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Writing a Comparative Essay

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Writing a good comparative essay requires that you learn to compare and contrast two or more things. In order to do this, you need a good understanding of each object being compared. Find out what similarities and differences there are between the objects being compared.

Comparing something can be done in various ways, depending on the text type and purpose.

When learning how to compose a comparative essay there are certain points you should always keep in mind: what is your purpose when writing it; is it an academic or a school assignment; is it supposed to be taken as an example by other students who are composing their texts about the same subject?

Let us look what it means when your teacher asks you to write a comparative essay as an assignment.

What is a comparative essay?

A comparative essay can be defined as any piece of writing in which the author tries to relate two or more things, events etc.

If you want to become successful in your attempt to write a really good piece of writing, you need to outline its structure. Some people think that any essay can be written without taking care of its logical construction, but is that really true? Do you think it is wise to write a paper without knowing where would you start and how will your choice of words influence the general structure of the piece?

What are the steps involved in writing a comparative essay?

First of all, let’s look at what kind of an assignment we have been given. Is it supposed to be a paper for an English class or is it a writing assignment for history? Is this paper meant to be read by young students who are learning about the two chosen subjects, or does it have another purpose?

The first thing you need to do once you start working on your essay is to answer all these questions. Once you know the exact nature of your assignment, you can outline its structure.

What is the purpose of a comparative essay?

The purpose of a comparative essay is to prove that two things, persons, ideas etc. are similar in some way or another. This means that if your assignment is to write an essay for English class on the topic “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas”, you have to prove that the movie of the same title “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas” is similar to a book of the same title, by John Boyne.

The first step you should take in your attempt to write a comparative essay is to start reading both texts on which you are going to make comparisons later. You must not rush, but take your time and read both fully, as this is the first crucial stage on the way to writing a brilliant paper. Later you should start thinking about how exactly those two books are alike. What do they have in common? Is it the plot line or the characters’ personalities? Is it an underlying theme of struggle for humanity? You need to find a few points of similarity and you need to do it carefully. There is a possibility that your tutor will require you to explain the differences between both texts in your paper, so remember to pay attention not only to their similarities but also to their differences.

A comparative essay seeks to come up with a comparison between two objects in terms of both similarities and differences. Rather than creating arguments for or against, it provides adequate information between the two items. A student may be asked to compare theories, events, authors, figures, texts, and much more. Learners are likely to encounter this type of essay in their final exam.

Although one may feel the need to provide only similarities, it is expected than one will discuss the differences too. One must prepare adequately before writing this type of essay since it must possess sufficient information on both topics and know how to write a compare and contrast essay.

Pre-writing process

Students must be aware of the content they will include in their essay before they start writing it. This way, their writing process will be simplified and content is stronger and more reliable. Several steps are crucial before settling down to start your essay.

Step by step guide on how to write a comparative essay

A comparative essay paper or comparative research paper can take several forms. You can be asked by your professor to write a comparative research paper between two companies, comparative essay between literary works, comparative research paper on two historic events, among many others. If you are not given a topic, it is up-to-you to come up with a great topic which is easy to write but matches your academic level

1. Read and understand the question

While you may be a great writer and produce an impressive piece, it may not match your instructor’s requirements. Therefore, you must analyze what the instructor expects from the question. The grading rubric is one way of guiding you on how much content is required of you. Some questions may ask the students to simply provide the similarities and differences between objects. However, in other instances, the question may require you to look at the greater picture. For example, one instructor may ask you to compare two poets. Another one may want you to dig deeper to identify the characterization, writing styles, and so on. Ensure that before you can start your research you understand how far the professor expects you to go.

2. Note down the similarities and differences

Your comparative essay identifies the similarities between objects but it must also acknowledge the differences. Therefore, you need to come up with a list containing both the similarities and differences between the items. You may have a long list but only the most significant points will get to your essay. In comparing capitalism and communism, come up with a list that shows how they are similar.

3. Develop a thesis statement

Your thesis statement will guide you on what to write in your comparative paper. Since you have identified the similarities and differences, you can now create a clear thesis statement. This statement is dependent on whether the items are more similar than different and vice versa. A simple thesis statement can focus on the superior content between the similarities and differences. A more complex one, though, will incorporate both within the same sentence. Therefore, you can have a situation where the differences outweigh the similarities or the other way round. You can also create a balance between the two objects. The judgment you make will be the determinant of your thesis statement.

4. Choose appropriate structure of a comparative paper

The structure of your essay shows how you will organize ideas in the body paragraphs. You can adopt any of the following structures for your comparative essay:

Alternating method – comparative essay outline

In this method, you fully exhaust the comparing element of each item in subsequent paragraphs.

