How to write a comparative essay

How to write a comparative essay

Are you thinking of writing a stellar comparative essay? There is a point in the academic journey where you will be required to compare two subjects.

The foremost step to writing an effective comparative paper is to understand what it is all about. Find out the definition of a comparative essay, the methods of writing, and how to structure your work.

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This enables students to produce a coherent and well-organized paper that the audience can follow.  It also makes the writing process easier.

What is a comparative essay?


A comparative essay is an academic paper that shows the similarities and differences between two subjects. It involves comparing two items in a meaningful way.

These subjects might be closely related or very different. For example, you may be required to compare two government systems or two historical figures.

comparative essay

Comparing two subjects means identifying the aspects they have in common. These are the similarities. On the other hand, Contrasting two subjects mean looking for the differences between them. This type of paper is also known as a comparative analysis essay.

How to start a comparative essay

Writing a correct essay requires you to understand the essay prompt. Producing a comprehensive comparative essay that does not answer the essay prompt can be wasteful.

Make sure you understand the requirements of the essay before you can start working on it. Here are essential steps to follow when beginning the writing process

1.     Carefully read and analyze the essay prompt

Carefully read the essay assignment prompts and, if possible, the rubric. Highlight the critical parts of the prompt and write them down.

Essay prompts often have words like “compare and contrast” or “similarities and difference.” Pay attention to such terms and write them down.

2.     Understand the comparison essay

Some essays may require an evaluation and a presentation of an argument depending on the prompt. Other essays may require a simple comparison and highlighting the differences.

For example, a question might ask you to present an analytical argument after evaluating two subjects. It might also require you to approach the question in a particular manner.

Make sure you read and understand the essay question before working on it. Seek clarification from the instructors if the question is not clear.

3.     Examine the subjects

The purpose of a comparative paper is to show similarities through comparison. When comparing two subjects, it is essential to highlight the differences as well. These differences provide insight into how the two subjects relate to each other.

Examine and identify the similarities and differences of the subjects. Write them down. This list will help in planning and developing your essay.

4.     Examine the list

After examining the subjects and producing a list of aspects, read through it. The list may be having many similarities and differences.

Not all the aspects in this list will be in your essay. Focus on the most significant aspects.

Read the list and find a theme that will help in writing a strong thesis statement. It will also help in writing arguments for the comparative essay.

Consider a comparative essay example of two novels. These novels can focus on settings with particular theme colors. For example, you can look at similarities of locations with purple or grey colors.

5.     Identify the basis for comparison

This is the context of the comparison. It can be part of the assignment prompt, or a writer can come up with it.

Students should carefully read and understand the assignment prompts. This helps to know whether the basis for comparison is provided or not.

For example, a prompt might ask you to “compare and contrast two systems of government.” This is a general question that requires you to find the basis for comparison. 

You can choose to compare the Canadian and Australian governments. That will be your basis for comparison.

Another question might ask you to “compare and contrast the American government and the U.K. government.” This question does not require the extra work of finding a basis for comparison. It is already provided as “American government and U.K. government.”

When performing an analysis, do not choose subjects that are very similar and obvious to the audience. This makes writing an active comparative essay harder.

Performing a comparison between two subjects should provide readers with interesting insights. Make sure the subjects are different enough to make the similarities interesting.

This makes the paper unique and exciting. It captivates the audience, and you also stand to get better grades.

6.     Conduct a research

Perform in-depth research on a selected topic and provide readers with valuable content. Look for reliable information online.

Performing keyword searches helps find relevant information. Look at a comparative essay example and gain the insight you need to write your paper.

Read credible journals, articles, and library books about your topic. This enables you to write a comprehensive paper depending on the assignment prompt provided.

Some essay questions about science topics, history, or social issues require research work.  Other questions might not need any research. Do not research if it is not required.

  1. Gather information and prepare for writing

Select the most significant aspects of the two subjects from the list of similarities and differences you created. Do not pick a lot of elements.

The academic paper may not be able to handle all the similarities and differences. Gather relevant information from the research work as you prepare to start writing.

8.     Develop a comparative essay thesis statement

A strong thesis statement produces solid arguments and a solid comparative essay. Whether the basis for comparison was provided or you came up with it, you need to create a clear and concise thesis.

Express the reasons for comparing two subjects in one or two sentences. This thesis statement should reflect the similarities or differences of the subjects.

A thesis must be connected to your topic. This is a claim that you will defend using arguments in the body section of the paper.

