Stephanie Wong Ken holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University. The authors of this article cited 12 references, which can be found at the bottom of the page. Compare and contrast essays are often assigned to students because they promote critical thinking, analytical reasoning and organized writing. A compare and contrast essay should look at a subject in a new way, with fresh insight, using the similarities and the differences between two topics or two perspectives on one topic. Understand the structure of a compare and contrast essay.
Most compare and contrast essays bring one or both subjects into sharper focus, lead to a new way of viewing something, or show that one subject is better than the other. To compare and contrast effectively, your essay should make new connections or distinctions between two subjects. Make a list of similarities and differences. Take out a piece of paper or start a new document on a word processor. Create two columns for each subject for the similarities and and two columns for each subject for the differences between each subject.
For example: Two separate lists for the similarities between cats and dogs, and the differences between cats and dogs. Think about at least one or two meaningful differences and similarities between the two subjects. For example, a compare and contrast between abortion rights could lead to meaningful notes like: The pro-life stance views fetuses are full formed humans and are often based in religious beliefs, while the pro-choice stance views fetuses as undeveloped eggs and are often based in scientific beliefs.
For example, for the abortion rights topic, you may choose categories like: legal details, women’s rights, scientific stance, and religious beliefs. You can then separate each item on the list into these categories. Create a Venn diagram of your topic.
Take out a piece of paper and draw two large overlapping circles, one for each subject or item. In the center area where the two circles overlap, list the traits the two items have in common.