Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on what a compare and contrast essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use compare and contrast structure words, and how to make sure you use appropriate criteria for comparison/contrast. There is also an example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.
What are compare & contrast essays?
To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences. This essay type is common at university, where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc. Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure. For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first, and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards. This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for cause and effect and problem-solution essays. For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.
The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.
Object 1 - Point 1
Object 1 - Point 2
Object 1 - Point 3
Object 2 - Point 1
Object 2 - Point 2
Object 2 - Point 3
Compare and Contrast Structure Words
Compare and contrast structure words are transition signals which show the similarities or differences. Below are some common examples.
Criteria for comparison/contrast
When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.
Although this sentence has a contrast transition, the criteria for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong). We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this type of paragraph or essay. Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).
Below is a compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the point-by-point structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.
Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away. Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.
Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task, ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication are similar in their general form, they differ in regard to their speed and the range of tools available.
One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication. In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls. Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms. Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition, oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.
However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances, the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination. In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent. In the past, if it was necessary to send a short message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate. This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.
Another significant difference is the range of communication methods. Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter. By comparison, there are a vast array of communication methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned, but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities, such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences, chiefly in relation to the speed of communication and the range of communication tools available. There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future, and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.
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Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
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Let's say your high school or college teacher haven't assigned the topic for your assignment. It means you can choose compare and contrast essay topics by conducting in-depth research, asking for advice, or hiring a professional academic writer to help. It is simpler than deciding on the most relevant argumentative or scientific subject. However, every high grade expects a quality content written on the interesting essay topic; it is critical to learn how to write a compare and contrast essay and choose appropriate ideas to discuss.
Do not be trivial! The article you see now will help you to avoid confusing and banal essay topics. In addition to the list of the top-rated themes, we will share different links to websites with great examples and online writing help.
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Students will find some good points and ideas necessary for the development of a good school or college comparative essay. Online academic writing help is always available to lend a helping hand when it seems like the assignment is impossible to complete.
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay: Major Principles
The answer to the disturbing question like how to write a compare and contrast essay begins with the structure of this type of academic writing. It has the same structure as other types of academic papers with the few major differences. Introduction with the powerful hook and thesis statement remains the same. In your conclusion, reword the thesis and summarize the arguments used to defend the main idea of the paper. The body paragraphs are different. It depends on whether the author focuses more on differences, similarities, or tries to balance with both.
Take a look at a couple of images below to realize how to write a paper of this type based on our examples.
How to Choose Compare and Contrast Essay Topics Wisely?
The most effective, time-tested way to select essay topics in case your teacher did not give some is through researching different types of sources:
- Newspapers. A student can find an endless source of great ideas. They are related to the ongoing world’s events, latest innovations, expert opinions, political fluctuations, and other fields. Pay attention to both columns, interviews, and analysis composed by an authoritative person from politics, economy, and other aspects of human life;
- News channels. Turn on your favorite channel not to watch favorite TV show this time. Learn about the contemporary problems and try to think about an interesting topic idea spending something around half an hour of your precious time.
- Magazines/Journals. If you are not a great fan of politics, religion, or economics, try to find some good ideas in the recent magazines/journals. Check the rubrics dedicated to entertainment, technology, teen life, and sports.
- Internet. It should be the greatest source of all ideas collected in the previous types of primary sources altogether.
- Do not forget to attend various seminars, conferences, meetings to learn more about the things going on in the world and recently discussed by the society.
“Before starting the topic, organize the thoughts in a logical manner. Develop some kind of a chart/graph/table to have a visual picture of how the final draft should look like. In this type of academic writing, it is important to focus on the comparable qualities & characteristics of the subjects/events/people to impress the target audience. It means the author should pick original criteria to draw parallels or stressing the gap between the objects.”
Professor Beverly Thompson, online English tutor and golden writer at NerdyMates
Students will not understand how to write a compare and contrast essay without memorizing and using properly so-called signal words. Those are transition words. In other types of essays, it is important to join different sections like body paragraphs and conclusion in a whole piece with the help of special words/phrases. Find the list of signal words below.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics on Famous People
It is time to answer the main question of our reader, “What are some good compare and contrast essay topics?”
World-known people like different celebrities and political figures have always attracted the attention of ordinary citizens. It's a great chance for every writer to catch an eye of the reader by describing and comparing the life of various American authorities.
You do not necessarily need to analyze the life of people from the same region or field of activity. Many students find it exciting to take a person from real life and a book or movie character. It leaves space for imagination. Have enough ideas to write your five-paragraph essay:
- Madonna and Celine Dion. While the first woman is a self-made American singer, the same can be said about her Canadian fellow singer. By comparing these two, you draw parallels between the American and Canadian pop stage.
- Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Even though these historical figures widely known to the public were from the opposing camps, there are more similarities between them than you can think.
- Peter Griffin vs. Homer Simpson. The two American television shows, "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" are alike by showing the disadvantages of the nation and laughing at the public stereotypes. However, one of the shows is still more radical.
- Bugs Bunny and Charlie Chaplin. As the time passes by, these figures remain the symbol of their time and entire American culture. It would be interesting to write about the similarities and differences between their comic images.
- Online ads VS traditional ways to promote goods/services. How these methods affect lives of different popular people
- Hobbes or Locke. English philosophers’ roles regarding the contribution of each to the study of political science
- Batman VS Superman. The reasons why Batman won in the famous movie
- Start Wars modern episodes or episodes of 1970’s. Comparison of graphic, actors, plot, visual effects, music, sound effects, habits, etc
- Plato or Socrates. Decide which one contributed more to the philosophical research
- Putin & Obama. Differences in the political regime and economics offered by each president
Religion, Anthropology, and AP World History Compare & Contrast Essay Topics
Religion is often a taboo topic to discuss. Public schools and colleges have subjects dedicated to religion. Students are encouraged to write about it. Religion, history, and anthropology are closely related. You may choose AP world history compare and contrast essay that covers all three dimensions to enrich your essay.
Here we go with several good examples recommended by high school and college students:
- Discuss World War I and World War II. It is a traditional debate. Many people find the two wars similar, but historians point to a great number of differences such as main factors, actual causes, and consequences. Explain why World War II was much worse and terrifying.
- President Obama and President Kennedy. Mass media tends to draw parallels between both political figures very often. It is time to find out why.
- Ancient Greece Ancient Rome. All ideas related to the offered topic are good enough because these civilizations have a great impact on the modern world. Cover Greek and Roman mythology, describe their traditional public events, a way of living, differences and similarities in poetry, and influence on the modern American society.
- 18th Century Living VS Modern Life. Are American people freer now and how is a modern society divided into classes? What are the advantages of e-mail in contrast to the traditional mailing they used back in the 18th century?
- Frenemies. The way famous political competitors, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson acted often reminded of both friendship and rivalry – which one is correct?
- American Revolution VS French Revolution. Both held back in the VIII century, and both are having similarities & differences.
- The Salem Witch Trials & McCarthy Era in the US history. How they treated people accused of witchcraft in 2 different historical events.
- The idyllic period in the US history is the middle of XX century while the 1960s is known as a tumultuous decade.
- Ancient Greece VS Ancient Rome. Which civilization had a greater impact on the development of contemporary culture & art?
- 3 different branches of Christianity. Common issues, major differences, similarities, examples of traditions, etc.
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Political Essay Compare and Contrast Themes
These topics cover political science and cultural life of different countries. It is time to evaluate political regimes of different countries. Analyze the countries with the echo of communism and those where capitalism dominates; countries where women and men have equal rights versus countries where women are limited to their rights and freedoms.
- Classical Theory of Karl Marx against Modern Capitalistic Movement. Financial and political theories change with the flow of time. High school and college students have to understand the way economics work to get the ideas of different political regimes.
- The war in Syria/Military Situation in Ukraine. The countries could make a union based on the fact they are both regularly attacked by two other hostile countries. However, Ukraine is not officially involved in the war, they say. Research what media shares and analyze the given cases.
- The government of China VS The government of Korea. Both of these nations suffer from the consequences of communism. The second country, specifically North Korea, supports this political regime more than China. What is different and what's in common?
- Welfare Programs in the United States vs. Welfare Programs in the United Kingdom. Although high school and college students believe that these countries look alike in many senses, any related book or movie will show how wrong they are.
- Al Qaeda VS the Islamic State. Which of the terroristic organizations have a greater threat to the world’s peace?
- Legal systems in the United States & Canada: Are they too different in terms of laws, regulations, preventive measures, and other?
- Marriage VS civil union. Which of these types of a partnership between two people in love is less threatening to the image of political figure?
- Debit cards and credit cards: The role of government in establishing various payment methods and responsibility it has in case of any rule break
- Private & public companies. The obligations American government have concerning each of these types of organizations
- Political regime today and back in the 1950s: Things that changed for better and situations that got worse
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for 6th Grade
Students who study in the sixth grade have to receive the simplest homework assignments and compare and contrast essay topics for 6th grade as they lack the experience to analyze something more complex than these:
- Winter or summer: More gorgeous season of year
- Christmas in another country/Christmas at home
- Juice VS water: While water may be healthier, juices are tastier and…
- Dogs and wolves: Similarities & differences
- Weeds and flowers: Why one cannot exist without another
- Eastern or Western USA: Living in both parts in different period of time
- Comic books or novels: The once which is more interesting to read
- Tennis VS ping pong: Your favorite game out of two
- Watching TV instead of reading a book: Difference/similarity in impressions
- Male friends or female friends: Based on such factors as loyalty, sincerity, bravery, and more
Compare and Contrast Topics for Middle School
Have a look at the list of compare and contrast topics for middle school!