It also guides a writer and helps to keep the writing process on track. Readers can know what your paper is about when they read the thesis statement.

How to write a comparative analysis essay

Comparative essays have unique organizational methods. Identify the method that suits the work you want to produce. The following are comparative essay organization strategies you can consider

1.     Mixed paragraph method

When using this method, the first paragraph of the body section compares the first aspect of subjects A and B. The second paragraph in the body section will likewise compare the second aspect of both subjects A and B.

The third paragraph will compare the third aspect of both subjects A and B. This method continues until all the aspects are addressed.

Ensure the same order of subjects A and B is maintained when making the comparisons. This makes it easier for the readers to follow the analysis.

The mixed-method is best for lengthy essays or complicated subjects. It addresses all the subjects in the same paragraph when handling an aspect.

The author gives an equal amount of attention to each subject. It makes it easier for the author to write and the audience to follow. The audience will always have the comparison in mind.

2.     Block method

This method divides the body section of your comparative essay into two parts. The first part addresses all the aspects of subject A. The second part of the body section addresses all aspects of subject B.

When addressing the first subject, A, arrange all the aspects in a particular order. When addressing the second subject B, ensure the same order used in subject A is applied. This eliminates confusion, and an audience can easily follow the analysis.

The block method is best for writing short and simple essays that an audience can remember quickly. It is a risky method compared to other organizing strategies.

When analyzing the subjects, an author might focus on one subject more than the other. This can make the analysis skewed to one subject.

3.     Alternating method

The alternating method means that one paragraph discusses an aspect of one subject. For example, the first paragraph will discuss the first aspect of subject A. The second paragraph will discuss the same aspect concerning subject B.

The third paragraph will discuss the second aspect of subject A. The fourth paragraph will discuss the same element but concerning subject B.

 The alternating method continues until all the aspects are thoroughly discussed. It is vital to ensure the same order of discussion is adhered to in all the paragraphs.

This organizing method is suitable for essays that require depth and are detailed. The discussions within the paragraphs are clear and precise. Consider alternating methods when handling two topics that are very different.

How to write a comparative essay

Writing a comparative essay requires planning before you can start. Perform a preliminary search and choose the best way to present information.  

After collecting all the information, structure them logically using an outline. This is a roadmap that shows a writer how to organize work. Here is how to write an excellent comparative essay.

Create a comparative essay outline

An outline helps to organize a comparative essay logically from start to finish. The major parts of this type of essay are similar to other essays.

The structure should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and end the discussion with a conclusion. When creating an outline, you can decide to start with a different section instead of the introduction.

Write the introduction last after understanding the direction your paper is taking. Do not forget to develop a thesis statement before starting the writing process.

The thesis is what provides a theme for the paper and guides a writer. Make sure it comes first.

1.     Writing a body paragraph

Start writing the body paragraph first. This is the heaviest part of your comparative essay. Write all the information you have discovered in the research work in a meaningful way.

Select the best organizing method for your work. Analyze your subjects using the alternating method, mixed paragraph method, or bock method.

Countercheck the instructor’s instructions and confirm the requirements of the paper.  Writing the body paragraph first will give you an idea of the direction of your writing.

2.     Writing a conclusion

Write the concluding paragraph after the body paragraphs. This paragraph should restate the thesis statement. Paraphrase it, so it does not look and sound like the one in the introduction section.

3.     Writing an introduction

Write your introduction last. An introduction should be captivating enough to grab the attention of readers. It should motivate them to read the entire essay.

After writing the body paragraphs and the conclusion, you can select a suitable hook for the introduction. Start the first line of a comparative essay with a rhetoric question, a quote, anecdote, statistic, or an interesting fact.

The following one or two sentences should provide background information—close this paragraph with a thesis statement. The thesis should express a central message in one or two sentences.

When writing a comparative essay for the first time, you can look at a comparative essay introduction example online. This will provide insight into writing the best introduction for your comparative essay assignment

An outline is a great organizing tool for your work. It orders your thoughts and makes workflow seamlessly from start to finish. This is how your comparative essay structure should look like

1.     Create an engaging title

The first part of any paper that readers encounter is the title. Write an interesting and engaging title that will lure readers to the introduction of the paper.

Make sure the title is informative and connected to the topic of the essay. Take time to research and craft the best title for your paper.

2.     Comparative essay introduction

The first paragraph introduces the topic of the essay and the thesis statement. It is the face of your essay.

It should be attractive enough to encourage readers to read on. Make it meaningful and provide relevant background information. It should give a glimpse of what the essay is all about clearly and concisely.

