Let’s speak honestly: you had particular expectations enrolling in college or university life. American movies show it from the best side, with regular parties, hanging out with friends, travels, and adventures. However, there is the second side of the coin, where you need to study a lot if you want to keep your academic performance decent.
Regardless of the major you choose, you need to deal with various writing assignments. The essay is the most common of them. You may know this critical essay format from middle school, but the more educated you become, the more complicated your homework is. One day you may be assigned a compare and contrast essay, and it is pretty challenging.
Don’t worry, though, since we have already prepared many useful tips to help you. Our authors remember their student times, and they know precisely how important support can be.
Table Of Contents:
- What is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
- Comparison/Contrast in Writing Assignments
- What You Can Compare
- Main Goal of Compare and Contrast Essay
- Writing Steps of Compare and Contrast Essay
- Types of Structure You Can Adhere To
- Creative Topics For Your Paper of Compare And Contrast
What is a Compare and Contrast Essay?
Your first task is to understand the assignment correctly. You can’t just write from your head, there are particular requirements to follow.
So, it is an academic paper proposed to analyze similarities or differences between some objects. At first glance, the task seems very easy. You can say that the sun and the pan are round, what is the difficulty? But again, the more educated you become, the more exciting challenges you should face.
Some similarities and differences are not obvious. You may think that Europe and the USA's history is absolutely different, but if you start researching, you’ll find a lot of information that will surprise you.
Crafting a compare and contrast essay is a task that needs research, analytical, critical thinking, and creative skills. It is precisely the situation when if something looks too easy, you should always dive deeper. Forget about common middle school essays, you should be more professional at the college- or university level.
Comparison/Contrast in Writing Assignments
Sometimes your professor provides you with pretty understandable expectations. You just need to read the instructions and find words like “compare”, “contrast”, “find similarities”, ‘find differences” to get the point.
Looking at the following examples, you can easily understand that there are compare and contrast essay topics for college students.
- Compare and contrast UK and USA political systems;
- Identify similarities that WWI and WWII have, including causes and outcomes.
- Contrast Harward and Columbia Universities: what are the major differences in these educational institutions?
Notice that your professor may ask you only for comparison or vice versa, and sometimes one can ask you for both.
There may also be situations when it is not easy to tell whether your instructions are asking you to include comparison or contrast. For example, when the topic looks like this: “Choose three poets of the Modernist period, and consider how they contributed their era”.
What You Can Compare
As you can see in the previous paragraph, there are no concrete words, but you may understand that you need to compare these three poets and their contributions. The opposite situation is when your task looks like “Write a compare and contrast essay”. And that’s it. It means you should choose the topic yourself, and therefore you need to define two or more subjects to write about.
Choosing the topic, it is crucial to focus on things related to the material you’ve covered in the class. For example, if you study history, it is a great idea to write about historical events or personas. Biology students can compare creationism and evolution theories, and so on. It is also essential to choose the topic you’re interested in. If you know everything about modernist poets, the task will be tedious for you. Challenge yourself, and overcome it decently.
Choosing the subjects to compare or contrast, ask yourself several questions.
Historical Periods Or Events
- When did these historical events occur? Are concrete dates defined? What are the meanings of each of these periods?
- Who were the people involved in these events? Are there some witnesses? What kind of work did participants or observers do? Why is their opinion significant?
- What countries were involved? What types of governments? What are the relationships between them?
- What are the causes of these events? What are the consequences?
- What is your opinion about these events? What is the common belief in your society?
- What are these ideas about?
- Who are their authors? When did they leave?
- Who uses or defends these theories these days?
- Are these theories related to some particular period, or they are timeless?
- What is the central point of each theory? What do they suggest?
- How can you apply these theories to yourself, people, different situations?
- Which seems more ambitious, plausible? How are they broad?
- What kind of evidence do defenders usually offer?
- What are the weaknesses of these theories?
Pieces of Art
- Who are their authors? When were they created? What is their background?
- What do these pieces depict or describe?
- What kind of mood do they emit? What themes address?
- Is it possible to say that one of them is of better quality than the other(s)? How can you support this opinion?
- If these are books, what type of narration, characters, plot, literary devices are used?
- Are these pieces famous? Valuable?
- Who are these people? Are they alive or not? What are their natural characteristics (age, gender, race, etc.)?
- What are they known for? Are they world-famous or locally recognized?
- What is your attitude?
- What did/do these people do? What is their mindset, beliefs? Why are they a reason for discussion?
- What is the scope of their influence?
- What are the strong and weak points of these people?
- How are they connected? Are there any relationships between these people?
All these questions are exemplary. The important thing you should understand: critical thinking always includes questioning. Try to find as many similarities and differences as possible.
