To compare means to identify similarities between certain objects. On the other hand, contrasting entails looking at the differences between them. Therefore, when evaluating the similarities and differences between subjects, then you are writing a compare and contrast essay. An effective essay requires that while they may have distinct characteristics, the subjects should be of comparable categories. For instance, it would be easier to compare and contrast writers of different literary works as opposed to a writer and a politician. Professors use such essays to evaluate students’ understanding of a particular subject. Before you proceed to learn how to start off a compare and contrast essay, let’s look at the compare and contrast essay definition.
What is a compare and contrast essay?
Probably this is the first time you have been assigned such a writing task and you are wondering: What is a compare and contrast essay?
Definition of a compare and contrast essay:
Like the name sounds, a compare and contrast essay is a kind of essay that allows you to pick two things, peoples, or any object and you analyze their similarities and differences. In writing compare and contrast essays for school, you may find that your instructor requires you to use tables and charges to show similarities and differences between the items being analyzed.
Now, can you start a compare and contrast essay?
How to start a compare and contrast essay step by step
Here are 5 core steps you need to read before you start writing a compare and contrast essay.
1. Identify the topic
Assuming that the professor requires that you write any compare and contrast essay, then you need a topic. However, in most instances, you will be assigned the areas, theories of personalities to analyze. Citing the similarities and differences can be a small part of your exam, meaning no need for a long essay. However, assignments are assumed to have been allocated ample time. Therefore, the instructor might specify the number of words required in such a task. At this point, you must evaluate the most appropriate topic to fit into that word limit. An ideal topic discusses two subjects that possess some differences, yet belong to a certain group. You can talk about different historical occurrences, authors, theories, inventions, and much more.
Having selected the most suitable subjects to compare and contrast, what do you know about them? What makes them similar or different? Write down all the similarities and differences that are there. Conducting thorough research will help you to come up with the most appropriate points. Your essay, however, may require only three of each which means you will eventually narrow them down. The use of visual aids is a perfect way to have a clear picture of what you will discuss. You can use a table that lists the similarities in one column and differences on the other. Another efficient strategy is to use Venn diagrams. In the overlapping region, list the similarities while on the outside of each circle will be the differences. With such a list, it is easy to examine each point at a glance. Identify the main arguments from the listed points.
3. Choose an organizational structure
You can organize your compare and contrast essay in various ways. Hence, you must choose the one that best suits your paper and stick to it. Some of the structures you can adopt include;
- Topic by topic
This format starts with one object, discusses all the points, and then moves to the next in the subsequent paragraphs. The shortcoming in using this method is that it does not clearly show the similarities and differences. It is an easy one to use but does not meet the purpose of a compare and contrast essay satisfactorily.
- Point by point
This method simultaneously evaluates the different features or characteristics of distinct items. For instance, you can assess the cost-effectiveness, speed, memory, and graphics of apple and mac computers. Therefore, the reader will see how the features differ or compare to one another.
- Common and different
In this method, you start with the similarities between the objects and the transition to the differences. This format clearly shows what makes the subjects of discussion similar and what distinguishes them.
4. Outline your work
Draft an outline that is in line with the organizational structure you have chosen. Arrange what points will take which paragraph. You can assume the popular introduction, body and conclusion format to organize your ideas. However, since you are comparing two items, the body can take four paragraphs to balance the objects. An outline involves only identifying the key points and placing them in their appropriate positions.
5. Write your essay
Before deciding to write your essay, you should have gathered all the relevant material. Having a list of the similarities and differences is one thing while supporting those ideas is another. Your points must have sufficient evidence to prove their correctness.
Writing the introduction section
Writing an introduction for a compare and contrast essay is the most critical step as it allows the reader to quickly identify the topics that you wish to find their similarities and differences. It is the best part to grab the attention of your reader.
Your compare and contrast essay introduction for your compare and contrast essay should let the reader know what objects you will be analyzing. It is not enough to merely write them; capture the reader’s attention too. Make the reader want to read through the entire content and learn more. You can start with some statistics, anecdotes or personal experience, depending on the type of objects. A brief background and a clear and concise thesis statement will show the point you are driving at. Your thesis statement can tell a contrast that may make it reasonable to choose one object over the other. Do not give the juicy details at this point; only a taste.
Great ways on how to start a compare and contrast essay – examples
There are various ways on how to start off a compare and contrast essay. Here are four great ways to do this and win the attention of the reader:
- Cite real facts and statistics: Show your reader that the content discussed in your essay is backed by research by citing facts and statistics. Remember to cite the sources (Learn more here).
- Start with a question: Provoke the thoughts of your reader by engaging them using a question
- Start with a joke: An appropriate joke goes a long way in preparing the mind of the reader.
- Start your essay with a quote: Find a quote that is related to your compare and contrast essay topic. Avoid cliches.
Body: How to write the body paragraphs
It is in the body section where you write compare and contrast essay arguments. As earlier mentioned, the body of your essay depends on the organizational structure you choose. If using the topic by topic, give all the information about the subject one and then two. In each of the subjects, support with the relevant facts, figures, quotes or examples. The ideas being compared or contrasted between the two items must be the same. If using the point by point approach, use common characteristics to distinguish each of the items in separate paragraphs. Again, ensure that all the points are backed up with irrefutable evidence. If you are using the strategy where you first compare and then distinguish, start with the similarities. What evidence shows that these items are indeed similar? If you are comparing literary works, you can quote the authors’ writings. Use signal words such as similarly, likewise, regardless, on the other hand, on the contrary, and compared to, among others.
Conclusion – Conclude your essay
The conclusion of a compare and contrast essay summarizes your discussion while strengthening the thesis statement. A proper conclusion leaves a lasting impression in the reader’s mind. You can end the essay in a question or challenge to the audience. Remember to review your work for any errors such as punctuation, grammar, typos and the like. Using a peer to look at your work helps identify the mistakes that might escape your eye. You will also learn whether your points are clear and convincing.
You are now ready to submit your essay for grading.
Further steps on how to end a compare and contrast essay effectively
Here are some of the things on how to conclude a compare and contrast essay and ensure a good grade after you write the conclusion paragraphs.
- Proofread and edit your essay – Go through the essay and check for grammatical mistakes.
- Verify that all information has been well cited.
- Format your essay based on your instructor’s guidelines.