Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. Next you must decide which of them are interesting, important, and relevant enough to be included in your paper.
These are by no means complete or definitive lists; they’re just here to give you some ideas—you can generate your own questions for these and other types of comparison. Ask yourself these questions: Suppose that you are writing a paper comparing two novels.
And in some cases, comparison/contrast is only part of the essay—you begin by comparing and/or contrasting two or more things and then use what you’ve learned to construct an argument or evaluation.
Consider these examples, noticing the language that is used to ask for the comparison/contrast and whether the comparison/contrast is only one part of a larger assignment: You may want to check out our handout on Understanding Assignments for additional tips.
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.Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas.To make a Venn diagram, simply draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you’re considering.Sometimes you may want to use comparison/contrast techniques in your own pre-writing work to get ideas that you can later use for an argument, even if comparison/contrast isn’t an official requirement for the paper you’re writing.For example, if you wanted to argue that Frye’s account of oppression is better than both de Beauvoir’s and Bartky’s, comparing and contrasting the main arguments of those three authors might help you construct your evaluation—even though the topic may not have asked for comparison/contrast and the lists of similarities and differences you generate may not appear anywhere in the final draft of your paper.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. There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure.In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common.Assign each one of the areas that doesn’t overlap; in those areas, you can list the traits that make the things different.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.