Main Goal of Compare and Contrast Essay
Whatever assignment you get, it is important to understand it correctly. It goes about the task itself, and the expectations of your professor in particular.
Don’t perceive a compare and contrast essay as just another paper you should write. Think of it as a challenge that will help you become better. It develops several skills at the same time:
The more you write, the easier it becomes to structure the text, develop engaging titles and hooks, experiment with literary devices, etc.
You can write a basic paper just from your head, but the research is necessary if you want to create an A-grade piece. You’ll look for information, decide which sources are trustworthy and which ones are not, get access to databases, and so on.
It is easy to find any information you need these days, but it is not an essential ability. What is much more important is to analyze the data you have. And it is what you do when you’re looking for similarities and differences between some subjects.
Critical Thinking Skills
You can choose the shortest way and adhere to some common beliefs and stereotypes, but it will be much more efficient if you prefer another approach. For example, people often compare famous dictators, analyzing their children's habits. You can mention them in your paper, but without making them the cornerstone. Think of other similarities you can write about.
And when you think out of the box, you develop new ideas that can make your essay outstanding. That’s why it is not recommended to read too many samples, you need to teach your brain to generate new thoughts.
Writing Steps of Compare and Contrast Essay
When you deal with any writing assignment or other homework, it is vital to organize the whole process. The time-management is an essential skill regardless of your major, course, current discipline, etc. You will regularly use it during the studies and after education.
The second important skill is the ability to organize yourself. It is straightforward to succumb to different temptations and get distracted from your tasks. However, if you try to keep control, you’ll succeed with it.
Once you’ve read the assignment instructions and understood them, you should plan your schedule. Define several steps and set deadlines. For example, you have a task “to outline the paper”, and you know that you have 2 hours for it on Monday. Your next task may be “to write an introduction”, and you allocate an hour on Tuesday morning. Such a schedule keeps you organized and prevents the situation when you are overwhelmed by the intensive workload.
Choose Two Subjects
If you were not assigned a particular topic, you should come up with it. Think of different subjects but still in the same league to create an exciting and intriguing compare and contrast paper. For example, if you want to compare two persons, it would be better to choose two great politicians. It doesn’t make sense if you go with a politician and a footballer. However, who knows? Maybe you have a great idea and are ready to conduct research and find the evidence to support your suggestions? Don’t hesitate to experiment if your professor is ok with it. So, what subjects can you choose?
- Mathematically-minded and Humanities-minded people;
- Democrats and Conservators;
- Orthodox and Islam;
- Millennials and Baby-boomers;
- Renaissance and Modernism;
- Vegetarians and Meat-lovers;
- Gas cars and Electric cars;
- Careerists and Couch potatoes;
- Barack Obama and Theodor Roosevelt;
- Alaska and Hawaiian;
- John Lennon and Ossy Osborne.
Understand Their Similarities and Differences
Now, when you have chosen the best of the discussion essay topics or created a shortlist with the options you like the most, you can create two lists. The first one will include similarities and the second one differences. Below in this article, you can find several tips to organize this process, depending on the mindset type. For example, visual people can benefit from a Venn diagram.
You can use a brainstorming technique to come up with fresh ideas. Switch your smartphone off, concentrate on the subjects you have, and think about something they have in common and vice versa. Don’t be disappointed if you come up with something pretty obvious. It is normal, and you just need to free up your brain. The one more reason why you should plan your time and make pauses between different tasks is that you can generate new ideas suddenly, e.g., when you’re taking a shower.
Define the Main Argument
If you’re writing an essay for a middle school, you can provide a paper with a listing of similarities and differences along with a short, interesting explanation. But the excellent college- or university level paper goes beyond it.
Look at your list or diagram, and think of what strikes you as necessary? What do these features say about the subject? That will be your thesis statement or the main argument. You will provide it in your introduction to help readers understand the critical point of your paper. Use an argumentative thesis statement template to formulate a winning phrase. It should be brief but sweet.
Structure Your Future Essay
Read an academic paper, any fiction or nonfiction book, an article, etc., and you will see that all of them have a structure. It is the backbone of the documents, something that you build your text around. You can choose different options to structure the piece.
For example, many students prefer to write about one subject and then switch to the other. Let’s say you’re preparing a paper about Mathematically-minded and Humanities-minded people. You could write two paragraphs about specific points for people with a mathematical mindset (they tend to be more accurate, logical, objective) and some that they share with the second group (they are capable of generating new ideas). Then you would focus on people with a humanities mindset in the next section. (They usually don’t use patterns and follow their intuition).
Understanding the structure of your future paper, create an outline with all sections and subsections.
