How to Structure a Compare and Contrast Essay - The Two Most Common Ways

How to Structure a Compare and Contrast Essay - The Two Most Common Ways
Many students think of the compare and contrast essay as one of the easiest assignments to complete. But don't be fooled, numerous compare and contrast essays fail due to poor structure. This quick guide will help you structure your compare and contrast essay in the right way.
Here are two of the most common and safe ways of structuring your compare and contrast essay:

1. The subject-by-subject structure

2. The point-by-point structure

The subject-by-subject structure

Step 1: Start out stating everything you have to say about the first topic in a subdivision of its own. This subdivision can be one or more paragraphs - depending on the topic of the essay and the length.

Step 2: Move on to a new subdivision where you put forward all the comments you have on the second topic of the compare and contrast essay. The second topic should also be in a subdivision of its own consisting of one or more paragraphs.

Step 3: Analyze and compare both topics at the same time - once again, this subdivision may consist of one or more paragraphs depending on complexity and length.

Tip:

If this is the approach you choose, you should be careful not to end up simply stating facts about the two topics and comparing them - that wont impress your professor. Assume an analytical approach, reflect on similarities and differences, and state why these are important.

The point-by-point structure

Step 1- 3:

Instead of addressing one topic at a time, you take one point of contrast/comparison at a time and treat both topics. Using this approach, each point should have its own subdivision under which you treat both topics. In the conclusion, you pick up on your analysis and the observations you've made.

Tip:

Remember, when you use the point-by-point structure, the last point you present is the one that your reader will be left with. For this reason it makes sense to finish off with the most crucial point - the point you are trying to make. If you are making the case that topic A is better than topic B, you should finish off by presenting the strongest argument in favor of topic A.

Examples:

Subject-by-subject compare and contrast essay structure

I. Introduction

II. Topic A

Point 1,2,3, etc.

III. Topic B

Point 1,2,3, etc.

IV. Conclusion

Point-by-point compare and contrast essay structure

I. Introduction

II. First point to compare/contrast

Topic A

Topic B

III. Second point to compare/contrast

Topic A

Topic B

IV. Third point to compare/contrast

Topic A

Topic B

V. Conclusion

A few tips for selecting topics

In order to have something to compare/contrast, you must choose topics with basic similarities. You won't get far with two completely unrelated topics. You could choose to write your essay on: two Greek philosophers, two books on the same topic, two different approaches to weight training, etc.

Do a brainstorm when you have an idea for your two topics and scribble down all the points you can think of to compare/contrast. Go through the raw list and select the points that make for the best discussion.

There's a lot of inspiration to be found in reading compare and contrast essays from other students. This exercise will help you identify elements that work as well as ones that don't.

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