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A comprehensive guide to crafting a successful comparison essay.

How to write comparison essay

Comparison essays are a common assignment in academic settings, requiring students to analyze and contrast two or more subjects, concepts, or ideas. Writing a comparison essay can be challenging, but with the right approach and guidance, you can craft a compelling and informative piece of writing.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with valuable tips and examples to help you master the art of comparison essay writing. Whether you’re comparing two literary works, historical events, scientific theories, or any other topics, this guide will equip you with the tools and strategies needed to create a well-structured and persuasive essay.

From choosing a suitable topic and developing a strong thesis statement to organizing your arguments and incorporating effective evidence, this guide will walk you through each step of the writing process. By following the advice and examples provided here, you’ll be able to produce a top-notch comparison essay that showcases your analytical skills and critical thinking abilities.

Understanding the Basics

Before diving into writing a comparison essay, it’s essential to understand the basics of comparison writing. A comparison essay, also known as a comparative essay, requires you to analyze two or more subjects by highlighting their similarities and differences. This type of essay aims to show how these subjects are similar or different in various aspects.

When writing a comparison essay, you should have a clear thesis statement that identifies the subjects you are comparing and the main points of comparison. It’s essential to structure your essay effectively by organizing your ideas logically. You can use different methods of organization, such as the block method or point-by-point method, to present your comparisons.

Additionally, make sure to include evidence and examples to support your comparisons. Use specific details and examples to strengthen your arguments and clarify the similarities and differences between the subjects. Lastly, remember to provide a strong conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces the significance of your comparison.

Choosing a Topic for Comparison Essay

When selecting a topic for your comparison essay, it’s essential to choose two subjects that have some similarities and differences to explore. You can compare two books, two movies, two historical figures, two theories, or any other pair of related subjects.

Consider selecting topics that interest you or that you are familiar with to make the writing process more engaging and manageable. Additionally, ensure that the subjects you choose are suitable for comparison and have enough material for analysis.

It’s also helpful to brainstorm ideas and create a list of potential topics before making a final decision. Once you have a few options in mind, evaluate them based on the relevance of the comparison, the availability of credible sources, and your own interest in the subjects.

Remember that a well-chosen topic is one of the keys to writing a successful comparison essay, so take your time to select subjects that will allow you to explore meaningful connections and differences in a compelling way.

Finding the Right Pairing

When writing a comparison essay, it’s crucial to find the right pairing of subjects to compare. Choose subjects that have enough similarities and differences to make a meaningful comparison. Consider the audience and purpose of your essay to determine what pairing will be most effective.

Look for subjects that you are passionate about or have a deep understanding of. This will make the writing process easier and more engaging. Additionally, consider choosing subjects that are relevant and timely, as this will make your essay more interesting to readers.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when finding the right pairing. Sometimes unexpected combinations can lead to the most compelling comparisons. Conduct thorough research on both subjects to ensure you have enough material to work with and present a balanced comparison.

Structuring Your Comparison Essay

When writing a comparison essay, it is essential to organize your ideas in a clear and logical manner. One effective way to structure your essay is to use a point-by-point comparison or a block comparison format.

Point-by-Point Comparison Block Comparison
In this format, you will discuss one point of comparison between the two subjects before moving on to the next point. In this format, you will discuss all the points related to one subject before moving on to the next subject.
Allows for a more detailed analysis of each point of comparison. Provides a clear and structured comparison of the two subjects.
Can be helpful when the subjects have multiple similarities and differences to explore. May be easier to follow for readers who prefer a side-by-side comparison of the subjects.

Whichever format you choose, make sure to introduce your subjects, present your points of comparison, provide evidence or examples to support your comparisons, and conclude by summarizing the main points and highlighting the significance of your comparison.

Creating a Clear Outline

Before you start writing your comparison essay, it’s essential to create a clear outline. An outline serves as a roadmap that helps you stay organized and focused throughout the writing process. Here are some steps to create an effective outline:

1. Identify the subjects of comparison: Start by determining the two subjects you will be comparing in your essay. Make sure they have enough similarities and differences to make a meaningful comparison.

2. Brainstorm key points: Once you have chosen the subjects, brainstorm the key points you want to compare and contrast. These could include characteristics, features, themes, or arguments related to each subject.

3. Organize your points: Arrange your key points in a logical order. You can choose to compare similar points side by side or alternate between the two subjects to highlight differences.

4. Develop a thesis statement: Based on your key points, develop a clear thesis statement that states the main purpose of your comparison essay. This statement should guide the rest of your writing and provide a clear direction for your argument.

5. Create a structure: Divide your essay into introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Each section should serve a specific purpose and contribute to the overall coherence of your essay.

By creating a clear outline, you can ensure that your comparison essay flows smoothly and effectively communicates your ideas to the reader.

Engaging the Reader

When writing a comparison essay, it is crucial to engage the reader right from the beginning. You want to hook their attention and make them want to keep reading. Here are some tips to engage your reader:

  • Start with a strong opening statement or question that entices the reader to continue reading.
  • Use vivid language and descriptive imagery to paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind.
  • Provide interesting facts or statistics that pique the reader’s curiosity.
  • Create a compelling thesis statement that outlines the purpose of your comparison essay.

By engaging the reader from the start, you set the stage for a successful and impactful comparison essay that keeps the reader engaged until the very end.

Point-by-Point vs Block Method

Point-by-Point vs Block Method

When writing a comparison essay, you have two main options for structuring your content: the point-by-point method and the block method. Each method has its own advantages and may be more suitable depending on the type of comparison you are making.

  • Point-by-Point Method: This method involves discussing one point of comparison at a time between the two subjects. You will go back and forth between the subjects, highlighting similarities and differences for each point. This method allows for a more detailed and nuanced analysis of the subjects.
  • Block Method: In contrast, the block method involves discussing all the points related to one subject first, followed by all the points related to the second subject. This method provides a more straightforward and organized comparison but may not delve as deeply into the individual points of comparison.

Ultimately, the choice between the point-by-point and block methods depends on the complexity of your comparison and the level of detail you want to explore. Experiment with both methods to see which one best suits your writing style and the specific requirements of your comparison essay.

Selecting the Best Approach

When it comes to writing a comparison essay, selecting the best approach is crucial to ensure a successful and effective comparison. There are several approaches you can take when comparing two subjects, including the block method and the point-by-point method.

The block method: This approach involves discussing all the similarities and differences of one subject first, followed by a thorough discussion of the second subject. This method is useful when the two subjects being compared are quite different or when the reader may not be familiar with one of the subjects.

The point-by-point method: This approach involves alternating between discussing the similarities and differences of the two subjects in each paragraph. This method allows for a more in-depth comparison of specific points and is often preferred when the two subjects have many similarities and differences.

Before selecting an approach, consider the nature of the subjects being compared and the purpose of your comparison essay. Choose the approach that will best serve your purpose and allow for a clear, organized, and engaging comparison.

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The Comparative Essay

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What is a comparative essay?

A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare

  • positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
  • theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
  • figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
  • texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth )
  • events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008–9)

Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.

Make sure you know the basis for comparison

The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself.

  • Provided by the essay question: The essay question may ask that you consider the figure of the gentleman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall . The basis for comparison will be the figure of the gentleman.
  • Developed by you: The question may simply ask that you compare the two novels. If so, you will need to develop a basis for comparison, that is, a theme, concern, or device common to both works from which you can draw similarities and differences.

Develop a list of similarities and differences

Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them.

For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations , being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall , being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity.

The list you have generated is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan.

Develop a thesis based on the relative weight of similarities and differences

Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases:

While Callaghan’s “All the Years of Her Life” and Mistry’s “Of White Hairs and Cricket” both follow the conventions of the coming-of-age narrative, Callaghan’s story adheres more closely to these conventions by allowing its central protagonist to mature. In Mistry’s story, by contrast, no real growth occurs.
Although Darwin and Lamarck came to different conclusions about whether acquired traits can be inherited, they shared the key distinction of recognizing that species evolve over time.

Come up with a structure for your essay

A Paragraph 1 in body new technology and the French Revolution
B Paragraph 2 in body new technology and the Russian Revolution
A Paragraph 3 in body military strategy and the French Revolution
B Paragraph 4 in body military strategy and the Russian Revolution
A Paragraph 5 in body administrative system and the French Revolution
B Paragraph 6 in body administrative system and the Russian Revolution

Note that the French and Russian revolutions (A and B) may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.

A Paragraphs 1–3 in body How the French Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation
B Paragraphs 4–6 in body How the Russian Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation

When do I use the block method? The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:

  • You are unable to find points about A and B that are closely related to each other.
  • Your ideas about B build upon or extend your ideas about A.
  • You are comparing three or more subjects as opposed to the traditional two.
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Comparative Essay

Barbara P

How to Write a Comparative Essay – A Complete Guide

10 min read

Comparative Essay

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Comparative essay is a common assignment for school and college students. Many students are not aware of the complexities of crafting a strong comparative essay. 

If you too are struggling with this, don't worry!

In this blog, you will get a complete writing guide for comparative essay writing. From structuring formats to creative topics, this guide has it all.

So, keep reading!

Arrow Down

  • 1. What is a Comparative Essay?
  • 2. Comparative Essay Structure
  • 3. How to Start a Comparative Essay?
  • 4. How to Write a Comparative Essay?
  • 5. Comparative Essay Examples
  • 6. Comparative Essay Topics
  • 7. Tips for Writing A Good Comparative Essay
  • 8. Transition Words For Comparative Essays

What is a Comparative Essay?

A comparative essay is a type of essay in which an essay writer compares at least two or more items. The author compares two subjects with the same relation in terms of similarities and differences depending on the assignment.

The main purpose of the comparative essay is to:

  • Highlight the similarities and differences in a systematic manner.
  • Provide great clarity of the subject to the readers.
  • Analyze two things and describe their advantages and drawbacks.

A comparative essay is also known as compare and contrast essay or a comparison essay. It analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both. The Venn diagram is the best tool for writing a paper about the comparison between two subjects.  

Moreover, a comparative analysis essay discusses the similarities and differences of themes, items, events, views, places, concepts, etc. For example, you can compare two different novels (e.g., The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Red Badge of Courage).

However, a comparative essay is not limited to specific topics. It covers almost every topic or subject with some relation.

Comparative Essay Structure

A good comparative essay is based on how well you structure your essay. It helps the reader to understand your essay better. 

The structure is more important than what you write. This is because it is necessary to organize your essay so that the reader can easily go through the comparisons made in an essay.

The following are the two main methods in which you can organize your comparative essay.

Point-by-Point Method 

The point-by-point or alternating method provides a detailed overview of the items that you are comparing. In this method, organize items in terms of similarities and differences.

This method makes the writing phase easy for the writer to handle two completely different essay subjects. It is highly recommended where some depth and detail are required.

Below given is the structure of the point-by-point method. 




Block Method 

The block method is the easiest as compared to the point-by-point method. In this method, you divide the information in terms of parameters. It means that the first paragraph compares the first subject and all their items, then the second one compares the second, and so on.

However, make sure that you write the subject in the same order. This method is best for lengthy essays and complicated subjects.

Here is the structure of the block method. 

Therefore, keep these methods in mind and choose the one according to the chosen subject.

Mixed Paragraphs Method

In this method, one paragraph explains one aspect of the subject. As a writer, you will handle one point at a time and one by one. This method is quite beneficial as it allows you to give equal weightage to each subject and help the readers identify the point of comparison easily.

How to Start a Comparative Essay?

Here, we have gathered some steps that you should follow to start a well-written comparative essay.  

Choose a Topic

The foremost step in writing a comparative essay is to choose a suitable topic.

Choose a topic or theme that is interesting to write about and appeals to the reader. 

An interesting essay topic motivates the reader to know about the subject. Also, try to avoid complicated topics for your comparative essay. 

Develop a List of Similarities and Differences 

Create a list of similarities and differences between two subjects that you want to include in the essay. Moreover, this list helps you decide the basis of your comparison by constructing your initial plan. 

Evaluate the list and establish your argument and thesis statement .

Establish the Basis for Comparison 

The basis for comparison is the ground for you to compare the subjects. In most cases, it is assigned to you, so check your assignment or prompt.

Furthermore, the main goal of the comparison essay is to inform the reader of something interesting. It means that your subject must be unique to make your argument interesting.  

Do the Research 

In this step, you have to gather information for your subject. If your comparative essay is about social issues, historical events, or science-related topics, you must do in-depth research.    

However, make sure that you gather data from credible sources and cite them properly in the essay.

Create an Outline

An essay outline serves as a roadmap for your essay, organizing key elements into a structured format.

With your topic, list of comparisons, basis for comparison, and research in hand, the next step is to create a comprehensive outline. 

Here is a standard comparative essay outline:


Subject A

Subject B

Analysis


Subject A

Subject B

Analysis


How to Write a Comparative Essay?

Now that you have the basic information organized in an outline, you can get started on the writing process. 

Here are the essential parts of a comparative essay: 

Comparative Essay Introduction 

Start off by grabbing your reader's attention in the introduction . Use something catchy, like a quote, question, or interesting fact about your subjects. 

Then, give a quick background so your reader knows what's going on. 

The most important part is your thesis statement, where you state the main argument , the basis for comparison, and why the comparison is significant.

This is what a typical thesis statement for a comparative essay looks like:

Comparative Essay Body Paragraphs 

The body paragraphs are where you really get into the details of your subjects. Each paragraph should focus on one thing you're comparing.

Start by talking about the first point of comparison. Then, go on to the next points. Make sure to talk about two to three differences to give a good picture.

After that, switch gears and talk about the things they have in common. Just like you discussed three differences, try to cover three similarities. 

