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How to Write a Comparison Essay

10.25.2016
Posted by Pat Delorean

how to write a comparison essay

A comparison essay is just what it sounds like: taking two things and comparing them to each other. This is a common type of essay assignment for college courses.

A professor of a literature course could ask you to compare two Shakespearean plays. In this case you would be looking for common themes, tone, plot, and the author’s own development as a playwright from one piece to the other. Or you may be asked to compare two different authorities on Shakespeare and their approach to his work.

As you can see, there are many different ways to write a comparison essay. Here’s a quick guide on how to organize and write a good one:

Make sure you understand what you’re being asked to do. Not all comparison essay themes are straightforward. For example, you may be asked to compare Donald Trump with Hilary Clinton. That would be pretty straightforward. But you might be asked to compare Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton in relation to the Constitution of the United States. In that case, you’re not just comparing the candidates, but comparing how their specific values, actions, speeches and beliefs relate to the American Constitution. Make sure you understand exactly what the assignment is before you start doing research.

Research

Here are some useful research tips:

  • Always look for experts and authorities on the subject
  • Don’t settle for one or two sources – cast a wide net in order to get a more complete and compelling picture of your subject(s)
  • Take notes on your research and look for common themes and opinions as well as contradictory ones

Organize Your Research

After you’ve finished your research and hopefully taken some good notes, it’s time to identify what you’re going to write about. As you read through your notes, consider which themes and ideas you have the strongest and most convincing evidence for.

Make an outline

Make a brief outline of what you plan to discuss in your paper. Your outline should include:

  • An introduction – Where you’ll introduce your topic of comparison to the reader and include your thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs – Where you’ll present your comparisons
  • Conclusion – Where you’ll offer a conclusion

Introduction

Consider the following ideas on how to start your essay:

  • With a quote – A well-chosen quote that eloquently summarizes the essence of your theme
  • An anecdote – A story whose purpose is to illustrate the essential ideas you plan to discuss
  • A statistic – A statistic that highlights a main point in your essay

The thesis

The thesis is where you’ll give the reader a hint about the conclusions you plan to draw in the body paragraphs. For example, if you’re writing about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton’s relationship to the American Constitution, you might write something like “Though Donald Trump’s infractions are more obvious, Hilary Clinton’s long-term political career has also produced some examples that lead her own fidelity to Constitutional values to be questioned.” This will let the reader know that your comparison essay will involve the conflicts that both candidates represent when it comes to honoring the Constitution.

Body paragraphs

This is where you’ll reveal your research and lay out your comparisons. There are a couple of different ways to organize your body paragraphs:

  • Pick a theme and then compare each subject’s relationship to it within the same paragraph

OR

  • Analyze first one subject in one paragraph, then compare the other subject in the next paragraph and continue altering subjects throughout the body paragraphs

(Hint: when you write your outline, you can figure out which of these styles works best for your assignment.)

Conclusion

The best way to conclude a comparison essay is to summarize your main points for the reader. This helps to emphasize the themes you discussed and refresh them in the reader’s mind. Make sure you’re not just repeating phrases from the body paragraphs. Reword your ideas to create a compelling conclusion.

These tips will help you ace your comparison essay.