects within a given topic. The topic of the paper depends on the assignment provided or the range of choices given. Note, however, that the topic can involve just about anything including: persons (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.); groups (e.g. Japanese and Koreans); objects (e.g. kayak and rowboat); places (e.g. Paris and Rome); plants or animals (e.g. reptiles and amphibians); events (e.g. Word War I and World War II); and even abstract ideas, perspectives, and concepts (e.g. democracy and autocracy). The complexity of the essay also varies. For example, a short simple essay can be about the plots of two novels. Meanwhile, a more complex essay can be about the traditions of two different cultures. An advanced essay, on the other hand, can be about the effects of colonization on three different countries.
The main purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to highlight the similarities and differences of the subjects. This is where the difference between comparing and contrasting comes in. When we say comparing, your focus is on tracing the similarities among the subjects. You have to look at what makes them similar. On the other hand, contrasting does the opposite. When you contrast the subjects, you focus on their differences. You have to consider the aspects that make each subject unique.
Structure of the compare and contrast essay
The structure of a compare and contrast essay follows the standard outline of an academic paper. It has the usual elements including the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. In the introduction, the focus is on providing background information on the topic, presenting the subjects that will be compared and contrasted, and advancing the main claim in the form of a thesis statement. The conclusion, on the other hand, focuses on restating the thesis and summarizing the main points of the paper.
While the body of a compare and contrast essay is similar to other essays in that it contains the main discussion, it is also different due to the way the information is presented. Remember, this type of essay talks about two or more subjects, which means you need to present the discussion in an organized manner to avoid confusing your reader. There are two main ways to organize your discussion.
Point by point method
As the term itself suggests, the point by point method involves presenting one point at a time and then discussing how the point relates to both subjects. What is an example of compare and contrast essay? Suppose that your topic is literature and your subjects are J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Now, the points you want to discuss are the two worlds’ geographical features, their respective political structures, and the role of magic in the events.
In a point by point method, your paper will likely begin the discussion by presenting your point about geographical features of the two worlds. You then discuss the geography of The Lord of the Rings followed by similar geographical features in Game of Thrones. Then you move to the differences between the two. You repeat the process for the discussion of political structures and the role of magic. Thus, your compare and contrast outline will look something like this:
A. Thesis Statement
II. Geographical Features
A. Geographical features of The Lord of the Rings
B. Geographical features of Game of Thrones
III. Political Structures
A. Political structure of The Lord of the Rings
B. Political structure of Game of Thrones
IV. Role of Magic
A. Magic in The Lord of the Rings
B. Magic in Game of Thrones
Block by block method
In contrast to the point by point method, the block by block method involves discussing one subject first and then moving on to the next subject or subjects if there are more than two. Going back to the example, this means you discuss The Lord of the Rings first in terms of its geographical features, political structure, and the role of magic in the story. Then you discuss the same for Game of Thrones. Your compare and contrast outline will look something like this:
A. Thesis Statement
II. The Lord of the Rings
A. Geographical features
B. Political structures
C. Role of magic
III. Game of Thrones
A. Geographical features
B. Political structures
C. Role of Magic
Strategies for writing a compare and contrast essay
Writing a compare and contrast essay is not easy, since you have to consider two or more subjects. But there are some strategies that you can use to make the process easier and improve the paper’s quality. Here are some of them:
Choose the appropriate subjects
One of the trickier parts of this project is choosing the right subjects. You don’t want to choose subjects that are too similar, because there’s no point in contrasting them if that is the case. For example, choosing to write about two varieties of roses is likely to be pointless if you know very little about them. Only an expert in roses can offer a substantial discussion on the differences of the two. In the same way, choosing subjects that are too different will make it difficult for you to write about their differences. For example, it doesn’t make sense to write about the Sahara Desert and the Indian Ocean for the reason that they are not even under the same category.
Be careful, also, about choosing subjects that seem similar but are actually different. For example, just because The Great Gatsby and The Book Thief are both novels doesn’t mean they make for good subjects for an essay. You need to find subjects that are substantially the same yet still have differences. For example, if you’re comparing and contrasting two novels, look for works that feature similar themes but treat them differently.
Looking for similarities and differences can get confusing if you don’t have a system for organizing your thoughts. You are encouraged to brainstorm for ideas first. So what is brainstorming? Brainstorming is the process of generating ideas in a rapid way. There are many ways to brainstorm. For example, creating a table where you list similarities on one side and differences on another side can help you organize your thoughts.
Create an outline
Creating an outline should also help you improve the structure of your paper. The sample outlines provided earlier offer tried and tested approaches to discussion. However, remember that these are fairly basic outlines. The level of detail of your final outline should be adjusted according to the needs of your paper.
Go beyond the obvious
Going beyond the obvious is essential if you want to enhance the quality of your paper. Do not limit yourself to just describing what’s already obvious or repeating what your sources say. You need to analyze information to come up with insights that are not readily observable to your reader. For example, suppose you’re comparing and contrasting two female characters in a novel. Do not merely recite the details of their lives as presented in the novel. The readers probably already know these details if they have read the novel. Instead, try to analyze their personalities and understand their actions within the context of the events in the novel. It’s one thing to discuss the similarities and differences of the two women. But you take the discussion to a higher level when you discuss the deeper reasons behind their similarities and differences.
Ask for help
If you think that writing a compare and contrast essay is too challenging for you, do not hesitate to ask for help from others. You may ask a friend, a classmate, or even a tutor to help you out. The only problem is these sources of help are not always available. If you’re running out of options, hiring a professional writer is best for you. A professional writer has the tools and the know-how needed to complete a good compare and contrast essay. More than that, a professional is always there to assist you since they are paid for their time and expertise. Prices for such professionals are very reasonable, and the convenience and peace of mind you get certainly make it more an investment than an expense. So don’t be afraid. Look for a professional writer now and save yourself a great deal of stress.