- King Author VS Zeus. One of them is a way cooler than another one
- Comparison of the role models in 1950s with modern role models
- How does it feel to watch favorite movies in the cinema and watching films at home?
- The correlation between famous dictators & school bullies
- The consequences of tsunami might be worse than the consequences of hurricane
- Prom Night, Halloween Night, & Christmas Night: Which holiday is more fun?
- Car driving or bicycle driving: Which experience is more difficult?
- 3-star hotels or 5-star hotels: Reasons to choose each of them
- Things the early spacemen had in common with Christopher Columbus
- People who influence teenagers most of all: Parents and celebrities
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for High School Students
If you don't need specific ideas for academic papers, look at the list of general essay topics shared by successful college students. Now, we continue with compare and contrast essay topics for high school.
- Fiction or Non-Fiction Literature: Write about which type of literary works is more helpful for college students and why.
- Assess High School Examinations & College Tests. What is more important? Which styles are recommended to be used in academic writing when studying in different educational institutions? When is it easier to cheat?
- Traditional Learning or Online Learning: Do you find it helpful to be able to take college courses online? Is a traditional way of teaching still better and more effective?
- Atlanta Falcons or New England Patriots: Which of the professional sports clubs is more authoritative and loved by high school students?
- Determine the effectiveness of online advertising and TV ads. What type of advertising channel is more influential on children?
- Printed books/e-Books: Which type of material might be more useful for the modern high school students?
- Wooden houses or story buildings. The significance of each type of construction
- Major differences and similarities between Portugal & Spain: Where is it better to have a vacation nowadays?
- American vision of beauty compared to Japanese vision of beauty: Discuss the standards based on the most recent beauty queens plus handsome men
- How rock music has changed: Rock music of early XX century and nowadays
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
Finally, there are many ways you can analyze the life with family and on a college campus; important things to consider while studying at school and in university; passing SAT and taking TOEFL; etc. Enjoy the list of 10 compare and contrast essay topics for college students!
- Comparing Life with Parents to Living on Campus: In your essay, write the details about two ways of student's life. Share ideas on why you prefer one of the options (pros and cons of both).
- Where is academic rigor the greatest when it comes to comparing high school education and college learning.
- While Fall is the season of college arrivals, Spring is the time for student departures. Features of different educational seasons.
- Having a look at the meals students get at high school/college and the food they obtain at home from their family members. Which is tastier?
- The remote learning courses slowly replace conventional classes in college. Pros & cons of going technological.
- Living at home with parents compared to living on the college campus on the example of laundry service, cooking, and other everyday household activities.
- Manufacturing jobs against service sector jobs. A right choice of the college student
- Part-time jobs VS seasonal jobs: Pros & cons of each option
- Private colleges or public education: Reasons to make all educational institutions public in the United States
- Advanced placement classes: Better or worse than honors classes?
Easy Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
If you do not want to go deep into the details breaking the head against the wall, choose one of the easy compare and contrast essay topics!
- Twilight & Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Analyze both shows’ characters
- It by Stephen King: Review book with the film
- Julius Caesar & Macbeth: Do these people have anything in common?
- Realism & modernism. Simple similarities & differences
- Poetry VS prose: List literary elements that make these genres different
- Life in a big city compared to village life: Discuss where people are healthier, kinder, more honest, etc.
- Donald Trump against Hilary Clinton: The one who should have won the latest presidential elections in the United States
- Real Madrid & Barcelona: Advantages + disadvantages of both Spanish football clubs
- iPhone VS Android mobile devices: Benefits Android users obtain against benefits iPhone users get
- Tablets or textbooks in school: Advantages each of these devices have when it comes to the process of learning
Things to Compare and Contrast
The last category contains the names of subjects only. Those are some great things to compare and contrast!
- Jails & Asylums
- Renaissance and Baroque Art
- Star Wars & Star Trek
- American Dad VS Family Guy
- Apple or Pineapple
- Moon and Sun
- Greek VS Scandinavian Mythology
- Communism against Capitalism
- New England Colonies or Southern Colonies (it is possible to add Middle Colonies)
- Fiction VS Non-Fiction
Compare and Contrast Essay Example from Writing Guru
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