This way, your essay stays balanced and fair. This approach helps your reader understand both the ways your subjects are different and the ways they are similar. Keep it simple and clear for a strong essay.

Comparative Essay Conclusion

In your conclusion , bring together the key insights from your analysis to create a strong and impactful closing.

Consider the broader context or implications of the subjects' differences and similarities. What do these insights reveal about the broader themes or ideas you're exploring?

Discuss the broader implications of these findings and restate your thesis. Avoid introducing new information and end with a thought-provoking statement that leaves a lasting impression.

Below is the detailed comparative essay template format for you to understand better.

Comparative Essay Format

Comparative Essay Examples

Have a look at these comparative essay examples pdf to get an idea of the perfect essay.

Comparative Essay on Summer and Winter

Comparative Essay on Books vs. Movies

Comparative Essay Sample

Comparative Essay Thesis Example

Comparative Essay on Football vs Cricket

Comparative Essay on Pet and Wild Animals

Comparative Essay Topics

Comparative essay topics are not very difficult or complex. Check this list of essay topics and pick the one that you want to write about.

  • How do education and employment compare?
  • Living in a big city or staying in a village.
  • The school principal or college dean.
  • New Year vs. Christmas celebration.
  • Dried Fruit vs. Fresh. Which is better?
  • Similarities between philosophy and religion.
  • British colonization and Spanish colonization.
  • Nuclear power for peace or war?
  • Bacteria or viruses.
  • Fast food vs. homemade food.

Tips for Writing A Good Comparative Essay

Writing a compelling comparative essay requires thoughtful consideration and strategic planning. Here are some valuable tips to enhance the quality of your comparative essay:

  • Clearly define what you're comparing, like themes or characters.
  • Plan your essay structure using methods like point-by-point or block paragraphs.
  • Craft an introduction that introduces subjects and states your purpose.
  • Ensure an equal discussion of both similarities and differences.
  • Use linking words for seamless transitions between paragraphs.
  • Gather credible information for depth and authenticity.
  • Use clear and simple language, avoiding unnecessary jargon.
  • Dedicate each paragraph to a specific point of comparison.
  • Summarize key points, restate the thesis, and emphasize significance.
  • Thoroughly check for clarity, coherence, and correct any errors.

Transition Words For Comparative Essays

Transition words are crucial for guiding your reader through the comparative analysis. They help establish connections between ideas and ensure a smooth flow in your essay. 

Here are some transition words and phrases to improve the flow of your comparative essay:

Transition Words for Similarities

  • Correspondingly
  • In the same vein
  • In like manner
  • In a similar fashion
  • In tandem with

Transition Words for Differences

  • On the contrary
  • In contrast
  • Nevertheless
  • In spite of
  • Notwithstanding
  • On the flip side
  • In contradistinction

Check out this blog listing more transition words that you can use to enhance your essay’s coherence!

In conclusion, now that you have the important steps and helpful tips to write a good comparative essay, you can start working on your own essay. 

However, if you find it tough to begin, you can always hire our college paper writing service .

Our skilled writers can handle any type of essay or assignment you need. So, don't wait—place your order now and make your academic journey easier!

Frequently Asked Question

How long is a comparative essay.

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A comparative essay is 4-5 pages long, but it depends on your chosen idea and topic.

How do you end a comparative essay?

Here are some tips that will help you to end the comparative essay.

  • Restate the thesis statement
  • Wrap up the entire essay
  • Highlight the main points

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Barbara P

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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  • Comparing and contrasting in an essay | Tips & examples

Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay | Tips & Examples

Published on August 6, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

Comparing and contrasting is an important skill in academic writing . It involves taking two or more subjects and analyzing the differences and similarities between them.

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Table of contents

When should i compare and contrast, making effective comparisons, comparing and contrasting as a brainstorming tool, structuring your comparisons, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about comparing and contrasting.

Many assignments will invite you to make comparisons quite explicitly, as in these prompts.

  • Compare the treatment of the theme of beauty in the poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats.
  • Compare and contrast in-class and distance learning. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?

Some other prompts may not directly ask you to compare and contrast, but present you with a topic where comparing and contrasting could be a good approach.

One way to approach this essay might be to contrast the situation before the Great Depression with the situation during it, to highlight how large a difference it made.

Comparing and contrasting is also used in all kinds of academic contexts where it’s not explicitly prompted. For example, a literature review involves comparing and contrasting different studies on your topic, and an argumentative essay may involve weighing up the pros and cons of different arguments.

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how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

As the name suggests, comparing and contrasting is about identifying both similarities and differences. You might focus on contrasting quite different subjects or comparing subjects with a lot in common—but there must be some grounds for comparison in the first place.

For example, you might contrast French society before and after the French Revolution; you’d likely find many differences, but there would be a valid basis for comparison. However, if you contrasted pre-revolutionary France with Han-dynasty China, your reader might wonder why you chose to compare these two societies.

This is why it’s important to clarify the point of your comparisons by writing a focused thesis statement . Every element of an essay should serve your central argument in some way. Consider what you’re trying to accomplish with any comparisons you make, and be sure to make this clear to the reader.

Comparing and contrasting can be a useful tool to help organize your thoughts before you begin writing any type of academic text. You might use it to compare different theories and approaches you’ve encountered in your preliminary research, for example.

Let’s say your research involves the competing psychological approaches of behaviorism and cognitive psychology. You might make a table to summarize the key differences between them.

Behaviorism Cognitive psychology
Dominant from the 1920s to the 1950s Rose to prominence in the 1960s
Mental processes cannot be empirically studied Mental processes as focus of study
Focuses on how thinking is affected by conditioning and environment Focuses on the cognitive processes themselves

Or say you’re writing about the major global conflicts of the twentieth century. You might visualize the key similarities and differences in a Venn diagram.

A Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

These visualizations wouldn’t make it into your actual writing, so they don’t have to be very formal in terms of phrasing or presentation. The point of comparing and contrasting at this stage is to help you organize and shape your ideas to aid you in structuring your arguments.

When comparing and contrasting in an essay, there are two main ways to structure your comparisons: the alternating method and the block method.

The alternating method

In the alternating method, you structure your text according to what aspect you’re comparing. You cover both your subjects side by side in terms of a specific point of comparison. Your text is structured like this:

Mouse over the example paragraph below to see how this approach works.

One challenge teachers face is identifying and assisting students who are struggling without disrupting the rest of the class. In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher can easily identify when a student is struggling based on their demeanor in class or simply by regularly checking on students during exercises. They can then offer assistance quietly during the exercise or discuss it further after class. Meanwhile, in a Zoom-based class, the lack of physical presence makes it more difficult to pay attention to individual students’ responses and notice frustrations, and there is less flexibility to speak with students privately to offer assistance. In this case, therefore, the traditional classroom environment holds the advantage, although it appears likely that aiding students in a virtual classroom environment will become easier as the technology, and teachers’ familiarity with it, improves.

The block method

In the block method, you cover each of the overall subjects you’re comparing in a block. You say everything you have to say about your first subject, then discuss your second subject, making comparisons and contrasts back to the things you’ve already said about the first. Your text is structured like this:

  • Point of comparison A
  • Point of comparison B

The most commonly cited advantage of distance learning is the flexibility and accessibility it offers. Rather than being required to travel to a specific location every week (and to live near enough to feasibly do so), students can participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This allows not only for a wider geographical spread of students but for the possibility of studying while travelling. However, distance learning presents its own accessibility challenges; not all students have a stable internet connection and a computer or other device with which to participate in online classes, and less technologically literate students and teachers may struggle with the technical aspects of class participation. Furthermore, discomfort and distractions can hinder an individual student’s ability to engage with the class from home, creating divergent learning experiences for different students. Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

Note that these two methods can be combined; these two example paragraphs could both be part of the same essay, but it’s wise to use an essay outline to plan out which approach you’re taking in each paragraph.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

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Comparing and Contrasting

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you first to determine whether a particular assignment is asking for comparison/contrast and then to generate a list of similarities and differences, decide which similarities and differences to focus on, and organize your paper so that it will be clear and effective. It will also explain how you can (and why you should) develop a thesis that goes beyond “Thing A and Thing B are similar in many ways but different in others.”

Introduction

In your career as a student, you’ll encounter many different kinds of writing assignments, each with its own requirements. One of the most common is the comparison/contrast essay, in which you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas—usually two of them—are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to make connections between texts or ideas, engage in critical thinking, and go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis: when you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them.

Recognizing comparison/contrast in assignments

Some assignments use words—like compare, contrast, similarities, and differences—that make it easy for you to see that they are asking you to compare and/or contrast. Here are a few hypothetical examples:

  • Compare and contrast Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression.
  • Compare WWI to WWII, identifying similarities in the causes, development, and outcomes of the wars.
  • Contrast Wordsworth and Coleridge; what are the major differences in their poetry?

Notice that some topics ask only for comparison, others only for contrast, and others for both.

But it’s not always so easy to tell whether an assignment is asking you to include comparison/contrast. 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:

  • Choose a particular idea or theme, such as romantic love, death, or nature, and consider how it is treated in two Romantic poems.
  • How do the different authors we have studied so far define and describe oppression?
  • Compare Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of oppression. What does each imply about women’s collusion in their own oppression? Which is more accurate?
  • In the texts we’ve studied, soldiers who served in different wars offer differing accounts of their experiences and feelings both during and after the fighting. What commonalities are there in these accounts? What factors do you think are responsible for their differences?

You may want to check out our handout on understanding assignments for additional tips.

Using comparison/contrast for all kinds of writing projects

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.

Discovering similarities and differences

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. 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. Here’s a very simple example, using two pizza places:

Venn diagram indicating that both Pepper's and Amante serve pizza with unusual ingredients at moderate prices, despite differences in location, wait times, and delivery options

To make a chart, figure out what criteria you want to focus on in comparing the items. Along the left side of the page, list each of the criteria. Across the top, list the names of the items. You should then have a box per item for each criterion; you can fill the boxes in and then survey what you’ve discovered.

Here’s an example, this time using three pizza places:

Pepper’s Amante Papa John’s
Location
Price
Delivery
Ingredients
Service
Seating/eating in
Coupons

As you generate points of comparison, consider the purpose and content of the assignment and the focus of the class. What do you think the professor wants you to learn by doing this comparison/contrast? How does it fit with what you have been studying so far and with the other assignments in the course? Are there any clues about what to focus on in the assignment itself?

Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. 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. You may want to begin by using the questions reporters traditionally ask: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? If you’re talking about objects, you might also consider general properties like size, shape, color, sound, weight, taste, texture, smell, number, duration, and location.

Two historical periods or events

  • When did they occur—do you know the date(s) and duration? What happened or changed during each? Why are they significant?
  • What kinds of work did people do? What kinds of relationships did they have? What did they value?
  • What kinds of governments were there? Who were important people involved?
  • What caused events in these periods, and what consequences did they have later on?

Two ideas or theories

  • What are they about?
  • Did they originate at some particular time?
  • Who created them? Who uses or defends them?
  • What is the central focus, claim, or goal of each? What conclusions do they offer?
  • How are they applied to situations/people/things/etc.?
  • Which seems more plausible to you, and why? How broad is their scope?
  • What kind of evidence is usually offered for them?

Two pieces of writing or art

  • What are their titles? What do they describe or depict?
  • What is their tone or mood? What is their form?
  • Who created them? When were they created? Why do you think they were created as they were? What themes do they address?
  • Do you think one is of higher quality or greater merit than the other(s)—and if so, why?
  • For writing: what plot, characterization, setting, theme, tone, and type of narration are used?
  • Where are they from? How old are they? What is the gender, race, class, etc. of each?
  • What, if anything, are they known for? Do they have any relationship to each other?
  • What are they like? What did/do they do? What do they believe? Why are they interesting?
  • What stands out most about each of them?

Deciding what to focus on

By now you have probably generated a huge list of similarities and differences—congratulations! Next you must decide which of them are interesting, important, and relevant enough to be included in your paper. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s relevant to the assignment?
  • What’s relevant to the course?
  • What’s interesting and informative?
  • What matters to the argument you are going to make?
  • What’s basic or central (and needs to be mentioned even if obvious)?
  • Overall, what’s more important—the similarities or the differences?

Suppose that you are writing a paper comparing two novels. For most literature classes, the fact that they both use Caslon type (a kind of typeface, like the fonts you may use in your writing) is not going to be relevant, nor is the fact that one of them has a few illustrations and the other has none; literature classes are more likely to focus on subjects like characterization, plot, setting, the writer’s style and intentions, language, central themes, and so forth. However, if you were writing a paper for a class on typesetting or on how illustrations are used to enhance novels, the typeface and presence or absence of illustrations might be absolutely critical to include in your final paper.

Sometimes a particular point of comparison or contrast might be relevant but not terribly revealing or interesting. For example, if you are writing a paper about Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” pointing out that they both have nature as a central theme is relevant (comparisons of poetry often talk about themes) but not terribly interesting; your class has probably already had many discussions about the Romantic poets’ fondness for nature. Talking about the different ways nature is depicted or the different aspects of nature that are emphasized might be more interesting and show a more sophisticated understanding of the poems.

Your thesis

The thesis of your comparison/contrast paper is very important: it can help you create a focused argument and give your reader a road map so they don’t get lost in the sea of points you are about to make. As in any paper, you will want to replace vague reports of your general topic (for example, “This paper will compare and contrast two pizza places,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in some ways and different in others,” or “Pepper’s and Amante are similar in many ways, but they have one major difference”) with something more detailed and specific. For example, you might say, “Pepper’s and Amante have similar prices and ingredients, but their atmospheres and willingness to deliver set them apart.”