3.     Body paragraphs

The body paragraph is where you defend your claim with credible evidence and relevant examples. Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence. This sentence introduces the reader to the discussion.

Subsequent sentences are discussions about the aspects of what you are comparing.

Here is where you write the similarities and differences between subjects A and B.

Provide support for the arguments. Present enough information in this section to make the comparative analysis meaningful. Information should not be too much or too little.

Every paragraph should end with a concluding sentence. This sentence ends the discussion of a particular paragraph as it connects it to the thesis statement. It also transitions a reader smoothly to the next paragraph.

4.     Comparative essay conclusion

The final paragraph of a comparative essay highlights the main points of the analysis. It provides an overview of what has been discussed in the body section of the paper.

After restating the thesis statement, give a conclusion based on the similarities and differences of the subjects. Do not give your personal preferences.

The last sentence of the concluding paragraph should bring the discussion to a close with a sense of finality. It should be impactful and memorable.

5.     References and formatting

Provide references for quotes used in the paper and correctly cite sources for evidence and examples. This helps to avoid plagiarism issues.

Check the instructions provided and correctly format the references. There are various formatting styles to consider.

Your professor might have mentioned some of the standard formats when teaching comparative essay writing.  They are MLA, Chicago, and APA formats.

You can check some samples and see how these formats are applied.  Follow the provided instruction so that you can get full marks in this section.

Edit and proofread your comparative essay

When the writing process is complete, take a one-day break from your work. This will help clear the mind before starting the editing and proofreading process.

Come back after the break and read your comparative essay. Take note of every mistake that you come across and make corrections.

Check the examples and evidence provided and ensures they are appropriate. Make sure the paragraphs are coherent and the writing flows seamlessly from one point to the next.

Check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure. Make all the corrections.

Proofreading software can help correct issues of grammar and spelling mistakes faster. Consider using it for better results.

Request a trusted friend or family member to help proofread the essay. A fresh pair of eyes can see mistakes that you might not be able to see.

Listen and take note of their suggestions. Evaluate their ideas and incorporate them into your writing.

Read through the writing one more time to confirm it is well written and thoroughly polished. When everything is in order, hit the submit button.

Comparative essay topics

When writing a comparative essay, there are many topic ideas you can select. This includes a commemorative speech topic list.

In most cases, a topic or a list of essay prompts will be provided for the essay. Other times you might be required to research and select a topic for your paper. Here is what to consider when selecting topics to write about.

1.     Select an interesting topic

Choose a unique and interesting topic. This should be an idea you are passionate about. An interesting topic will motivate you to research, learn and write a well-researched paper.

When a writer is motivated, the writing is interesting, valuable, and informative. The audience will be intrigued, and they will enjoy reading the entire paper.

A unique and interesting comparative essay will impress your instructor. This increases the possibility of getting a better grade.

Avoid picking popular topics that most of your classmates are likely to choose. Writing a popular topic makes it hard for any essay to stand out.

2.     Brainstorm topic ideas

Perform a keyword search and create a list of good topic ideas. Check online databases and various library books for interesting topics.

Look at the list of topics from the research work and select the most interesting idea. Perform a quick search and find out if it has sufficient information. The information should not be too little.

3.     Narrow down the topic

After identifying a specific topic, narrow it down. A comparative essay assignment has a particular word limit. Check the instructions provided to confirm the length of the paper.

A broad topic will not fit in this type of academic paper. It is essential to have a narrow topic and make your writing focused. This will help produce a focused thesis statement and arguments.

It also brings clarity and organization to the writing work. The following are informal essay topics students can brainstorm and write about

Compare and contrast the two main political parties in the U.S.

Compare and contrast the education system in the U.S and the education system in the U.K

Compare and contrast Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X

Compare and contrast the health care system in America and the health care system in the U.K

Compare two sports teams that you like

Compare the government system in the U.S and the government system in the U.K

Compare and contrast two political leaders that you admire in your country

Compare your two favorite novels

Compare two car models that you like

Compare and contrast two software applications in your smartphone

Compare and contrast two business models

Key takeaway

A comparative essay aims to find similarities and differences between various subjects. This provides readers with insights and valuable information about the subject.

Make sure your comparative essay is meaningful to your readers and the field you are working on.  Writing a successful comparative paper requires a proper understanding of what it entails.

Preparation is vital to producing quality work. Select the correct organizing method and structure your work properly.

This will avoid confusion and allow readers to follow the analysis easily. To learn more about writing comparative essays, contact us.


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