Create a Supporting Evidence
As you start to write your paper, support your assumptions with the evidence you’ve found during the research or personal experience. It depends on the topic. For example, if you’re comparing and contrasting a cup and a mug, or cats and dogs, you can write about yourself and your friends. You can also use stories from your life writing about some people, pieces of art, events that influenced you and your loved ones. But you should also provide facts, stats, quotes to support your assertions. For example, if you say that democrats and conservators have fundamentally different political views, you need evidence to prove your words.
One more important thing is that your points and evidence should be related to the thesis statement. Don’t write about political views if your main argument was that democrats and conservators have the same education level on average. Read a couple of college essays that worked to see how other students overcome this task.
Proofread the Paper
Planning your writing schedule, don’t forget about proofreading. Some students skip it while others decide to rewrite all the paper from scratch. Both of these approaches are too radical, and you just need to read your final draft several times. Make sure it meets all instructions, doesn’t contain any mistakes or typos. All your sentences should be clear.
Remember that one grade doesn’t define you, and your academic performance. Ask for help if you need it, but don’t let the task bother you too much. Student life should be challenging but interesting, so make the most of this assignment.
Types of Structure You Can Adhere To
Though the educational system is pretty standardized, each student is a unique person. It means that there are no non-talented people who cannot write, structure the paper, and so on. If you continuously feel some difficulties, it is a signal that you need another approach.
Some people are organized by nature. They always have a notebook at hand, meet all deadlines, create flawless documents with ease. But they feel bad when they need to think out of the box. And some people prefer chaos. They are very creative and gush with ideas. Of course, it is not so easy to be organized in this case.
So, we want to offer you three efficient methods to structure your paper. Choose one of them, or stick to the option you prefer more. But don’t ignore this aspect since it can affect your grade.
There is no need to address things one subject at a time. You can divide several points of comparison and alternate them.
For example, if you’re dealing with two restaurants, create 3 sections. The first one is to compare their location, the second one is about the menu, and the third one is about the atmosphere. Suppose you have more space and more information about each of the restaurants. In that case, you can devote one paragraph to the A restaurant's location, then write the second paragraph about the B restaurant location, the third one about the A restaurant menu, and so on.
This method is beneficial if you need a visualization. Simply draw two circles (or more, if you need to compare and contrast more subjects). Write traits that these subjects share in the overlapping space and note traits that differ separately.
This approach helps you to organize information. Just glance at your diagram, and you’ll quickly remember what to write about.
This approach provides students with a successful writing pattern to follow. It has a clear structure and helps you to organize the piece.
Firstly, take the first subject from your topic, and describe it in the first section. Then, you can proceed to the second paragraph with another issue.
The block structure is used when you deal with a common five-paragraph essay. However, you need just four to go. Start with an introduction, explaining the meaning of this comparison and its importance. Then, write a body with two blocks, and make your conclusions in the last section.
Creative Topics For Your Paper of Compare And Contrast
Coming up with the right topic is the most challenging task sometimes. We are ready to help you with it!
Writing a paper, don’t hesitate to look for professional help regardless of the stage you’re currently in. Modern students are fortunate since they can learn from other people’s experiences just online. Whether you need good advice, a creative topic idea, or even a paper written from scratch, you can get it with ease.
So, let’s see at some friendly topic options to get inspired by:
Educational Essay Topics:
- School vs. College vs. University: What is the real difference?
- Students who work vs. students who have fun: Choosing the right approach.
- Argumentative essay and Narrative essay: What task is the most difficult?
- The comparison of the educational systems in the USA and the UK.
- Who studies better: introverts or extraverts?
- Textbooks vs e-books.
- How are the Master’s degree and Ph.D. similar?
- Remote Learning or School-based education?
Political and Historical Topics:
- Washington and Lincoln: comparison of great leaders’ ideas;
- American Government vs. the Canadian Government.
- What is similar and different between the US and the UK political systems?
- King Louis XIV vs Henry VIII.
- Can Fascism be equated with Nazism?
- Did WWI and WWII have other causes?
- Who was the best American President? The comparison of top-5 candidates.
- Compare orange and grapefruit.
- Winter and summer: advantages each season has.
- What makes humans completely different from chimpanzees?
- Coffee and other energy drinks and their effects.
- Feeling in love against friendly feelings.
- Similarities and differences between European and Asian traditional dishes.
- Resting by the sea or trekking in the mountains?
Internet Social Media Topics
- E-mail or traditional letters: what is the best way to communicate?
- Traditional vs. Digital marketing.
- Is it better to build relationships in real-life than online?
- Choosing between a laptop or a smartphone.
- The Economist or Forbes?
- Instagram or Twitter: Which social network is more popular?
- Working remotely vs. working in the office.
- Is it easier to make new friends online?