Be careful, though—although this thesis is fairly specific and does propose a simple argument (that atmosphere and delivery make the two pizza places different), your instructor will often be looking for a bit more analysis. In this case, the obvious question is “So what? Why should anyone care that Pepper’s and Amante are different in this way?” One might also wonder why the writer chose those two particular pizza places to compare—why not Papa John’s, Dominos, or Pizza Hut? Again, thinking about the context the class provides may help you answer such questions and make a stronger argument. Here’s a revision of the thesis mentioned earlier:

Pepper’s and Amante both offer a greater variety of ingredients than other Chapel Hill/Carrboro pizza places (and than any of the national chains), but the funky, lively atmosphere at Pepper’s makes it a better place to give visiting friends and family a taste of local culture.

You may find our handout on constructing thesis statements useful at this stage.

Organizing your paper

There are many different ways to organize a comparison/contrast essay. Here are two:

Subject-by-subject

Begin by saying everything you have to say about the first subject you are discussing, then move on and make all the points you want to make about the second subject (and after that, the third, and so on, if you’re comparing/contrasting more than two things). If the paper is short, you might be able to fit all of your points about each item into a single paragraph, but it’s more likely that you’d have several paragraphs per item. Using our pizza place comparison/contrast as an example, after the introduction, you might have a paragraph about the ingredients available at Pepper’s, a paragraph about its location, and a paragraph about its ambience. Then you’d have three similar paragraphs about Amante, followed by your conclusion.

The danger of this subject-by-subject organization is that your paper will simply be a list of points: a certain number of points (in my example, three) about one subject, then a certain number of points about another. This is usually not what college instructors are looking for in a paper—generally they want you to compare or contrast two or more things very directly, rather than just listing the traits the things have and leaving it up to the reader to reflect on how those traits are similar or different and why those similarities or differences matter. Thus, if you use the subject-by-subject form, you will probably want to have a very strong, analytical thesis and at least one body paragraph that ties all of your different points together.

A subject-by-subject structure can be a logical choice if you are writing what is sometimes called a “lens” comparison, in which you use one subject or item (which isn’t really your main topic) to better understand another item (which is). For example, you might be asked to compare a poem you’ve already covered thoroughly in class with one you are reading on your own. It might make sense to give a brief summary of your main ideas about the first poem (this would be your first subject, the “lens”), and then spend most of your paper discussing how those points are similar to or different from your ideas about the second.

Point-by-point

Rather than addressing things one subject at a time, you may wish to talk about one point of comparison at a time. There are two main ways this might play out, depending on how much you have to say about each of the things you are comparing. If you have just a little, you might, in a single paragraph, discuss how a certain point of comparison/contrast relates to all the items you are discussing. For example, I might describe, in one paragraph, what the prices are like at both Pepper’s and Amante; in the next paragraph, I might compare the ingredients available; in a third, I might contrast the atmospheres of the two restaurants.

If I had a bit more to say about the items I was comparing/contrasting, I might devote a whole paragraph to how each point relates to each item. For example, I might have a whole paragraph about the clientele at Pepper’s, followed by a whole paragraph about the clientele at Amante; then I would move on and do two more paragraphs discussing my next point of comparison/contrast—like the ingredients available at each restaurant.

There are no hard and fast rules about organizing a comparison/contrast paper, of course. Just be sure that your reader can easily tell what’s going on! Be aware, too, of the placement of your different points. If you are writing a comparison/contrast in service of an argument, keep in mind that the last point you make is the one you are leaving your reader with. For example, if I am trying to argue that Amante is better than Pepper’s, I should end with a contrast that leaves Amante sounding good, rather than with a point of comparison that I have to admit makes Pepper’s look better. If you’ve decided that the differences between the items you’re comparing/contrasting are most important, you’ll want to end with the differences—and vice versa, if the similarities seem most important to you.

Our handout on organization can help you write good topic sentences and transitions and make sure that you have a good overall structure in place for your paper.

Cue words and other tips

To help your reader keep track of where you are in the comparison/contrast, you’ll want to be sure that your transitions and topic sentences are especially strong. Your thesis should already have given the reader an idea of the points you’ll be making and the organization you’ll be using, but you can help them out with some extra cues. The following words may be helpful to you in signaling your intentions:

  • like, similar to, also, unlike, similarly, in the same way, likewise, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, contrasted with, on the contrary, however, although, yet, even though, still, but, nevertheless, conversely, at the same time, regardless, despite, while, on the one hand … on the other hand.

For example, you might have a topic sentence like one of these:

  • Compared to Pepper’s, Amante is quiet.
  • Like Amante, Pepper’s offers fresh garlic as a topping.
  • Despite their different locations (downtown Chapel Hill and downtown Carrboro), Pepper’s and Amante are both fairly easy to get to.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Comparative Essay Writing: Methods and Examples

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| Danielle McLeod

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Writing effective comparative essays requires strategic techniques and thoughtful consideration of common pitfalls. A comparative essay explores the similarities and differences between subjects, allowing the writer to draw conclusions related to the topics of the material.

This article outlines key strategies, such as using transitions, incorporating evidence, and maintaining a formal tone. It also identifies mistakes to avoid, like failing to establish a clear basis for comparison or providing a superficial analysis.

The article emphasizes the importance of revising your comparative essay. This process enables you to refine your analysis, strengthen your arguments, and enhance the overall quality of your work. Incorporating feedback from peers or instructors can elevate your comparative essay and communicate your unique insights more effectively.

Whether you are a student or a professional writer, this guidance can help you craft comparative essays that captivate and inform your audience. Let’s explore the essentials of comparative analysis to enhance your writing prowess.

What is a Comparative Essay?

essay

A comparative essay is a form of academic writing that examines and analyzes two or more subjects, identifying their similarities and differences. This type of essay allows students to develop critical thinking skills by evaluating and contrasting various topic elements. 

For example, a comparative analysis of the Roman Empire and the Aztec Empire might make a good history class topic. In contrast, a comparative study of the Harlem Renaissance and the Chicano Art Movement would make a good art class focus. 

Types of Comparative Methods

There are two main methods of structuring a comparative essay: the block method and the point-by-point method.

Block Method

  • In the block method , you discuss each subject separately.
  • You spend one or more paragraphs focusing on the first subject, then move on to the second subject.
  • This allows you to go into more detail about each subject before comparing.
  • The block method is good when the subjects you’re comparing have many differences or when you want to establish a strong foundation for your comparison.

Point-by-Point Method

  • The point-by-point method jumps back and forth between the two subjects.
  • In each paragraph, you address a specific point of comparison or contrast between the subjects.
  • This structure encourages you to compare the subjects directly, clearly highlighting their similarities and differences.
  • The point-by-point method works well when the subjects share clear, significant points of comparison, allowing you to explore their differences and similarities efficiently.

Why are Comparative Essays Important?

Comparative essays are an important part of academic writing because they encourage students to engage in deeper analysis, identify meaningful connections, and better understand the subjects being explored. 

why

By comparing and contrasting different concepts, ideas, or phenomena, students can develop a well-rounded perspective and strengthen their ability to think critically.

What Should You Consider When Selecting Topics for Comparison?

When choosing topics for a comparative essay, it’s important to select subjects with some common ground but distinct differences. This will allow you to conduct a meaningful analysis and draw insightful conclusions. Consider factors such as the subjects’ historical context, cultural influences, or underlying themes to ensure a productive comparison.

how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

For example, using the Block Method, you might do the following;

  • Comparing the education systems in the United States and Canada
  • Analyzing the differences between classic literature and modern young adult novels
  • Contrasting the architectural styles of Gothic cathedrals and Renaissance palaces

In a block method essay on these topics, the writer would devote one or more paragraphs to thoroughly describing and analyzing the first subject (e.g., the US education system, classic literature, Gothic cathedrals) before moving on to discuss the second subject (e.g., the Canadian education system, young adult novels, Renaissance palaces). This would allow the reader to fully understand each topic before the comparative analysis is presented.

Using the Point-by-Point Method might be best used with these topics:

  • Comparing the use of symbolism in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
  • Contrasting the political ideologies of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt
  • Analyzing the similarities and differences in the marketing strategies of Coca-Cola and Pepsi

In a point-by-point comparative essay, the writer would alternate between the two subjects in each paragraph, directly comparing and contrasting specific elements (e.g., how symbolism is used, political views, and marketing tactics). This would encourage a more integrated analysis of the similarities and differences between the subjects.

How Can You Brainstorm for a Comparative Essay?

To begin brainstorming for a comparative essay, start by creating a Venn diagram to visually organize the similarities and differences between your chosen topics. This can help you identify key points of comparison and contrast, which will form the foundation of your essay. 

Brainstorm for a Comparative Essay

Additionally, consider writing down any questions or observations that arise during this process, as they may guide your subsequent research and analysis.

How Should You Formulate a Thesis Statement for a Comparative Essay?

A thesis statement is a one- or two-sentence summary that conveys a comparative essay’s main argument, focus, or purpose. It provides the reader with an overview of the essay’s central claim, which the rest of the paper will work to develop and support.

Your comparative essay’s thesis statement should clearly explain the central argument or insight that your analysis will explore. This statement should go beyond simply identifying the subjects being compared and instead make a substantive claim about the relationship between them. A strong comparative essay thesis will establish the basis for your comparative analysis and provide a roadmap for the rest of your essay.

For example, using the examples mentioned above, consider these options:

  • “Classic literature and modern young adult novels differ greatly in their thematic depth, complexity of characterization, and use of literary devices, though both genres can provide valuable insights into the human experience.”
  • “Gothic cathedrals and Renaissance palaces represent vastly contrasting architectural styles, with Gothic structures emphasizing verticality, pointed arches, and religious symbolism, while Renaissance palaces showcase classical proportions, ornate facades, and secular grandeur.”
  • “Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ both employ symbolic imagery to explore themes of the human condition, but they do so in strikingly different ways that reflect the author’s distinct writing styles and philosophical perspectives.”
  • “Though Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt held vastly different political ideologies, with Lincoln championing a strong federal government and Roosevelt advocating for a more progressive, regulatory approach, both presidents played pivotal roles in shaping the course of American history.”

What Strategies Should You Employ When Writing Comparative Essays?

Strategies

When writing a comparative essay, it’s important to employ various strategies to effectively communicate your analysis. This may include using transition words and phrases to establish connections between ideas, incorporating relevant examples or evidence to support your claims, and maintaining a formal, academic tone throughout your writing. 

Additionally, consider incorporating a Venn diagram or other visual aids to enhance your comparative analysis.

Strategies for Comparative Essays

To recap, use the following strategies in your work to help organize and structure your essay: 

Use Effective Transitions

  • Words/phrases like “in contrast,” “on the other hand,” “similarly,” “conversely,” etc.
  • Help establish clear connections between ideas and comparisons.

Provide Relevant Examples and Evidence

  • Draw from the subjects being compared to support your claims
  • Use specific details, quotes, or data to strengthen your analysis

Maintain a Formal, Academic Tone

  • Avoid casual or conversational language
  • Focus on objective, analytical writing

Incorporate Visual Aids (if appropriate)

  • Venn diagrams, tables, or other graphics can effectively illustrate comparisons
  • Help the reader visualize the relationships between the subjects

Structure Logically

  • Use either the block method or point-by-point organization
  • Ensure a clear, coherent flow of ideas

Address Counterarguments or Limitations

  • Acknowledge and respond to potential objections or alternative perspectives.
  • Demonstrates depth of understanding

Which Mistakes Should You Be Careful of in Comparative Essay Writing?

Here are some examples to illustrate the common mistakes to avoid when writing comparative essays:

Failing to establish a clear basis for comparison

  • Attempting to compare the plot of a novel to the musical score of an opera without explaining the relevance of that comparison
  • Contrasting two political ideologies without defining the key criteria being used to evaluate them

Neglecting to address significant differences or similarities

  • Comparing the leadership styles of two presidents but failing to discuss their differing approaches to domestic or foreign policy
  • Analyzing the architectural features of Gothic cathedrals and Renaissance palaces without acknowledging their shared use of symmetry and classical proportions

Providing a superficial or unbalanced analysis

  • Dedicating a single paragraph to analyzing the complex socioeconomic factors that shaped the development of two education systems
  • The majority of the essay focused on the differences between the two subjects while only briefly mentioning their similarities.

Relying too heavily on plot summary or description

  • Retelling the narratives of two novels in detail without delving into a comparative analysis of their themes, character development, or stylistic elements
  • Extensively describing the physical attributes of two historical buildings without explaining how those features reflect the broader architectural movements.

Lacking a cohesive and logical organizational structure

  • Jumping back and forth between discussing the two subjects without a clear basis for the order or flow of ideas
  • Using the block method but failing to create a smooth transition between the sections devoted to each subject

Incorporating specific, relevant examples for each of these potential pitfalls can help illustrate the importance of avoiding them in comparative essay writing. These tips can help you when you just wish you could ask something to “ write my essay for me .”

Why is Revising Your Comparative Essay Crucial?

important

Revising your comparative essay is always considered an important step in the writing process, as it allows you to refine your analysis, strengthen your arguments, and ensure the overall explanation of connections and effectiveness of your essay. 

During the revision stage, consider seeking feedback from peers or instructors. Their perspectives can help you identify areas for improvement and enhance the quality of your comparative essay.

Reasons to Revise Comparative Essays

Refine Your Analysis

  • Example: Upon revision, you realize your comparison of two political ideologies lacks nuance and fails to acknowledge the complexities within each position. You then expand your analysis to provide a more nuanced and balanced perspective.