Illustration: if you are comparing the technology, military strategy and the administrative systems in government X and Y, you can have the alternating comparative essay outline below;

Paragraph 1: technology of government X

Paragraph 2: technology of government Y

Paragraph 3: military strategy of government X

Paragraph 4: military strategy of government Y

Paragraph 5: the administrative system of government X

Paragraph 6: the administrative system of government Y

This structure gives well-detailed information of elements even when the comparison points are dissimilar

Mixed paragraph approach

In this structure, the writer uses the comparing elements of two items in the same paragraph. Therefore, it is easy for the reader to comprehend the comparisons the writer is making. Using the illustration above, the mixed approach will look like shown below:

Paragraph 1: technology of government X/ technology of government Y

Paragraph 2: military strategy of government X/ military strategy of government Y

Paragraph 3: the administrative system of government X/ the administrative system of government Y

In this structure, the reader can easily identify the comparison element while giving both items equal weight. It is an effective strategy to adopt in long or complex essays requiring close attention.

Block method

This structure of an essay divides your writing into two parts; each devoted to one of the items being compared. This method is recommended for simple and short essays since it can become one-sided, forgetting the other item. The arrangement of the paragraphs is as illustrated below;

Paragraph 1: technology of government X

Paragraph 2: military strategy of government X

Paragraph 3: the administrative system of government X

Paragraph 4: technology of government Y

Paragraph 5: military strategy of government Y

Paragraph 6: the administrative system of government Y

This approach is suitable when you have more than two items to compare. It can also be used when the items’ points of comparison are not closely related. It can also be adopted when ideas of one item extend from those of the previous one.

Actual Writing 

Once you have gathered adequate material and chosen the most appropriate structure for your comparison essay, create an outline. This will now give a rough idea of what the essay looks like from start to end. From there, you can now focus on the introduction, body, and conclusion.


This part introduces your comparative ideas by highlighting the items you are comparing and the criteria used. It ends with a thesis statement containing either or both similarities and differences, and your conclusion. The thesis statement can be one or two sentences long.

Body paragraphs

Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that tells what you will be discussing. The topic sentence is then followed by the supporting information that you have gathered regarding the element. The last part of each paragraph has a conclusion about the specific idea you have written about. The number of paragraphs will depend on the structure you have chosen and the length of your essay.


This part highlights all the discussed ideas and leaves the reader with some new knowledge. The conclusion you draw should depend on your thesis statement and the tone your instructor expects. Do not lean towards any item if that is not the required output. Ensure that the reader does not feel the presence of some missing information. Finally, review your work and even get the help of another person or contract an editing and proofreading service.

Comparative Essay Outline Example

Creating a good comparative essay outline is a great way to plan your essay. Here’s a helpful example:

Thesis statement: The two texts, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Mao Zedong’s On The People’s Democratic Dictatorship , offer effective strategies for attaining their respective goals. They succeed through the use of different rhetorical strategies.

  • Introduction – identify the two texts and explain how they provide different rhetorical strategies to reach similar goals.
  • Body Paragraph 1 – using the first text as your point of reference, explain how it uses or provides rhetorical strategies that help achieve its goal (goals)
  • Body paragraph 2 – repeat the process for the second text, explaining how it provides or uses rhetorical strategies to achieve its goal (goals)
  • Conclusion – connect the two texts by explaining their use of similar techniques to achieve different goals; summarize main points and restate thesis statement.

Comparative Essay Topics

Comparative essay topics are essay questions which provide a student with an opportunity to compare two things. For example, you might be asked to compare the historical development of two civilizations, or you might be asked to examine similar forces at work in two plays or novels.

Your essay should not simply summarize each element of your comparison text but also analyze the relationship between them and draw conclusions about how they are similar or how they are different.

Some interesting comparative essay topics include:

  • How is “Brave New World” similar to and different from “1984” by George Orwell?
  • Compare and contrast the structure of Romeo and Juliet to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Evaluate how far the character of Prospero in The Tempest reflects Shakespeare’s own mindset.
  • What elements of Edwardian society in England are reflected in the novels of H.G Wells?
  • Make an argument for or against the statement that “Don Quixote” is a satire.
  • Why were the comedies of Oscar Wilde popular with Edwardian audiences?
  • Examine how similar King Lear and Macbeth are as tragic figures.
  • Do the plays of Henrik Ibsen present a hopeful message?
  • How are Oedipus Rex and Hamlet alike as tragedies?
  • Compare the characters of John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller with those in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen?
  • Does Shakespeare rework plots or is he an original creator of stories?
  • Compare the characters of Shylock to Fagin in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
  • Find examples of how the plays of William Shakespeare criticize the English monarchy, church and society.
  • How are characters in “The Tempest” similar to those in other works by Shakespeare?
  • List ways that Arthur Miller used elements of Greek tragedy in Death of a Salesman.
  • Compare and contrast how William Shakespeare’s plays reflect the beliefs and values of his Elizabethan period with those from other eras.
  • What major themes do the plays of Anton Chekhov explore?

These are just example topics and ideas. You can hire essay writers online to come up with custom comparative essay topics and analysis ideas. You can also get ideas from free compare and contrast essay examples on our homework help website.

What is a comparative analysis essay?

A comparative analysis essay is a type of academic essay that requires the writer to compare the features of two or more items. Although there is no universally accepted structure for writing comparative analysis essays, most writers follow roughly the same process:

  1. Describe the selected items,
  2. Explain how they are similar,
  3. Show how they are different,
  4. Discuss which of the items is more effective,
  5. Explain your reasoning.

Now you know how to write a comparative analysis essay that will earn you a good grade.

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