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Compare-and-Contrast Essay Type

This type of essay focuses on similarities and differences between two subjects. Such subjects are related in some way, so they are usually misinterpreted.

A compare-and-contrast essay is an academic piece of writing that has similar characteristic features to other types of essays. However, it differs from them in several important points. The main of them is comparing and contrasting. When readers see all the similarities and differences, they can better understand what each subject is about because they see the subject framed by the characteristics of the other subject.

Academic institutions often use this type of essay to test how well their students understand the topic because they believe that the ability to compare and contrast is an essential skill for successful academic research. That is why students or essay writers can obtain such assignments on different kinds of things, such as public figures, historical events, research results, works of art, etc.

Here, we want to provide a short guide on how to write compare-and-contrast essays and structure them properly.


Suppose you need to write an essay about how important iCloud technology is, but you write a lot about different types of computer software instead. Your reader will not understand the benefits of iCloud in this way because they need only a little information about its alternatives but not their lengthy description. You may feel that you are not persuasive enough because your attention is divided between two separate topics.

This point can explain why well-structured compare-and-contrast essays are so important. When the two topics are so similar in their functioning, the best way to explain them is by highlighting their differences and similarities. Readers can avoid confusion when they understand what is exactly the same in two concepts and what is completely different.

The main difference between compare-and-contrast essays from all other types of academic writing is that they deal simultaneously with two topics instead of one. A drawback of such writing is that they cannot describe an individual subject in detail as other types of essays do. Though, this type of essay can show how well you are able to cope with both subjects and explain them distinctly.

Keep in mind

The assignment you can receive from your instructor can be of two types. Some of them are quite explicit about the need to make comparisons. For example:

✔️ Compare and contrast offline and online learning. What benefits and drawbacks can you see in each of them?

However, others may not ask for comparing and contrasting so clearly. They just suggest this approach as the best one. For example:

✔️ Discuss the influence of social media on youth in the 21st century.

The compare-and-contrast method can be just one option among many others, meaning that you can compare the situation right now with that of the late 20th century when social media was not so popular. You can also discuss this topic in an argumentative essay as an option.

Writing a Compare-and-Contrast Essay

The most important things to start with when you have to write a compare-and-contrast essay are to define a subject matter or thesis and to plan the structure carefully.


In many cases, you need to choose the subject for the essay on your own. Be attentive to the things you are going to compare - they need to be interrelated in some way. You can opt for the following:

  • two different options within one category, such as renewable and non-renewable energy;
  • interrelated artistic works or cultural phenomena, for example, modernism and impressionism;
  • people who are similar somehow in their activity, such as Plato and Aristotle;
  • political situation at different periods of time, for example, the European Union in the 1990s and nowadays;
  • two places that have something in common, such as Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome;
  • contrasting theories or views, for example, creationism and evolution;
  • concepts that are often confused or misunderstood, such as despotism and tyranny.

After you have decided on the topic, start collecting ideas. You need to make a list of all similarities and differences. Writing them down is quite helpful because you can detect the connections and think about the structure of your essay.

How to Use a Venn Diagram


As any other academic essay, a compare-and-contrast piece should follow the format of introduction, main body, and conclusion:

  • the introduction should contain the explanation of your thesis and the outline of the points your essay will be discussing;
  • the main body will deal with all the similarities and differences between the two subjects, and it should be the biggest part of your essay;
  • the conclusion will wrap up and summarize all the important points.

The introduction can consist of one or two paragraphs. It should contain a thesis statement. You need to mention the two subjects and how you are going to deal with them to let your reader know what to expect further. The conclusion will also follow all the requirements adopted for other types of essays. However, the main body will differ a lot from other essays, and that may be a problem. You need to choose the best way to compare and contrast the two concepts to make the main points clear for readers.


The essay structure is essential. However, you need to know when to talk about each subject, and it may be an issue. You have three choices to structure your essay.

Block Method or Subject-by-Subject Discussion

You describe one subject completely and then proceed with the other. The text is divided into paragraphs. One paragraph is about one subject and the next paragraph is about the other subject. The structure can look like this:

Paragraph 1
  • Point A
  • Point B
  • Point C
Paragraph 2
  • Point A
  • Point B
  • Point C

You can continue like this, discussing as many points for each subject as you feel necessary. If there are many points to discuss about one subject, you may divide the text about it into subparagraphs and proceed in this way page by page.

Alternating Method or Point-by-Point Discussion

You discuss one aspect of the first subject and then the same aspect of the other subject and continue with the next aspect in a row. You break your paragraph by points for both subjects you are going to discuss. This method works perfectly if you want to highlight the connections between the subjects or their absence. One paragraph describes one aspect for both subjects. This structure looks like this:

Paragraph 1. Point A
  • Subject 1
  • Subject 2
Paragraph 1. Point B
  • Subject 1
  • Subject 2
Paragraph 1. Point C
  • Subject 1
  • Subject 2

Describing Similarities and Differences

This method is a bit similar to the alternating approach. Though, the paragraphs here are not divided by subjects or points. They are devoted to similarities first and then to differences or vice versa. It means that you describe all the similarities between the subjects and then proceed with all the differences. You may arrange several subparagraphs for similarities and then write a few subparagraphs about differences. The structure looks like the following:

Paragraph 1. Subjects 1 and 2. Similarities
  • Point A
  • Point B
  • Point C
Paragraph 2. Subjects 1 and 2. Differences
  • Point A
  • Point B
  • Point C

This method works well when you want to build up a powerful conclusion.

Topic sentences are an essential part of every paragraph, no matter the method you choose. Paragraphs in this type of essay can be confusing if you do not use a proper introductory sentence. It should make the range of your ideas understandable and help a reader to see the connections between them.

Writing Process

Now, let’s have a look at how to write a compare-and-contrast essay step-by-step. The process is similar to that for other types of essays.

How to Write a Compare-and-Contrast Essay

Writing Tips

There are several things you need to take into account while writing a compare-and-contrast essay.

Related Topics

Choose the topics for comparison that have much in common. If the subjects are too different, your essay will be just contrasting the thing but not comparing them. They may be two places with similar characteristic features or two people in the same profession. If the things are different in everything, your reader will not understand what is the use in comparing them at all.

Remaining Clear

Communicate clearly with your reader, explaining the subject point by point. It should be understandable why you have come to a certain conclusion. However, while you are writing, you cannot evaluate how clear you are. You need to do it during the revision process.

Final Thoughts

Now, you have a distinct idea of how to write a compare-and-contrast essay. If you choose a proper structure for it, this type of academic writing is not too complicated, indeed. It is important to do good research beforehand to make all your points clear and understandable to readers. In this way, you will show your ability to look into subject matters, compare them, and make straightforward conclusions.

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