Strengthen Your Arguments

  • Example: During revision, you identify gaps in your supporting evidence for a key point contrasting the marketing strategies of two rival companies. You then incorporate additional data and examples to bolster your comparative claims.

Ensure Coherence and Organization

  • Example: In reviewing your essay, you recognize that your use of the point-by-point method is causing your comparisons to feel disjointed. You then reorganize your essay to follow a more cohesive block structure, improving the overall flow of ideas.

Incorporate Peer/Instructor Feedback

  • Example: After receiving feedback from your instructor, you realize your comparison of two literary works does not adequately address a significant thematic similarity. You then revise the essay to incorporate this overlooked element into your analysis.

Enhance the Overall Quality

  • Example: During the revision process, you identify opportunities to improve the clarity and precision of your language, ensuring your comparative essay communicates your insights effectively to the reader.

A comparative essay is a valuable academic writing exercise that encourages critical thinking, in-depth analysis, and the development of essential written communication skills. By mastering the structure, thesis formulation, and writing strategies associated with comparative essays, students can enhance their ability to engage in thoughtful, well-reasoned comparisons and effectively convey their research, discoveries, and opinions to their audience.

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how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

Comparative Essay

Pdf download, what is a comparative essay .

A comparative essay usually requires you to complete these three tasks: 

  • Compare and contrast at least two items. 
  • Why does the comparison matter? 
  • What does the comparison suggest about the items? 
  • Sometimes your assignment guidelines will provide a basis for a comparison that sets the criteria. 

Even though your professor may call it a “comparison”, it is usually expected that you will discuss both the similarities and the differences between the items. 

How to Write a Comparative Essay 

1. pick a basis for your comparison.

You need a specific basis for your comparison. Without one, there will be too much information to research. 

Your assignment guidelines may already include a scope of focus for you to write about. If not, your basis should be an idea, category, or theme that applies to each of the items you are comparing. To get started, you may need to complete some preliminary research about your topics or speak with your professor to understand the assignment expectations.

2. Identify the Similarities and Differences. 

Gather information about the items that you will be comparing. You’ll need to identify the similarities and differences for each of the items. 

Remember, your end goal is NOT to list out the similarities and differences between the items. You need to move beyond basic identification to explaining the significance of the similarities and differences. 

Writing Tip: Use a graphic organizer to collect the similarities and differences. 

Try using a Venn diagram or a chart to organize your ideas. 

Venn diagram. Section a - points unique to a. Section AB - points unique to A & B. Section B - points unique to B.

3. Develop a Thesis Statement

Create a thesis statement based on the results of your comparison. Remember, your thesis needs to be arguable and appropriate for your course. 

Create an arguable thesis 

Go beyond the identification of similarities and differences by explaining their significance. Explain why this comparison matters. Your thesis will become arguable once you add in this portion. 

For instance, you might have compared two islands with similar goat overpopulation for a science course. It’s useful to set the context of these islands and the interventions that people used to deal with the goat overpopulation, but your thesis is not arguable if you only state facts. Adjust your thesis to explain why the similarities and differences matter. For instance, you might explain how the differences in the intervention impacted the ecosystem and the island populations. Depending on your assignment guidelines, you could make suggestions about a future intervention that could be effective in handling goat overpopulation on islands. 

Try these strategies for creating an arguable thesis: 

  • Cause and Effect : Identify how the differences and similarities lead to an outcome. For instance, you might discuss how the two different endings in Great Expectations affect how readers understand Pip’s relationship with Estella.  
  • Degree of Similarity or Difference : Are there more similarities or more differences between the items you’re comparing? You can create a thesis based on the degree of similarity or difference, but it can become descriptive if you don’t explain why the comparison matters. For example, you could write about the characteristics of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Both characters have similar challenges in their early lives, but the paths they choose lead to different outcomes. 

4. Structure your essay 

There are two basic structures that are typically used for comparative essays. 

Point-by-point method 

The point-by-point method alternates between the items. In this style, you pick a common point of comparison and describe the first item and then the second item. Here is an example of a point-by-point method essay outline.

Introduction 

Introductory material: Describe the wizarding world of Harry Potter and the key characters in the comparison. 

Thesis: Although Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy are both pure-blood wizards, their interactions with other magical creatures reveal the different values in their socialization. 

Body 1: Discrimination towards House Elves 

  • Ron’s opinion of House Elves and their role in the wizarding world 
  • Draco’s opinion of House Elves and their role in the wizarding world 
  • Comment upon the origin in the differences in opinion and how the opinions changed through socialization 

Body 2: Discrimination towards Giants 

  • Ron’s perception of Hagrid 
  • Draco’s perception of Hagrid 

Conclusion 

  • Summary 
  • Explain why this comparison between Ron and Draco matters 

Block Method 

The block method identifies themes to compare and describes all your items together. Here is an example of an essay method outline.

Introductory material : Describe the wizarding world of Harry Potter and the key characters in the comparison. 

Thesis : Although Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy are both pure-blood wizards, their interactions with other magical creatures reveal the different values in their socialization. 

Block A: Ron Weasley – Discrimination towards magical creatures 

  • Ron’s social context and how he learns about the magical hierarchy 
  • How Ron discriminates against other magical creatures 

Block B: Draco Malfoy – Discrimination towards magical creatures 

  • Draco’s social context and how he learns about the magical hierarchy  
  • How Draco discriminates against other magical creatures 
  • Analysis – significance of the similarities and differences between Ron and Draco 
  • Why this comparison matters 

More resources for comparative essays 

Get feedback on your writing and discuss your thought process. Book an appointment with an Instructor: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/asc/appointments-undergraduate . 

Looking for more learning strategies? Visit us at: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/asc/ .

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how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

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Writing a Paper: Comparing & Contrasting

A compare and contrast paper discusses the similarities and differences between two or more topics. The paper should contain an introduction with a thesis statement, a body where the comparisons and contrasts are discussed, and a conclusion.

Address Both Similarities and Differences

Because this is a compare and contrast paper, both the similarities and differences should be discussed. This will require analysis on your part, as some topics will appear to be quite similar, and you will have to work to find the differing elements.

Make Sure You Have a Clear Thesis Statement

Just like any other essay, a compare and contrast essay needs a thesis statement. The thesis statement should not only tell your reader what you will do, but it should also address the purpose and importance of comparing and contrasting the material.

Use Clear Transitions

Transitions are important in compare and contrast essays, where you will be moving frequently between different topics or perspectives.

  • Examples of transitions and phrases for comparisons: as well, similar to, consistent with, likewise, too
  • Examples of transitions and phrases for contrasts: on the other hand, however, although, differs, conversely, rather than.

For more information, check out our transitions page.

Structure Your Paper

Consider how you will present the information. You could present all of the similarities first and then present all of the differences. Or you could go point by point and show the similarity and difference of one point, then the similarity and difference for another point, and so on.

Include Analysis

It is tempting to just provide summary for this type of paper, but analysis will show the importance of the comparisons and contrasts. For instance, if you are comparing two articles on the topic of the nursing shortage, help us understand what this will achieve. Did you find consensus between the articles that will support a certain action step for people in the field? Did you find discrepancies between the two that point to the need for further investigation?

Make Analogous Comparisons

When drawing comparisons or making contrasts, be sure you are dealing with similar aspects of each item. To use an old cliché, are you comparing apples to apples?

  • Example of poor comparisons: Kubista studied the effects of a later start time on high school students, but Cook used a mixed methods approach. (This example does not compare similar items. It is not a clear contrast because the sentence does not discuss the same element of the articles. It is like comparing apples to oranges.)
  • Example of analogous comparisons: Cook used a mixed methods approach, whereas Kubista used only quantitative methods. (Here, methods are clearly being compared, allowing the reader to understand the distinction.

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Comparative Essays

Writing a comparison usually requires that you assess the similarities and differences between two or more theories, procedures, or processes. You explain to your reader what insights can be gained from the comparison, or judge whether one thing is better than another according to established criteria.

How to Write a Comparative Essay

1. Establish a basis of comparison 

A basis of comparison represents the main idea, category, or theme you will investigate. You will have to do some preliminary reading, likely using your course materials, to get an idea of what kind of criteria you will use to assess whatever you are comparing. A basis of comparison must apply to all items you are comparing, but the details will be different. 

For example, if you are asked to “compare neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture,” you could compare the influence of social context on the two styles.  

2. Gather the details of whatever you are comparing 

Once you have decided what theme or idea you are investigating, you will need to gather details of whatever you are comparing, especially in terms of similarities and differences. Doing so allows you to see which criteria you should use in your comparison, if not specified by your professor or instructor. 

  • Appeal to Greek perfection
  • Formulaic and mathematical
  • Appeal to emotion
  • Towers and spires
  • Wild and rustic
  • Civic buildings

Based on this information, you could focus on how ornamentation and design principles reveal prevailing intellectual thought about architecture in the respective eras and societies.

3. Develop a thesis statement 

After brainstorming, try to develop a thesis statement that identifies the results of your comparison. Here is an example of a fairly common thesis statement structure: 

e.g., Although neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture have [similar characteristics A and B], they reveal profound differences in their interpretation of [C, D, and E]. 

4. Organize your comparison  

You have a choice of two basic methods for organizing a comparative essay: the point-by-point method or the block method.  

The point-by-point method examines one aspect of comparison in each paragraph and usually alternates back and forth between the two objects, texts, or ideas being compared. This method allows you to emphasize points of similarity and of difference as you proceed. 

In the block method, however, you say everything you need to say about one thing, then do the same thing with the other. This method works best if you want readers to understand and agree with the advantages of something you are proposing, such as introducing a new process or theory by showing how it compares to something more traditional.

Sample Outlines for Comparative Essays on Neoclassical and Gothic Architecture 

Building a point-by-point essay.

Using the point-by-point method in a comparative essay allows you to draw direct comparisons and produce a more tightly integrated essay.

1. Introduction

  • Introductory material
  • Thesis: Although neoclassical and gothic architecture are both western European forms that are exemplified in civic buildings and churches, they nonetheless reveal through different structural design and ornamentation, the different intellectual principles of the two societies that created them.

2. Body Sections/Paragraphs

  • Ornamentation in Text 1
  • Ornamentation in Text 2
  • Major appeal in Text 1
  • Major appeal in Text 2
  • Style in Text 1
  • Style in Text 2

3. Conclusion

  • Why this comparison is important?
  • What does this comparison tell readers?

Building a Block Method Essay

Using the block method in a comparative essay can help ensure that the ideas in the second block build upon or extend ideas presented in the first block. It works well if you have three or more major areas of comparison instead of two (for example, if you added in a third or fourth style of architecture, the block method would be easier to organize).

  • Thesis: The neoclassical style of architecture was a conscious rejection of the gothic style that had dominated in France at the end of the middle ages; it represented a desire to return to the classical ideals of Greece and Rome.
  • History and development
  • Change from earlier form
  • Social context of new form
  • What does the comparison reveal about architectural development?
  • Why is this comparison important?
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How to Write a Comparative Essay

Last Updated: May 19, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,686,172 times.

Perhaps you have been assigned a comparative essay in class, or need to write a comprehensive comparative report for work. In order to write a stellar comparative essay, you have to start off by picking two subjects that have enough similarities and differences to be compared in a meaningful way, such as two sports teams or two systems of government. Once you have that, then you have to find at least two or three points of comparison and use research, facts, and well-organized paragraphs to impress and captivate your readers. Writing the comparative essay is an important skill that you will use many times throughout your scholastic career.

Comparative Essay Outline and Example

how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

How to Develop the Essay Content

Step 1 Analyze the question or essay prompt carefully.

  • Many comparative essay assignments will signal their purpose by using words such as "compare," "contrast," "similarities," and "differences" in the language of the prompt.
  • Also see whether there are any limits placed on your topic.

Step 2 Understand the type of comparison essay you are being asked to write.

  • The assignment will generally ask guiding questions if you are expected to incorporate comparison as part of a larger assignment. For example: "Choose a particular idea or theme, such as love, beauty, death, or time, and consider how two different Renaissance poets approach this idea." This sentence asks you to compare two poets, but it also asks how the poets approach the point of comparison. In other words, you will need to make an evaluative or analytical argument about those approaches.
  • If you're unclear on what the essay prompt is asking you to do, talk with your instructor. It's much better to clarify questions up front than discover you've written the entire essay incorrectly.

Step 3 List similarities and differences between the items you are comparing.

  • The best place to start is to write a list of things that the items you are comparing have in common as well as differences between them. [3] X Research source

Step 4 Evaluate your list to find your argument.

  • You may want to develop a system such as highlighting different types of similarities in different colors, or use different colours if you are using an electronic device.
  • For example, if you are comparing two novels, you may want to highlight similarities in characters in pink, settings in blue, and themes or messages in green.

Step 5 Establish the basis for your comparison.

  • The basis for your comparison may be assigned to you. Be sure to check your assignment or prompt.
  • A basis for comparison may have to do with a theme, characteristics, or details about two different things. [7] X Research source
  • A basis for comparison may also be known as the “grounds” for comparison or a frame of reference.
  • Keep in mind that comparing 2 things that are too similar makes it hard to write an effective paper. The goal of a comparison paper is to draw interesting parallels and help the reader realize something interesting about our world. This means your subjects must be different enough to make your argument interesting.

Step 6 Research your subjects of comparison.

  • Research may not be required or appropriate for your particular assignment. If your comparative essay is not meant to include research, you should avoid including it.
  • A comparative essay about historical events, social issues, or science-related topics are more likely to require research, while a comparison of two works of literature are less likely to require research.
  • Be sure to cite any research data properly according to the discipline in which you are writing (eg, MLA, APA, or Chicago format).

