What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay? Simple Examples To Guide You

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If you’ve ever gone clothes shopping and wondered at the merits of a warm yak wool sweater compared to a cool and breezy denim jacket, you’ve already gone through phase one of a compare and contrast essay. With just a document and some extra research, you could have a fully built essay about outerwear. But what is a compare and contrast essay, and how do you write a good one?

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

A compare and contrast essay is a type of analytical or informative essay that explores the similarities and differences between two subjects, hopefully leading to some larger insight about the two.

That can seem pretty basic, but the real key is to make connections between the subjects that aren’t obvious. Greater insight in compare and contrast essays comes from looking at subtle, nuanced, or surprising similarities and differences.

Unlike argumentative or critical essays, compare and contrast essays aren’t really intended for you to make some sort of argument or state an opinion. That’s not to say you can’t state a claim about what you hope a reader should learn from comparing the two subjects, but this is very much about analyzing the subjects, not criticizing them.

Compare and Contrast Essay Template: General Format and Structure

The structure of a compare and contrast essay will depend largely on your subjects and the amount of space and time that you have, which might not always fit a five-paragraph essay assignment.

In its most basic form, a compare and contrast essay could look like:

  • An introduction that provides background context and a thesis stating what you’re comparing and why
  • A body paragraph discussing the similarities between the two subjects
  • A body paragraph discussing the differences between the two subjects
  • A conclusion that restates the thesis and looks at further potential questions for consideration

The biggest variation here will come in the body paragraphs. Aside from the above general structure, you could approach the similarities and differences using the block method, wherein you discuss all the information about one subject before discussing all the information about the second subject.

You can also use the point-by-point method. This involves dedicating one paragraph to each point of comparison. For example, you can spend one paragraph talking about how both the yak wool sweater and denim jacket will keep you warm, though to different degrees.

Examples of Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

Coming up with what to actually compare and contrast is half the battle, partly because you can potentially compare and contrast nearly anything. Use your brainstorming skills, figure out what interests you, and otherwise have fun with it.

If you need to get the cogs turning in your noggin, it doesn’t hurt to look at some example topics.

  • American English vs. British English: What's the Difference?
  • Android vs. iPhone: Which Has the Best Bang for Your Buck?
  • Aphrodite or Hercules: Which Greek God Possessed More Power?
  • Border Collies vs. Labrador Retrievers: Which Breed Is Better for Young Families?
  • Coffee vs. Tea: Which One Is Healthier?
  • Commuting or Dorming: What's the Best Way to Enjoy College?
  • Facebook or Instagram: Which Will Help Your Business Grow?
  • Irish and Scottish Mythology: What Themes Do They Share?
  • Liberal Arts or the Sciences: Which Degree Program Offers More Job Prospects?
  • Music and Poetry: Which Is More Personal?
  • Music from the 1950s and the 1970s: Who Rocked It Out Better?
  • PC vs. Mac: Which Computer Lasts Longer?
  • The Bible vs. the Quran: What's the Difference?

Compare and Contrast Essay Example

You have a pretty solid idea of how to write a compare and contrast essay, but it doesn’t hurt to see what a compare and contrast essay could look like. We can’t write your essay for you because you might have some amazing, nuanced, and surprising insights on similarities and differences that we just won’t notice. Besides, we wouldn’t want to take that opportunity away from you anyway.

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Sample Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction

A compare and contrast essay’s introduction doesn’t have much variance from intros in other essays, so don’t skimp on the details here. Include a good hook and some basic background context. End with a thesis statement that discusses what you’re comparing and why the comparison even matters.

When people think monster, they might recall blood-draining vampires, brain-hungry zombies, or boogeymen under the bed. Few might consider the terrors of an amphibious puppet and a lonely ogre. While these two strange creatures might not have much in common, Fremont the Toad and Gerf (from the animated film series of the same name) present interesting similarities that help to understand both of them as deeper characters and closer to human than the audience may realize.

Compare and Contrast Essay Body Paragraph Examples

Body paragraphs for compare and contrast essays will see a lot of variance, maybe more so than any other essay type. This comes down to how you frame your comparison, what you want to focus on with your subjects, and countless other factors. In general, you’ll be highlighting the similarities and why they matter and highlighting the differences and why they matter.

Fremont and Gerf have some significant differences that set them apart in both goals and personalities. Fremont is a musical toad with big show business aspirations. In contrast, Gerf is an ogre with a self-imposed isolationist view. Fremont’s aspirations mean that he is constantly in interaction with others, from strangers to friends, as a means of learning and making connections to further his dreams. On the other hand, Gerf possesses no such dreams and instead prefers keeping others away as both a safety measure and defense mechanism.

In spite of their differences, Fremont and Gerf do share some similarities. Aside from both being a similar shade of chartreuse, Fremont and Gerf share a similar home environment: the swamp. This flooded, damp biome acts as a place of hiding and solitude for both of them. This might run counter to Fremont’s big dreams, but to this talented toad, the swamp is a space to get away from the spotlight, to find himself. Gerf, however, must venture outside the swamp to understand himself better.

Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion Example

You should always make your conclusions matter. It’s your opportunity to get a little cheesy, draw on other questions, and consider the “why” of your entire essay. Even if it’s the “last part” of your essay, your conclusion can inform the rest of your essay, so give it some extra thought.

Both Fremont the Toad and Gerf the ogre are mysterious creatures with some distinctly different aspirations. However, they both have a deeper need to connect to themselves while connecting to others. In other words, these two strange creatures may be more human than what viewers initially think, creating a deeper reading of their characters beyond the superficial.