How to Write a Comparative Essay: A Comprehensive Guide

As we go on with our lives, we can’t help but constantly compare and link various elements in our environment. Be it a newly opened restaurant, a freshly released movie, or a fashion trend, the comparison with previous experiences or items is inevitable. We always try to find the differences and alterations between the two subjects and automatically seize them up with one another. 

So, when during college life, students are assigned to craft a comparative essay, it may seem pretty easy and natural at first. Because what’s so difficult in comparing two specific samples, right? In ordinary everyday life, casually making comparisons is indeed something that doesn’t hinder any difficulty. However, the situation can entirely change within the academic territory, where as a rule, at critical moments, the natural ability to compare vacates most of the students. Where to start? What elements to compare? Which writing style and format to use? How to structure the paper? These and other similar questions will be stuck in a student’s head, blocking the way of creative thinking. 

To help overcome this common dilemma, we’ve put together a detailed and informative guide that will walk you through the steps of constructing the perfect comparative essay. So, check it out if you want to find effective tips on structuring your paper’s outline, what to include in the content, and, more importantly, how to go about it. 

What is a Comparative Essay: Definition 

Before you take on the writing, you should have a full understanding of what a comparative essay is. So let’s explore together.

A comparative essay is a piece of academic writing where you compare at least two or more items with the same relation in terms of differences and similarities.

This type of essay is primarily about comparing and contrasting different aspects of the subjects included in the question. In this context, comparing is to find the similarities between the samples, while contrasting is to present their differences. 

The core purpose of the comparative essay is to:

  • Highlight the differences and similarities in a systematic manner.
  • Analyze two specific things and showcase their advantages and drawbacks.
  • Provide great clarity of the topic to the audience. 

Comparative essays can cover almost any topic on earth as long as there is some connection between the chosen subjects.

How to Start a Comparative Essay

In order to grab the pen and fill the white sheet of paper with quality writing, it’s essential to keep track of some core steps. So, we have gathered the key phases that you should follow to start your comparative essay in a professional manner. Let’s have a look.

#1 Carefully Read the Instructions 

Before starting to write, you have to analyze the given question or essay prompt carefully. It will help you stay organized and avoid unrelated things that don’t match the instructions. Also, don’t forget to check whether any limits are placed on your topic.

#2 Pick a Topic

The most vital step in writing a comparative paper is to choose a suitable and actual topic. Pick a theme or topic that is interesting to write about and appeals to the readers. A captivating essay topic motivates the audience to keep reading and know more about the subject. 

#3 Create a Thesis Statement

The soul and driving power of your comparative essay is the thesis statement. It’s the part that can decide whether or not your paper will succeed. 

The thesis statement should be clear and concise, determining whether the differences, on the whole, dominate the similarities or vice versa. So, when making a statement, ensure it covers the entire essay and represents the main core of the subject.

#4 Create a List of Similarities and Differences

Developing a list of similarities and differences between the two samples you want to include in the essay is the next important thing to do. Such a list helps you to build the base of your comparison by drafting your initial plan.

#5 Establish the Basis for Manual Comparison

You need a solid and unshakable ground for your paper, so it’s necessary to establish a good basis for comparison. In most cases, you can follow the instructions or requirements given to you in the prompt. 

Also, the comparison essay’s primary goal is to deliver something interesting to the reader. It means that your topic must be unique and attractive to make your argument interesting.

#6 Do Research

This is the stage where you need to gather all crucial information and materials for your essay. However, always ensure you gather data from credible and trustworthy sources and cite them properly in writing.

Comparative Essay Structure 

A good and quality comparative essay mainly depends on how well you structure your paper. A well-organized structure helps the reader understand your essay better and avoid being lost in messy paragraphs. In some cases, the structure is even more important than what you write. Therefore, it is crucial to organize your essay in a way so that the reader can go through the comparisons made in an essay without any difficulties. 

In academic writing guidelines, you can find two main methods in which it’s recommended to organize your comparative essay. So let’s have a look.

Point-by-Point Method

This method, also known as the alternating method, gives a detailed overview of the samples you are comparing. In this method, you should organize items regarding differences and similarities.

Here is the structure of the point-by-point method you can follow:

  • Introductory Part
  • Body Paragraphs
  1. Paragraph 1: Point 1 (Items A and B)
  2. Paragraph 2: Point 2 (Items A and B)
  3. Paragraph 3: Point 3 (Items A and B)
  • Conclusion.

The point-by-point option makes it easier for the writer to handle two different essay subjects. This option is recommended mostly for cases where more depth and details are required.

Block Method

The block method is simpler and easier than the point-by-point method. Here, you need to divide the information and data you have in terms of special parameters. It means that the first paragraph should compare the first subject and all its specifics, then the second one should compare the second, and so on.

Here is the structure of an essay that uses the block method.

  • Introduction
  • Body Paragraphs
  1. Paragraph 1: Item A (Points 1, 2, and 3)
  2. Paragraph 2: Item B (Points 1, 2, and 3)
  • Conclusion.