Step 7 Develop a thesis statement.

  • Your thesis needs to make a claim about your subjects that you will then defend in your essay. It's good for this claim to be a bit controversial or up for interpretation, as this allows you to build a good argument.

How to Organize the Content

Step 1 Outline your comparison.

  • Use a traditional outline form if you would like to, but even a simple list of bulleted points in the order that you plan to present them would help.
  • You can also write down your main points on sticky notes (or type them, print them, and then cut them out) so that you can arrange and rearrange them before deciding on a final order.

Step 2 Use a mixed paragraphs method.

  • The advantages of this structure are that it continually keeps the comparison in the mind of the reader and forces you, the writer, to pay equal attention to each side of the argument.
  • This method is especially recommended for lengthy essays or complicated subjects where both the writer and reader can easily become lost. For Example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X / Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X / Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X / Safety rating of vehicle Y

Step 3 Alternate the subjects in each paragraph.

  • The advantages of this structure are that it allows you to discuss points in greater detail and makes it less jarring to tackle two topics that radically different.
  • This method is especially recommended for essays where some depth and detail are required. For example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X Paragraph 2: Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 3: Stylishness of vehicle X Paragraph 4: Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 5: Safety rating of vehicle X Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

Step 4 Cover one subject at a time thoroughly.

  • This method is by far the most dangerous, as your comparison can become both one-sided and difficult for the reader to follow.
  • This method is only recommended for short essays with simplistic subjects that the reader can easily remember as (s)he goes along. For example: Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X Paragraph 4: Engine power of vehicle Y Paragraph 5: Stylishness of vehicle Y Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

How to Write the Essay

Step 1 Write your essay out of order.

  • Body paragraphs first . Work through all that information you've been compiling and see what kind of story it tells you. Only when you've worked with your data will you know what the larger point of the paper is.
  • Conclusion second . Now that you've done all the heavy lifting, the point of your essay should be fresh in your mind. Strike while the iron’s hot. Start your conclusion with a restatement of your thesis.
  • Intro last . Open your introduction with a "hook" to grab the reader's attention. Since you've already written your essay, choose a hook that reflects what you will talk about, whether it's a quote, statistic, factoid, rhetorical question, or anecdote. Then, write 1-2 sentences about your topic, narrowing down to your thesis statement, which completes your introduction.

Step 2 Write the body paragraphs.

  • Organize your paragraphs using one of the approaches listed in the "Organizing the Content" part below. Once you have defined your points of comparison, choose the structure for the body paragraphs (where your comparisons go) that makes the most sense for your data. To work out all the organizational kinks, it’s recommended that you write an outline as a placeholder.
  • Be very careful not to address different aspects of each subject. Comparing the color of one thing to the size of another does nothing to help the reader understand how they stack up. [15] X Research source

Step 3 Write the conclusion...

  • Be aware that your various comparisons won’t necessarily lend themselves to an obvious conclusion, especially because people value things differently. If necessary, make the parameters of your argument more specific. (Ex. “Though X is more stylish and powerful, Y’s top safety ratings make it a more appropriate family vehicle .”)
  • When you have two radically different topics, it sometimes helps to point out one similarity they have before concluding. (i.e. "Although X and Y don't seem to have anything in common, in actuality, they both ....”)

Step 4 Write the introduction...

  • Even the best writers know editing is important to produce a good piece. Your essay will not be your best effort unless you revise it.
  • If possible, find a friend to look over the essay, as he or she may find problems that you missed.
  • It sometimes helps to increase or decrease the font size while editing to change the visual layout of the paper. Looking at the same thing for too long makes your brain fill in what it expects instead of what it sees, leaving you more likely to overlook errors.

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

  • The title and introduction really catch the reader's attention and make them read the essay. Make sure you know how to write a catchy essay title . Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 1
  • Quotes should be used sparingly and must thoroughly complement the point they are being used to exemplify/justify. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 2
  • The key principle to remember in a comparative paragraph or essay is that you must clarify precisely what you are comparing and keep that comparison alive throughout the essay. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 2

how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

  • Avoid vague language such as "people," "stuff," "things," etc. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
  • Avoid, at all costs, the conclusion that the two subjects are "similar, yet different." This commonly found conclusion weakens any comparative essay, because it essentially says nothing about the comparison. Most things are "similar, yet different" in some way. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0
  • Some believe that an "unbalanced" comparison - that is, when the essay focuses predominantly on one of the two issues, and gives less importance to the other - is weaker, and that writers should strive for 50/50 treatment of the texts or issues being examined. Others, however, value emphasis in the essay that reflects the particular demands of the essay's purpose or thesis. One text may simply provide context, or historical/artistic/political reference for the main text, and therefore need not occupy half of the essay's discussion or analysis. A "weak" essay in this context would strive to treat unequal texts equally, rather than strive to appropriately apportion space to the relevant text. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Beware of the "Frying Pan Conclusion" in which you simply recount everything that was said in the main body of the essay. While your conclusion should include a simple summary of your argument, it should also emphatically state the point in a new and convincing way, one which the reader will remember clearly. If you can see a way forward from a problem or dilemma, include that as well. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/comparing-and-contrasting/
  • ↑ http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/comparative-essay
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/comparing-and-contrasting/
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
  • ↑ https://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/style_purpose_strategy/compare_contrast.html
  • ↑ https://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/10-7-comparison-and-contrast/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/proofreading/steps_for_revising.html
  • How to Structure Paragraphs in an Essay

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write a comparative essay, start by writing an introduction that introduces the 2 subjects you'll be comparing. You should also include your thesis statement in the introduction, which should state what you've concluded based on your comparisons. Next, write the body of your essay so that each paragraph focuses on one point of comparison between your subjects. Finally, write a conclusion that summarizes your main points and draws a larger conclusion about the two things you compared. To learn how to do research for your essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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10.7 Comparison and Contrast

Learning objectives.

  • Determine the purpose and structure of comparison and contrast in writing.
  • Explain organizational methods used when comparing and contrasting.
  • Understand how to write a compare-and-contrast essay.

The Purpose of Comparison and Contrast in Writing

Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different. A compare-and-contrast essay , then, analyzes two subjects by comparing them, contrasting them, or both.

The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. The purpose of conducting the comparison or contrast is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Drawing distinctions between elements in a similar category will increase the audience’s understanding of that category, which is the purpose of the compare-and-contrast essay.

Similarly, to focus on comparison, choose two subjects that seem at first to be unrelated. For a comparison essay, you likely would not choose two apples or two oranges because they share so many of the same properties already. Rather, you might try to compare how apples and oranges are quite similar. The more divergent the two subjects initially seem, the more interesting a comparison essay will be.

Writing at Work

Comparing and contrasting is also an evaluative tool. In order to make accurate evaluations about a given topic, you must first know the critical points of similarity and difference. Comparing and contrasting is a primary tool for many workplace assessments. You have likely compared and contrasted yourself to other colleagues. Employee advancements, pay raises, hiring, and firing are typically conducted using comparison and contrast. Comparison and contrast could be used to evaluate companies, departments, or individuals.

Brainstorm an essay that leans toward contrast. Choose one of the following three categories. Pick two examples from each. Then come up with one similarity and three differences between the examples.

  • Romantic comedies
  • Internet search engines
  • Cell phones

Brainstorm an essay that leans toward comparison. Choose one of the following three items. Then come up with one difference and three similarities.

  • Department stores and discount retail stores
  • Fast food chains and fine dining restaurants
  • Dogs and cats

The Structure of a Comparison and Contrast Essay

The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader. Take the following thesis as an example that leans more toward contrasting.

Thesis statement: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.

Here the thesis sets up the two subjects to be compared and contrasted (organic versus conventional vegetables), and it makes a claim about the results that might prove useful to the reader.

You may organize compare-and-contrast essays in one of the following two ways:

  • According to the subjects themselves, discussing one then the other
  • According to individual points, discussing each subject in relation to each point

See Figure 10.1 “Comparison and Contrast Diagram” , which diagrams the ways to organize our organic versus conventional vegetables thesis.

Figure 10.1 Comparison and Contrast Diagram

Comparison and Contrast Diagram

The organizational structure you choose depends on the nature of the topic, your purpose, and your audience.

Given that compare-and-contrast essays analyze the relationship between two subjects, it is helpful to have some phrases on hand that will cue the reader to such analysis. See Table 10.3 “Phrases of Comparison and Contrast” for examples.

Table 10.3 Phrases of Comparison and Contrast

Comparison Contrast
one similarity one difference
another similarity another difference
both conversely
like in contrast
likewise unlike
similarly while
in a similar fashion whereas

Create an outline for each of the items you chose in Note 10.72 “Exercise 1” and Note 10.73 “Exercise 2” . Use the point-by-point organizing strategy for one of them, and use the subject organizing strategy for the other.

Writing a Comparison and Contrast Essay

First choose whether you want to compare seemingly disparate subjects, contrast seemingly similar subjects, or compare and contrast subjects. Once you have decided on a topic, introduce it with an engaging opening paragraph. Your thesis should come at the end of the introduction, and it should establish the subjects you will compare, contrast, or both as well as state what can be learned from doing so.

The body of the essay can be organized in one of two ways: by subject or by individual points. The organizing strategy that you choose will depend on, as always, your audience and your purpose. You may also consider your particular approach to the subjects as well as the nature of the subjects themselves; some subjects might better lend themselves to one structure or the other. Make sure to use comparison and contrast phrases to cue the reader to the ways in which you are analyzing the relationship between the subjects.

After you finish analyzing the subjects, write a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and reinforces your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample compare-and-contrast essay.

Many business presentations are conducted using comparison and contrast. The organizing strategies—by subject or individual points—could also be used for organizing a presentation. Keep this in mind as a way of organizing your content the next time you or a colleague have to present something at work.

Choose one of the outlines you created in Note 10.75 “Exercise 3” , and write a full compare-and-contrast essay. Be sure to include an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, well-defined and detailed paragraphs, and a fitting conclusion that ties everything together.

Key Takeaways

  • A compare-and-contrast essay analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
  • The purpose of writing a comparison or contrast essay is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two subjects.
  • The thesis should clearly state the subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and it should state what is to be learned from doing so.

There are two main organizing strategies for compare-and-contrast essays.

  • Organize by the subjects themselves, one then the other.
  • Organize by individual points, in which you discuss each subject in relation to each point.
  • Use phrases of comparison or phrases of contrast to signal to readers how exactly the two subjects are being analyzed.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Instructor Resources

Comparative essay.

Compare two or more literary works that we have studied in this class. Your comparative essay should not only compare but also contrast the literary texts, addressing the similarities and differences found within the texts.

Step 1: Identify the Basis for Comparison

Identify the basis of comparison. In other words, what aspect of the literature will you compare? (Theme, tone, point of view, setting, language, etc.)

Step 2: Create a List of Similarities and Differences

Carefully examine the literary texts for similarities and difference using the criteria you identified in step 1.

Step 3: Write a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is the author’s educated opinion that can be defended. For a comparative essay, your thesis statement should assert why the similarities and differences between the literary works matter.

Step 4: Create a Structure

Before drafting, create an outline. Your introduction should draw the reader in and provide the thesis statement. The supporting paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that supports your thesis statement; each topic sentence should then be supported with textual evidence. The conclusion should summarize the essay and prompt the reader to continue thinking about the topic.

Word Count: approximately 1500 words

Outside Sources needed: none (but use plenty of textual evidence)

  • Comparative Essay. License : CC0: No Rights Reserved

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How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

  • What is comparative essay
  • Structure and outline
  • Tips how to start
  • Step-by-step guide
  • Comparative essay format
  • Comparative essay topics
  • Comparative essay example

What is a Comparative Essay?

How to write a comparison essay: structure and outline.

  • The topic sentence should introduce the reader to what the paragraph handles.
  • A discussion of the aspect is done in the middle of a paragraph.
  • The last part of the paragraph should carry a low-level conclusion about the aspect discussed in the paragraph.
  • The paragraph should present enough information, as too much or too less may render it meaningless.
  • Every paragraph should handle a single aspect, e.g., it is quite unreasonable to compare the size of one object to the color of another .

Tips on How to Start a Comparative Essay

Step-by-step writing guide to write a comparative analysis, step 1: identify the basis of the comparison..

  • For example, a question may ask you to compare capitalism and communism and write the arguments. This question has a clear objective; hence you don’t have to go the extra mile.
  • Another case may be to compare any two political ideologies. It is a general question, and you have to figure out the various political ideologies and then identify any two that you can compare. Such instances require the author to develop the basis of comparison by themselves and write it down.

Step 2: Develop the content of the essay.

Step 3: come up with a thesis., step 4: develop the comparative essay structure., step 5: write your compare essay..

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Comparative Essay Format

Alternating method;.

  • Gives more details about the item in comparison, making it easy to handle two different points;
  • Produces a well-analyzed and integrated paper.
  • Cases where detailed comparison is needed;
  • When the points of comparison are not related.

Mixed paragraphs method;

  • gives the issues equal weights in terms of comparison;
  • the reader gets to identify the comparison factor easily.
  • When dealing with a long comparative essay;
  • When dealing with complex topics that need close attention.

Block Method;

  • When dealing with short essays;
  • When dealing with simple topics;
  • Cases where there is no clear relation between items of comparison of point one and point two;
  • When you want to build the ideas of question two from those highlighted for question one;
  • When dealing with many issues.

