How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

A common theme or topic for an essay, either for coursework or for an examination question, is the compare and contrast essay.  This may be asking you to compare and contrast two different books, two conflicting arguments, two characters or two themes.  This type of essay is easier to complete than you would think.  The structure of the article is vital in getting across the key points and including important information that answers the question fully.  The basic structure of such an essay can easily be divided into five sections.  Here is how to structure a compare and contrast essay.  

Introduction- section 1

All good assignments should begin with an introduction that outlines what is to come in the rest of the essay.   One way of writing an introduction is to include a quote, an anecdote and a generalization.  A similar method is to make a point, give an example that backs up the point and then provide an explanation of the point that you have made.  However you complete the introduction, it should always introduce the two topics that will be contrasted and compared.

Topic 1- section 2

A compare and contrast essay will always include two topics.  In the first paragraph you should only discuss the first of these.  For example, if you are comparing and contrasting two characters called Bill and Ben.  You would only discuss Bill’s character at this stage of the essay.  In general, it will only take one paragraph to complete this section.

Topic 2- section 3

You can now turn your attention to the second topic to be compared and contrasted.  This should be similar to the second section of your essay.  Depending upon the depth of the essay and the overall word requirement, one paragraph is generally sufficient to discuss topic two.

Contrast- section 4

In the fourth paragraph you will begin to analyze the similarities and differences between the two topics.  It is important to draw on specific examples to support your points, generally by extracting quotations from the text, and then to offer an explanation that backs up why the point and example are relevant.  Sometimes it may require more than one paragraph to be written for this section of the essay. 

Conclusion- section 5

The conclusion should draw on your main points and arguments.  If you made a thesis then you should show how your points have proven this and it should be reinstated in this section of your essay.  In the case of compare and contrast essays, you need to state the main similarities and differences between the topics.  No new points or information should be introduced at this stage in the argument.

It should also be noted that some essays will require you to compare and contrast more than two topics.  Therefore additional sections may be needed to outline these and to enable additional comparisons to be made.