Also, it’s important to write the subject in the same particular order. This method is perfect for lengthy essays and complicated topics.

Mixed Paragraphs Method

The next method you can use when writing a comparative essay is called the mixed paragraphs method. Here the algorithm is very simple: one paragraph explains one aspect of the topic. This method is quite a good option as it lets you give equal attention to each subject and help the audience to identify the point of comparison easily.

How to Create a Comparative Essay Outline

An outline is vital for writing your comparative essay without going off track. By having the right direction and plan, you can make sure all the essential information and data are at hand and minimize the chance of forgetting some key aspects of your topic. 

Here, the structure and organization of the outline are quite similar to the traditional essay outline. It consists of 3 main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Each of them should have a clear message and match the required formatting style.

Comparative Essay Introduction 

The introduction is the opening part of an essay; therefore, it should be as interesting and informative as possible to grab the reader’s attention. It must identify the subject of your focus in a concise way and ensure it’s captivating enough to impress the audience and make them go on with reading. 

The introductory part of your essay should include the key statement of your paper, introduce the topic you are discussing, and map out the entire structure of the writing.

Comparative Essay Body

The body of a comparative essay is the core part that should give the reader everything they want to know about the subject under discussion. 

You need the following essentials for writing effective essay body paragraphs.

  • The topic sentence should be placed at the start of the writing.
  • Each point of comparison is introduced in a separate paragraph.
  • The essay body should have at least three paragraphs depending on your picked subject and requirements. 
  • The use of different transition words within and between the paragraphs is a must.
  • Each paragraph should contain clear and meaningful information.
  • The last part of the paragraph should cover a low-level conclusion.

Also, each paragraph should be to the point and clearly explain the described topic.

Comparative Essay Conclusion 

In this section of your essay, you can restate the thesis statement and summarize the key points of the subject. Also, point out the significance of comparing the given subjects. When writing a conclusion, it’s essential to avoid giving unnecessary information. Instead, keep it as short and compact as possible. 

Comparative Essay Format

Universities and colleges are real perfectionists when it comes to formatting and writing styles. This may seem like a source of anxiety for many students. However, academic writing should be consistent across disciplines to aid instructors in efficiently referencing work and applying it to their studies. 

You may be required to write a paper in MLA or APA format for a comparative essay, depending on your course and educational institution. So, before starting your writing, make sure to check the instructions and requirements and follow the format mentioned in your assignment. Based on the given format, you will need to keep some rules and styles characteristic of that type of writing. 

Writing a Comparative Essay: Key Elements to Success

Any good comparative essay has some essential elements and steps behind its success. That’s why to craft an essay that can compete with professional ones, it’s vital to follow the key tips and strategies mentioned below.

Carefully Selected Items

A strong and quality comparative paper should have well-chosen subjects for comparison. If the samples appear to be picked for no apparent reason, or if the topic under comparison does not, in fact, give enough insight, then the essay can be pretty weak or even pointless.

Such an essay doesn’t require you to make an argument in favor of one item or another. Instead, it aims to produce insight and give knowledge about the two subjects under comparison. In order to compare and contrast samples in an effective way, the chosen subjects must be different enough from each other. Still, at the same time, the difference should not reach the absurdity level, where you don’t have anything to compare at all. 

Effectively Picked Parameters for Comparison

A good comparative essay should include not only well-chosen items but also carefully picked parameters for comparison. In theory, you can make an endless number of comparisons between any two items.

However,  a good essay points out parameters of comparative in terms of prominence or the reasons why the reader should be interested in the topic in the first place.

Strong Organizational Structure

The final element you need to pay close attention to if you want your comparative essay to be a success is the structure of your writing. This is because an excellent comparison should be easy for a reader to follow and catch up. It can’t just randomly jump all over the place, causing confusion and resulting in the reader forgetting what the key point of the topic was in the first place.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, writing a comparative essay can be quite easy and simple if you follow a systematic way of doing and organizing things. Just map out a good outline, determine the key points of your comparison, draft a structure and build your writing without any hassling issues or difficulties. 


How Do You Start a Comparative Essay? 

Choosing the topic and items for comparison is the key step in starting a comparative essay writing process. Pick a topic, make a well-organized outline, check out the requirements, create a thesis statement and build your core content around it. Also, don’t forget about a meaningful and informative concluding section.

What Are The 5 Steps of Writing a Comparative Essay?

The main steps to writing an exceptional comparative essay are the following:

  1. Pick a compare-and-contrast subject.
  2. Find and note down core similarities and differences. 
  3. Research for supporting details and material.
  4. Outline the main concepts of your essay. 
  5. Build your paper on the collected information. 

What Makes a Good Comparative Essay?

A serious approach to the topic, well-organized structure, proper formatting, to-the-point comparisons and arguments, and good insight are the key factors determining whether your comparative essay will succeed or not. 

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Margaret Vizenor
Sociology & Literature
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