Comparative Essay Topics

  • Compare and contrast the GDP figures of the US and Australia.
  • A comparative essay on World War I and World War II events.
  • Comparison between political ideologies such as capitalism and communism.
  • Positions on issues, e.g., Healthcare in the US and Australia.
  • Comparison between various Sports teams.
  • Different Systems of Government.
  • Comparison between various influential people.
  • A comparative essay on religion, e.g., Christianity and Hinduism,
  • Comparison between various texts,
  • Comparison in technology, such as comparing different cars,

Comparative Essay Example (Clarified)

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Comparative essay structure

UPDATE – September 2014.

Again and again it’s been pointed out at marking conferences and in marking schemes that YOU MUST RESPOND TO THE QUESTION. Stock learned off answers are not being rewarded – and rightfully so! Using what you know to offer your opinion is what counts – agree, disagree, partially agree, partially disagree – it’s doesn’t matter as long as your essay is directly responding to the Q asked throughout and is doing so in a comparative way.

Here’s an extract from the Chief Examiner’s Report

“ examiners were pleased when they saw candidates trust in their own personal response and demonstrate a willingness to challenge the ‘fixed meaning’ of texts. The best answers managed to remain grounded, both in the question asked and in the texts ”.

Examiners complained that students had pre-prepared answers which they refused to adapt to the question asked. Don’t get confused here: in the comparative section you have to have done a lot of preparation prior to the exam. The similarities and differences are unlikely to simply occur to you on the day under exam conditions and the structure of comparing and contrasting, weaving the texts together using linking phrases and illustrating points using key moments is not something you can just DO with no practice. It’s a skill you have to learn. But you MUST be willing to change, adapt, and select from what you know to engage fully with the question asked.

This compliment, followed by a warning, was included in the 2013 report:

“ Many examiners reported genuine engagement with the terms of the questions, combined with a fluid comparative approach. As in previous years, examiners also noted that a significant minority of candidates were hampered by a rigid and formulaic approach “.

At the 2011 marking conference, a huge emphasis was placed on students engaging with the question – and the point was made that all too often they DON’T. You may have a general structure in your head but if this structure doesn’t suit the question that comes up DON’T just doggedly write what you’re prepared anyway. Use what you know to answer the Q. The basic structure will remain (text 1 key moment, link, text 2 km, link, text 3 km, general observation) – it’s not rocket science. But you must prove (if you want a grade above 70% in comparative) that you can engage with the question throughout your answer (not justthrow it in @ beginning and end) and conclude by showing how your essay engaged with the question asked. So the moral of the story is, if you puke up a pre-prepared answer & completely ignore the question, don’t be surprised when you then do badly!

Anyway, you still want to know what the basic comparative structure IS but remember you do not know what you will write until you see the question. Even then, your brain should be on fire non-stop as you write your answer. This is not about ‘remembering’ stuff – this is about knowing it so well, that it’s all there in your brain and you just have to shuffle it about so that it makes sense as a response to whatever question is asked.

Sorry, I don’t intend to scare you – but nor do I want to you be under some illusion that you just write one essay for each comparative mode during the year and that will do. IT WON’T…

UPDATE OVER

Right, here goes…

The quality of your links is REALLY SUPREMELY important. This section of the course is called ‘comparative studies’ for a reason. The more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences. You can extend this comparison throughout your paragraph/section if necessary (in fact this is a good idea) – but don’t simply repeat yourself.

Here’s some general advice on how you might structure your comparative essay, but I repeat, adapt, adapt adapt to the question asked .

Introduction:

Theme or Issue : Address the Q, introduce your theme, then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the central character who you will focus on in your discussion of this theme.

General Vision & Viewpoint : Address the Q, introduce the idea of GV&V (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the major emotions you associate with each.

Cultural Context: Address the Q, introduce the idea of cultural context (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author, plus where and when they are set. You may want to mention the aspects of cultural context you intend to discuss.

Literary Genre: Address the Q, briefly introduce what literary genre means, then introduce your texts – genre, name, author. Outline the aspects of literary genre you will discuss (depends on the Q asked).

Look at the following examples. Imagine the Q is “Exploring a theme or issue can add to our enjoyment of a text”

“I found it fascinating to explore the central theme of plagiarism in my comparative texts. In the novel ‘Old School ‘ (OS) by Tobias Wolff I was intrigued by the narrator’s self delusion after he entered a competition with a short story he had not written. By contrast, I found the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner quite disturbing. It explores a young girl’s obsession with becoming famous as she ‘borrows’ outrageous online articles to make her blog more popular. Finally I found the play “IMHO” by Judy Price hilarious. It looks at how we all ‘copy’ ideas from others and pass them off as our own at dinner parties. Thus exploring this theme greatly added to my enjoyment of each text”.

Now look at how this changes for a different mode. Imagine the Q is “The general vision & viewpoint of a text often offers the reader both joy & despair”

“ All of my comparative texts took me on a rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows experienced by the central characters . In the novel “Old School” (OS) by Tobias Wolff I experienced the narrator’s joy at the visit of Robert Frost, and his despair when his cheating was uncovered. Similarly, the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner begins in elation for Emily as her blog goes viral but ends in complete mental and physical collapse. By contrast, the lighthearted play “IMOH” by Judy Price offers a hilarious look at the falseness of modern dinner parties and the only despair the audience feels is lamenting the complete lack of self-awareness of the central characters. Thus the vision & viewpoint of each text offered me a  wide and varied range of emotions  from joy to depair”.

Now look at how this changes again: Imagine the Q is: “Characters are often in conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”

“ The novel ‘Old School’ (OS) written by Tobias Wolff is set in an elite American boarding school in the 1960’s and the unnamed narrator certainly comes into conflict with his world. This text explores cultural issues such as social class, ethnic identity and authority figures. Similar issues are explored in the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner and set in modern day London as Emily comes into conflict with her parents, peers and teachers. My third text the play “IMOH” by Judy Price set in Celtic Tiger Ireland also looks at the conflicts which occur as a result of people’s social snobbery and their desire to escape their cultural identity and heritage. In this text the major authority figure is Susan, the host of the dinner party, who desperately tries to keep her guests in line. Thus I absolutely agree that these three texts made me more aware of the ways in which people can come into conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”.

Finally look at this literary genre question : “The creation of memorable characters is part of the art of good story-telling” .

The unnamed narrator in Tobias Wolff’s novel ‘Old School’ (OS) is a fascinating and memorable character because he is struggling to come to terms with his own flaws. Similarly, the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner has a central character Emily who we emphathise with despite her many flaws. Finally, the play ‘IMHO’ by Judy Price with its emsemble cast creates many memorable characters but for the purposes of this essay I will focus on the dinner party host Susan. These characters live on in our memories because of the writer’s choice of narrative point of view, because of the vivid imagery we associate with them and because the climax of the action revolves around their character.

NEXT you need to think about structuring the essay itself. The most important thing to decide in advance is what aspect you wish to compare for each page/section but this may need to change to adapt to the Q.

For theme or issue you might plan it out like this but at all times focus on answering the Q:

  • How is this theme introduced? How does this theme affect the central character/characters?
  • How is this theme developed? Do the central characters embrace or fight against it? How?
  • Do other characters influence how this theme unfolds?
  • How does the text end & what are our final impressions of this theme as a result?

Asking the same question of each text allows you to come up with the all important links (similarities & differences).

For general vision & viewpoint you might plan as follows but at all times focus on answering the Q:

  • What view is offered of humanity (are the main characters likable or deplorable?)
  • What view is offered of society (is this society largely benign or does it negatively impact on the characters)
  • How does the text end & what vision are we left with (positive or negative) as a result?

Alternatively you could just take a beginning, middle, end approach but you must at all times focus on whether the vision/feelings/atmosphere is positive or negative and how this impacts on the reader/viewers experience.

For literary genre you must focus on the aspects mentioned in the question – possibly some of these:

  • Genre – diff between novel/play/film
  • Narrator / point of view
  • Characterisation
  • Chronology – flashback / flashforward
  • Climax / twist

For cultural context you must decide which of the following issues are most prominent in all three texts – try to find links before you decide. At all times focus on answering the Q asked

  • Social class / social status
  • Wealth / poverty
  • Job opportunities / emigration
  • Authority figures
  • Sex / Marriage (attitudes towards)
  • Gender roles
  • Stereotypes / Ethnic identity

You may find some overlap between 2 of these – for example social class often influences a person’s wealth or poverty; religion often effects attitudes towards sex and marriage; marriage can often be a financial necessity for those with limited job opportunities (mostly women, so this overlaps with gender roles). Choose your sections carefully so you don’t end up repeating yourself.

You might plan as follows for the example given above but everything depends on the texts & the question.

  • Social status
  • Ethnic identity
  • How does the text end? Do the main characters escape or remain constrained by their cultural context?

Once you’ve decided what sections to include your structure for each goes a little something like this:

STATEMENT – ALL 3 TEXTS e.g. All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life.

STATEMENT – TEXT 1 e.g. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 1 e.g. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates.

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 e.g. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 2 e.g. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the limitations of her background is more urgent than in OS.

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 e.g. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than the narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 3 e.g. Several key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fake’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond).

STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION ASKED e.g. Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.

This all sounds very technical but if you break it down as follows it’s not so complicated (easy for me to say!)

STATEMENT ALL 3 TEXTS

STATEMENT TEXT 1 & KEY MOMENT

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 & KEY MOMENT

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 & KEY MOMENT

STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION

Now look at how the paragraph/section flows when you put it all together.

All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes at her locker, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the stigma of her background is more urgent than in OS. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than for narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty. S everal key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fakes’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond). Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.

This paragraph only establishes that the characters want to hide or improve their social class. You could now look at some of their attempts to improve their social status.

If a paragraph gets too long, break it into two. The linking phrase will make it clear that you’re still talking about the same issue.

For the 30 / 40 marls question just take all of your statements & key moments for Text 1 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 30 marks part.

Then take all of your statements & links for texts 2 & 3 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 40 marks part. You will refer back, in passing, to Text 1 but only when establishing your links.

Also, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences.

This structure applies no matter what the mode – theme or issue / general vision or viewpoint / cultural context / literary genre.

P.S. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of the film Generous or the play IMHO, I can explain. I made them up.

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Writing Comparative Essays: Making Connections to Illuminate Ideas

Breathing new life into a familiar school format, with the help of Times journalism and several winning student essays.

how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

By Katherine Schulten

Our new Mentor Text series spotlights writing from The Times and from our student contests that teenagers can learn from and emulate.

This entry aims to help support those participating in our Third Annual Connections Contest , in which students are invited to take something they are studying in school and show us, via parallels found in a Times article, how it connects to our world today. In other words, we’re asking them to compare ideas in two texts.

For even more on how to help your students make those kinds of connections, please see our related writing unit .

I. Overview

Making connections is a natural part of thinking. We can’t help doing it. If you’re telling a friend about a new song or restaurant or TV show you like, you’ll almost always find yourself saying, “It’s like _________” and referencing something you both know. It’s a simple way of helping your listener get his or her bearings.

Journalists do it too. In fact, it’s one of the main tools of the trade to help explain a new concept or reframe an old one. Here are just a few recent examples:

A science reporter explains the behavior of fossilized marine animals by likening them to humans making conga lines.

A sportswriter describes the current N.B.A. season by framing it in terms of Broadway show tunes.

An Op-Ed contributor compares today’s mainstreaming of contemporary African art to “an urban neighborhood undergoing gentrification.”

Sometimes a journalist will go beyond making a simple analogy and devote a whole piece to an extended comparison between two things. Articles like these are real-world cousins of that classic compare/contrast essay you’ve probably been writing in school since you could first hold a pen.

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Organizing Compare-Contrast Paragraphs

Comparing Two Subjects in Two Paragraphs

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Organizing two compare-and-contrast paragraphs is just a mini version of creating a compare-and-contrast essay . This kind of essay examines two or more subjects by comparing their similarities and contrasting their differences. In the same way, compare-contrast paragraphs compare and contrast two things in two separate paragraphs. There are two basic methods for organizing compare-contrast paragraphs: the block format and a format where the writer separates similarities and differences.

Block Format

When using the block format for a two-paragraph comparison, discuss one subject in the first paragraph and the other in the second, as follows:

Paragraph 1: The opening sentence names the two subjects and states that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences. The remainder of the paragraph describes the features of the first subject without referring to the second subject.

Paragraph 2: The opening sentence must contain a transition showing you are comparing the second subject to the first, such as: "Unlike (or similar to) subject No. 1, subject No. 2..." Discuss all the features of subject No. 2 in relation to subject No. 1 using compare-contrast cue words such as "like," "similar to," "also," "unlike," and "on the other hand," for each comparison. End this paragraph with a personal statement, a prediction or another enlightening conclusion.

Separating Similarities and Differences

When using this format, discuss only the similarities in the first paragraph and only the differences in the next. This format requires careful use of many compare-contrast cue words and is, therefore, more difficult to write well. Create the paragraphs as follows:

Paragraph 1: The opening sentence names the two subjects and states that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences. Continue discussing similarities only using compare-contrast cue words such as "like," "similar to" and "also," for each comparison.

Paragraph 2: The opening sentence must contain a transition showing that you are pivoting to discussing differences, such as: "Despite all these similarities, (these two subjects) differ in significant ways." Then describe all the differences, using compare-contrast cue words such as "differs," "unlike," and "on the other hand," for each comparison. End the paragraph with a personal statement, a prediction, or another compelling conclusion.

Create a Pre-Writing Chart

In organizing compare-contrast paragraphs , using either of the above methods, students may find it helpful to create a compare-contrast-prewriting chart . To create this chart, students would create a three-column table or chart with the following headers topping each column: "Subject 1," "Features," and "Subject 2." Students then list the subjects and features in the appropriate columns.

For example, a student might compare life in the city (Subject No. 1) vs. the country (Subject No. 2) . To start, the student would list "Entertainment," "Culture," and "Food," in the rows under the "Features" header. Then, next "Entertainment," the student could list "theaters, clubs" under the "City" header and "festivals, bonfires" under the "Country" header.

Next might be "Culture" in the "Features" column. Next to "Culture," the student would list "museums" in the "City" column and "historic places" under the "Country" column, and so on. After compiling about seven or eight rows, the student can cross out the rows that seem least relevant. Crafting such a chart helps the student create an easy visual aid to help write the compare-contrast paragraphs for either of the previously discussed methods.

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How to Write a 5-Paragraph Compare and Contrast Essay

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How Many Paragraphs Should an Essay Have?

How Many Paragraphs Should an Essay Have?

  • 6-minute read
  • 19th May 2023

You have an essay to write. You’ve researched the topic and crafted a strong thesis statement . Now it’s time to open the laptop and start tapping away on the keyboard. You know the required word count, but you’re unsure of one thing: How many paragraphs should you have in the essay? Gee, it would’ve been nice if your professor had specified that, huh?

No worries, friend, because in this post, we’ll provide a guide to how many paragraphs an essay should have . Generally, the number of paragraphs will depend on how many words and how many supporting details you need (more on that later). We’ll also explore the concept of paragraphs if you’re wondering what they’re all about. And remember, paragraphs serve a purpose. You can’t submit an essay without using them!

What Is a Paragraph?

You likely know what a paragraph is, but can you define it properly in plain English? Don’t feel bad if that question made you shake your head. Off the top of our heads, many of us can’t explain what a paragraph is .

A paragraph comprises at least five sentences about a particular topic. A paragraph must begin with a well-crafted topic sentence , which is then followed by ideas that support that sentence. To move the essay forward, the paragraph should flow well, and the sentences should be relevant.

Why Are Paragraphs Important?

Paragraphs expand on points you make about a topic, painting a vivid picture for the reader. Paragraphs break down information into chunks, which are easier to read than one giant, uninterrupted body of text. If your essay doesn’t use paragraphs, it likely won’t earn a good grade!

 How Many Paragraphs Are in an Essay?

As mentioned, the number of paragraphs will depend on the word count and the quantity of supporting ideas required. However, if you have to write at least 1,000 words, you should aim for at least five paragraphs. Every essay should have an introduction and a conclusion. The reader needs to get a basic introduction to the topic and understand your thesis statement. They must also see key takeaway points at the end of the essay.

As a rule, a five-paragraph essay would look like this:

  • Introduction (with thesis statement)
  • Main idea 1 (with supporting details)
  • Main idea 2 (with supporting details)
  • Main idea 3 (with supporting details)

Your supporting details should include material (such as quotations or facts) from credible sources when writing the main idea paragraphs.

If you think your essay could benefit from having more than five paragraphs, add them! Just make sure they’re relevant to the topic.

Professors don’t care so much about the number of paragraphs; they want you to satisfy the minimum word requirement. Assignment rubrics rarely state the number of required paragraphs. It will be up to you to decide how many to write, and we urge you to research the assigned topic before writing the essay. Your main ideas from the research will generate most of the paragraphs.

When Should I Start a New Paragraph?

Surprisingly, some students aren’t aware that they should break up some of the paragraphs in their essays . You need to start new paragraphs to keep your reader engaged.

As well as starting a new paragraph after the introduction and another for the conclusion, you should do so when you’re introducing a new idea or presenting contrasting information.

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Starting a paragraph often involves using transitional words or phrases to signal to the reader that you’re presenting a new idea. Failing to use these cues may cause confusion for the reader and undermine your essay’s coherence.

Let’s consider examples of transitional words and phrases in action in a conclusion. Note that the essay is about too much mobile device screen time and that transitional words and phrases can occur later in a paragraph too:

Thanks to “In conclusion” and “Additionally,” the reader clearly knows that they are now in the conclusion stage. They can also follow the logic and development of the essay more easily.

How Do I Know Whether I Have Enough Paragraphs?

While no magic number exists for how many paragraphs you need, you should know when you have enough to satisfy the requirements of the assignment. It helps if you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Does my essay have both an introduction and a conclusion?
  • Have I provided enough main ideas with supporting details, including quotes and cited information?
  • Does my essay develop the thesis statement?
  • Does my essay adequately inform the reader about the topic?
  • Have I provided at least one takeaway for the reader?

 Conclusion

Professors aren’t necessarily looking for a specific number of paragraphs in an essay; it’s the word count that matters. You should see the word count as a guide for a suitable number of paragraphs. As a rule, five paragraphs should suffice for a 1,000-word essay. As long as you have an introduction and a conclusion and provide enough supporting details for the main ideas in your body paragraphs, you should be good to go.

Remember to start a new paragraph when introducing new ideas or presenting contrasting information. Your reader needs to be able to follow the essay throughout, and a single, unbroken block of text would be difficult to read. Transitional words and phrases help start new paragraphs, so don’t forget to use them!

As with any writing, we always recommend proofreading your essay after you’ve finished it. This step will help to detect typos, extra spacing, and grammatical errors. A second pair of eyes is always useful, so we recommend asking our proofreading experts to review your essay . They’ll correct your grammar, ensure perfect spelling, and offer suggestions to improve your essay. You can even submit a 500-word document for free!

1. What is a paragraph and what is its purpose?

A paragraph is a group of sentences that expand on a single idea. The purpose of a paragraph is to introduce an idea and then develop it with supporting details.

2. What are the benefits of paragraphs?

Paragraphs make your essay easy to read by providing structure and flow. They let you transition from one idea to another. New paragraphs allow you to tell your reader that you’ve covered one point and are moving on to the next.

3. How many paragraphs does a typical essay have?

An essay of at least 1,000 words usually has five paragraphs. It’s best to use the required word count as a guide to the number of paragraphs you’ll need.

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Alternative Lay Language for Medical Terms for use in Informed Consent Documents

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ABDOMEN/ABDOMINAL body cavity below diaphragm that contains stomach, intestines, liver and other organs ABSORB take up fluids, take in ACIDOSIS condition when blood contains more acid than normal ACUITY clearness, keenness, esp. of vision and airways ACUTE new, recent, sudden, urgent ADENOPATHY swollen lymph nodes (glands) ADJUVANT helpful, assisting, aiding, supportive ADJUVANT TREATMENT added treatment (usually to a standard treatment) ANTIBIOTIC drug that kills bacteria and other germs ANTIMICROBIAL drug that kills bacteria and other germs ANTIRETROVIRAL drug that works against the growth of certain viruses ADVERSE EFFECT side effect, bad reaction, unwanted response ALLERGIC REACTION rash, hives, swelling, trouble breathing AMBULATE/AMBULATION/AMBULATORY walk, able to walk ANAPHYLAXIS serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction ANEMIA decreased red blood cells; low red cell blood count ANESTHETIC a drug or agent used to decrease the feeling of pain, or eliminate the feeling of pain by putting you to sleep ANGINA pain resulting from not enough blood flowing to the heart ANGINA PECTORIS pain resulting from not enough blood flowing to the heart ANOREXIA disorder in which person will not eat; lack of appetite ANTECUBITAL related to the inner side of the forearm ANTIBODY protein made in the body in response to foreign substance ANTICONVULSANT drug used to prevent seizures ANTILIPEMIC a drug that lowers fat levels in the blood ANTITUSSIVE a drug used to relieve coughing ARRHYTHMIA abnormal heartbeat; any change from the normal heartbeat ASPIRATION fluid entering the lungs, such as after vomiting ASSAY lab test ASSESS to learn about, measure, evaluate, look at ASTHMA lung disease associated with tightening of air passages, making breathing difficult ASYMPTOMATIC without symptoms AXILLA armpit

BENIGN not malignant, without serious consequences BID twice a day BINDING/BOUND carried by, to make stick together, transported BIOAVAILABILITY the extent to which a drug or other substance becomes available to the body BLOOD PROFILE series of blood tests BOLUS a large amount given all at once BONE MASS the amount of calcium and other minerals in a given amount of bone BRADYARRHYTHMIAS slow, irregular heartbeats BRADYCARDIA slow heartbeat BRONCHOSPASM breathing distress caused by narrowing of the airways

CARCINOGENIC cancer-causing CARCINOMA type of cancer CARDIAC related to the heart CARDIOVERSION return to normal heartbeat by electric shock CATHETER a tube for withdrawing or giving fluids CATHETER a tube placed near the spinal cord and used for anesthesia (indwelling epidural) during surgery CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM (CNS) brain and spinal cord CEREBRAL TRAUMA damage to the brain CESSATION stopping CHD coronary heart disease CHEMOTHERAPY treatment of disease, usually cancer, by chemical agents CHRONIC continuing for a long time, ongoing CLINICAL pertaining to medical care CLINICAL TRIAL an experiment involving human subjects COMA unconscious state COMPLETE RESPONSE total disappearance of disease CONGENITAL present before birth CONJUNCTIVITIS redness and irritation of the thin membrane that covers the eye CONSOLIDATION PHASE treatment phase intended to make a remission permanent (follows induction phase) CONTROLLED TRIAL research study in which the experimental treatment or procedure is compared to a standard (control) treatment or procedure COOPERATIVE GROUP association of multiple institutions to perform clinical trials CORONARY related to the blood vessels that supply the heart, or to the heart itself CT SCAN (CAT) computerized series of x-rays (computerized tomography) CULTURE test for infection, or for organisms that could cause infection CUMULATIVE added together from the beginning CUTANEOUS relating to the skin CVA stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

DERMATOLOGIC pertaining to the skin DIASTOLIC lower number in a blood pressure reading DISTAL toward the end, away from the center of the body DIURETIC "water pill" or drug that causes increase in urination DOPPLER device using sound waves to diagnose or test DOUBLE BLIND study in which neither investigators nor subjects know what drug or treatment the subject is receiving DYSFUNCTION state of improper function DYSPLASIA abnormal cells

ECHOCARDIOGRAM sound wave test of the heart EDEMA excess fluid collecting in tissue EEG electric brain wave tracing (electroencephalogram) EFFICACY effectiveness ELECTROCARDIOGRAM electrical tracing of the heartbeat (ECG or EKG) ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCE an imbalance of minerals in the blood EMESIS vomiting EMPIRIC based on experience ENDOSCOPIC EXAMINATION viewing an  internal part of the body with a lighted tube  ENTERAL by way of the intestines EPIDURAL outside the spinal cord ERADICATE get rid of (such as disease) Page 2 of 7 EVALUATED, ASSESSED examined for a medical condition EXPEDITED REVIEW rapid review of a protocol by the IRB Chair without full committee approval, permitted with certain low-risk research studies EXTERNAL outside the body EXTRAVASATE to leak outside of a planned area, such as out of a blood vessel

FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the branch of federal government that approves new drugs FIBROUS having many fibers, such as scar tissue FIBRILLATION irregular beat of the heart or other muscle

GENERAL ANESTHESIA pain prevention by giving drugs to cause loss of consciousness, as during surgery GESTATIONAL pertaining to pregnancy

HEMATOCRIT amount of red blood cells in the blood HEMATOMA a bruise, a black and blue mark HEMODYNAMIC MEASURING blood flow HEMOLYSIS breakdown in red blood cells HEPARIN LOCK needle placed in the arm with blood thinner to keep the blood from clotting HEPATOMA cancer or tumor of the liver HERITABLE DISEASE can be transmitted to one’s offspring, resulting in damage to future children HISTOPATHOLOGIC pertaining to the disease status of body tissues or cells HOLTER MONITOR a portable machine for recording heart beats HYPERCALCEMIA high blood calcium level HYPERKALEMIA high blood potassium level HYPERNATREMIA high blood sodium level HYPERTENSION high blood pressure HYPOCALCEMIA low blood calcium level HYPOKALEMIA low blood potassium level HYPONATREMIA low blood sodium level HYPOTENSION low blood pressure HYPOXEMIA a decrease of oxygen in the blood HYPOXIA a decrease of oxygen reaching body tissues HYSTERECTOMY surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries (female sex glands), or both uterus and ovaries

IATROGENIC caused by a physician or by treatment IDE investigational device exemption, the license to test an unapproved new medical device IDIOPATHIC of unknown cause IMMUNITY defense against, protection from IMMUNOGLOBIN a protein that makes antibodies IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE drug which works against the body's immune (protective) response, often used in transplantation and diseases caused by immune system malfunction IMMUNOTHERAPY giving of drugs to help the body's immune (protective) system; usually used to destroy cancer cells IMPAIRED FUNCTION abnormal function IMPLANTED placed in the body IND investigational new drug, the license to test an unapproved new drug INDUCTION PHASE beginning phase or stage of a treatment INDURATION hardening INDWELLING remaining in a given location, such as a catheter INFARCT death of tissue due to lack of blood supply INFECTIOUS DISEASE transmitted from one person to the next INFLAMMATION swelling that is generally painful, red, and warm INFUSION slow injection of a substance into the body, usually into the blood by means of a catheter INGESTION eating; taking by mouth INTERFERON drug which acts against viruses; antiviral agent INTERMITTENT occurring (regularly or irregularly) between two time points; repeatedly stopping, then starting again INTERNAL within the body INTERIOR inside of the body INTRAMUSCULAR into the muscle; within the muscle INTRAPERITONEAL into the abdominal cavity INTRATHECAL into the spinal fluid INTRAVENOUS (IV) through the vein INTRAVESICAL in the bladder INTUBATE the placement of a tube into the airway INVASIVE PROCEDURE puncturing, opening, or cutting the skin INVESTIGATIONAL NEW DRUG (IND) a new drug that has not been approved by the FDA INVESTIGATIONAL METHOD a treatment method which has not been proven to be beneficial or has not been accepted as standard care ISCHEMIA decreased oxygen in a tissue (usually because of decreased blood flow)

LAPAROTOMY surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the abdominal wall to enable a doctor to look at the organs inside LESION wound or injury; a diseased patch of skin LETHARGY sleepiness, tiredness LEUKOPENIA low white blood cell count LIPID fat LIPID CONTENT fat content in the blood LIPID PROFILE (PANEL) fat and cholesterol levels in the blood LOCAL ANESTHESIA creation of insensitivity to pain in a small, local area of the body, usually by injection of numbing drugs LOCALIZED restricted to one area, limited to one area LUMEN the cavity of an organ or tube (e.g., blood vessel) LYMPHANGIOGRAPHY an x-ray of the lymph nodes or tissues after injecting dye into lymph vessels (e.g., in feet) LYMPHOCYTE a type of white blood cell important in immunity (protection) against infection LYMPHOMA a cancer of the lymph nodes (or tissues)

MALAISE a vague feeling of bodily discomfort, feeling badly MALFUNCTION condition in which something is not functioning properly MALIGNANCY cancer or other progressively enlarging and spreading tumor, usually fatal if not successfully treated MEDULLABLASTOMA a type of brain tumor MEGALOBLASTOSIS change in red blood cells METABOLIZE process of breaking down substances in the cells to obtain energy METASTASIS spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another METRONIDAZOLE drug used to treat infections caused by parasites (invading organisms that take up living in the body) or other causes of anaerobic infection (not requiring oxygen to survive) MI myocardial infarction, heart attack MINIMAL slight MINIMIZE reduce as much as possible Page 4 of 7 MONITOR check on; keep track of; watch carefully MOBILITY ease of movement MORBIDITY undesired result or complication MORTALITY death MOTILITY the ability to move MRI magnetic resonance imaging, diagnostic pictures of the inside of the body, created using magnetic rather than x-ray energy MUCOSA, MUCOUS MEMBRANE moist lining of digestive, respiratory, reproductive, and urinary tracts MYALGIA muscle aches MYOCARDIAL pertaining to the heart muscle MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION heart attack

NASOGASTRIC TUBE placed in the nose, reaching to the stomach NCI the National Cancer Institute NECROSIS death of tissue NEOPLASIA/NEOPLASM tumor, may be benign or malignant NEUROBLASTOMA a cancer of nerve tissue NEUROLOGICAL pertaining to the nervous system NEUTROPENIA decrease in the main part of the white blood cells NIH the National Institutes of Health NONINVASIVE not breaking, cutting, or entering the skin NOSOCOMIAL acquired in the hospital

OCCLUSION closing; blockage; obstruction ONCOLOGY the study of tumors or cancer OPHTHALMIC pertaining to the eye OPTIMAL best, most favorable or desirable ORAL ADMINISTRATION by mouth ORTHOPEDIC pertaining to the bones OSTEOPETROSIS rare bone disorder characterized by dense bone OSTEOPOROSIS softening of the bones OVARIES female sex glands

PARENTERAL given by injection PATENCY condition of being open PATHOGENESIS development of a disease or unhealthy condition PERCUTANEOUS through the skin PERIPHERAL not central PER OS (PO) by mouth PHARMACOKINETICS the study of the way the body absorbs, distributes, and gets rid of a drug PHASE I first phase of study of a new drug in humans to determine action, safety, and proper dosing PHASE II second phase of study of a new drug in humans, intended to gather information about safety and effectiveness of the drug for certain uses PHASE III large-scale studies to confirm and expand information on safety and effectiveness of new drug for certain uses, and to study common side effects PHASE IV studies done after the drug is approved by the FDA, especially to compare it to standard care or to try it for new uses PHLEBITIS irritation or inflammation of the vein PLACEBO an inactive substance; a pill/liquid that contains no medicine PLACEBO EFFECT improvement seen with giving subjects a placebo, though it contains no active drug/treatment PLATELETS small particles in the blood that help with clotting POTENTIAL possible POTENTIATE increase or multiply the effect of a drug or toxin (poison) by giving another drug or toxin at the same time (sometimes an unintentional result) POTENTIATOR an agent that helps another agent work better PRENATAL before birth PROPHYLAXIS a drug given to prevent disease or infection PER OS (PO) by mouth PRN as needed PROGNOSIS outlook, probable outcomes PRONE lying on the stomach PROSPECTIVE STUDY following patients forward in time PROSTHESIS artificial part, most often limbs, such as arms or legs PROTOCOL plan of study PROXIMAL closer to the center of the body, away from the end PULMONARY pertaining to the lungs

QD every day; daily QID four times a day

RADIATION THERAPY x-ray or cobalt treatment RANDOM by chance (like the flip of a coin) RANDOMIZATION chance selection RBC red blood cell RECOMBINANT formation of new combinations of genes RECONSTITUTION putting back together the original parts or elements RECUR happen again REFRACTORY not responding to treatment REGENERATION re-growth of a structure or of lost tissue REGIMEN pattern of giving treatment RELAPSE the return of a disease REMISSION disappearance of evidence of cancer or other disease RENAL pertaining to the kidneys REPLICABLE possible to duplicate RESECT remove or cut out surgically RETROSPECTIVE STUDY looking back over past experience

SARCOMA a type of cancer SEDATIVE a drug to calm or make less anxious SEMINOMA a type of testicular cancer (found in the male sex glands) SEQUENTIALLY in a row, in order SOMNOLENCE sleepiness SPIROMETER an instrument to measure the amount of air taken into and exhaled from the lungs STAGING an evaluation of the extent of the disease STANDARD OF CARE a treatment plan that the majority of the medical community would accept as appropriate STENOSIS narrowing of a duct, tube, or one of the blood vessels in the heart STOMATITIS mouth sores, inflammation of the mouth STRATIFY arrange in groups for analysis of results (e.g., stratify by age, sex, etc.) STUPOR stunned state in which it is difficult to get a response or the attention of the subject SUBCLAVIAN under the collarbone SUBCUTANEOUS under the skin SUPINE lying on the back SUPPORTIVE CARE general medical care aimed at symptoms, not intended to improve or cure underlying disease SYMPTOMATIC having symptoms SYNDROME a condition characterized by a set of symptoms SYSTOLIC top number in blood pressure; pressure during active contraction of the heart

TERATOGENIC capable of causing malformations in a fetus (developing baby still inside the mother’s body) TESTES/TESTICLES male sex glands THROMBOSIS clotting THROMBUS blood clot TID three times a day TITRATION a method for deciding on the strength of a drug or solution; gradually increasing the dose T-LYMPHOCYTES type of white blood cells TOPICAL on the surface TOPICAL ANESTHETIC applied to a certain area of the skin and reducing pain only in the area to which applied TOXICITY side effects or undesirable effects of a drug or treatment TRANSDERMAL through the skin TRANSIENTLY temporarily TRAUMA injury; wound TREADMILL walking machine used to test heart function

UPTAKE absorbing and taking in of a substance by living tissue

VALVULOPLASTY plastic repair of a valve, especially a heart valve VARICES enlarged veins VASOSPASM narrowing of the blood vessels VECTOR a carrier that can transmit disease-causing microorganisms (germs and viruses) VENIPUNCTURE needle stick, blood draw, entering the skin with a needle VERTICAL TRANSMISSION spread of disease

WBC white blood cell

IMAGES

  1. Comparative Essay

    how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

  2. How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Structure

    how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

  3. Comparative Essay

    how many paragraphs does a comparative essay have

  4. 💌 Comparative essay example point by point. comparison and contrast

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  5. Complete Guide to Writing a Comparative Essay

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  6. How To Write A Comparative Essay

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VIDEO

  1. How to write a comparative A level essay

  2. Comparison and Contrast Essay|| How to Write || BBS 1st Year English || Patterns for college writing

  3. 2024-06-04

  4. Effective Comparison Analysis for GCSE English Language Students

  5. Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay (In 6 Minutes)

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COMMENTS

  1. Ultimate Guide to Writing a Comparison Essay: Tips and Examples

    Make sure they have enough similarities and differences to make a meaningful comparison. 2. Brainstorm key points: Once you have chosen the subjects, brainstorm the key points you want to compare and contrast. These could include characteristics, features, themes, or arguments related to each subject. 3.

  2. The Comparative Essay

    A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare. positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States) theories (e.g., capitalism and communism) figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)

  3. Comparative Essay

    Comparative Essay Body Paragraphs . The body paragraphs are where you really get into the details of your subjects. Each paragraph should focus on one thing you're comparing. Start by talking about the first point of comparison. Then, go on to the next points. Make sure to talk about two to three differences to give a good picture.

  4. Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

    Making effective comparisons. As the name suggests, comparing and contrasting is about identifying both similarities and differences. You might focus on contrasting quite different subjects or comparing subjects with a lot in common—but there must be some grounds for comparison in the first place. For example, you might contrast French ...

  5. Comparing and Contrasting

    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. In the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common.

  6. Comparative Essay Writing: Methods and Examples

    There are two main methods of structuring a comparative essay: the block method and the point-by-point method. Block Method. In the block method, you discuss each subject separately. You spend one or more paragraphs focusing on the first subject, then move on to the second subject. This allows you to go into more detail about each subject ...

  7. 4.1: Introduction to Comparison and Contrast Essay

    4.1: Introduction to Comparison and Contrast Essay. The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. Comparison and contrast is simply telling how two things are alike or different. The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to ...

  8. How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

    Contact Sales Learn More. Compare and contrast essays examine topics from multiple viewpoints. This kind of essay, often assigned in middle school and high school, teaches students about the analytical writing process and prepares them for more advanced forms of academic writing. Compare and contrast essays are relatively easy to write if you ...

  9. Comparative Essay

    How to Write a Comparative Essay. 1. Pick a basis for your comparison. You need a specific basis for your comparison. Without one, there will be too much information to research. Your assignment guidelines may already include a scope of focus for you to write about. If not, your basis should be an idea, category, or theme that applies to each ...

  10. Academic Guides: Writing a Paper: Comparing & Contrasting

    Use Clear Transitions. Transitions are important in compare and contrast essays, where you will be moving frequently between different topics or perspectives. Examples of transitions and phrases for comparisons: as well, similar to, consistent with, likewise, too. Examples of transitions and phrases for contrasts: on the other hand, however ...

  11. Compare & Contrast Essay

    Compare and Contrast Essay Outline. The point-by-point method uses a standard five-paragraph essay structure: Introduction (contains the attention-getter, preview of main points, and thesis) Body ...

  12. Comparative Essays

    How to Write a Comparative Essay. 1. Establish a basis of comparison. A basis of comparison represents the main idea, category, or theme you will investigate. You will have to do some preliminary reading, likely using your course materials, to get an idea of what kind of criteria you will use to assess whatever you are comparing.

  13. How to Write a Comparative Essay (with Pictures)

    2. Use a mixed paragraphs method. Address both halves of the comparison in each paragraph. This means that the first paragraph will compare the first aspect of each subject, the second will compare the second, and so on, making sure to always address the subjects in the same order.

  14. 10.7 Comparison and Contrast

    The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader.

  15. Comparative Essay

    Step 4: Create a Structure. Before drafting, create an outline. Your introduction should draw the reader in and provide the thesis statement. The supporting paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that supports your thesis statement; each topic sentence should then be supported with textual evidence. The conclusion should summarize the ...

  16. Guide To Writing a Comparative Essay

    8. Write the body of your essay. In a comparison essay, the body should clearly explain three or more main similarities or differences or a mix of both regarding your subjects. Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the focus of that particular paragraph.

  17. How to Write a Comparative Essay: Step-by-Step Guide

    Step 5: Write your compare essay. After you have collected all the arguments, definitions, and materials for creating the paper, you are ready to write the college assignment. State the collected facts and details in your comparative essay. Write your point of view and dive into the details.

  18. Comparative essay structure

    The basic structure will remain (text 1 key moment, link, text 2 km, link, text 3 km, general observation) - it's not rocket science. But you must prove (if you want a grade above 70% in comparative) that you can engage with the question throughout your answer (not justthrow it in @ beginning and end) and conclude by showing how your essay ...

  19. Writing Comparative Essays: Making Connections to Illuminate Ideas

    Here are some tips, with student examples to illustrate each. 1. Make sure you're focusing on a manageable theme or idea. One of the first ways to get on the wrong track in writing a comparative ...

  20. How to Organize Compare-Contrast Paragraphs

    Create the paragraphs as follows: Paragraph 1: The opening sentence names the two subjects and states that they are very similar, very different or have many important (or interesting) similarities and differences. Continue discussing similarities only using compare-contrast cue words such as "like," "similar to" and "also," for each comparison.

  21. How to Write a 5-Paragraph Compare and Contrast Essay

    The first step to a good essay is structure. There are two ways to structure a 5-paragraph compare and contrast essay. Two Ways to Structure a 5-paragraph Essay 1. Subject-by-Subject Structure. All the researched information for comparing/contrasting the first topic is listed in the beginning, followed by relevant data for the second topic.

  22. How Many Paragraphs Should an Essay Have?

    As a rule, five paragraphs should suffice for a 1,000-word essay. As long as you have an introduction and a conclusion and provide enough supporting details for the main ideas in your body paragraphs, you should be good to go. Remember to start a new paragraph when introducing new ideas or presenting contrasting information.

  23. Medical Terms in Lay Language

    Human Subjects Office / IRB Hardin Library, Suite 105A 600 Newton Rd Iowa City, IA 52242-1098. Voice: 319-335-6564 Fax: 319-335-7310