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10 Great Essay Writing Tips
Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.
Prepare to Answer the Question
Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.
Plan Your Essay
Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.
Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable
You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.
View It as a Conversation
Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.
Provide the Context in the Introduction
If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.
Explain What Needs to be Explained
Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.
Answer All the Questions
After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.
Stay Focused as You Write
Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.
Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread
When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.
Avoid Filling the Page with Words
A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.
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80 Intriguing Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for Kids and Teens
Android vs. iPhone? Capitalism vs. communism? Hot dog vs. taco?
In compare and contrast essays , writers show the similarities and differences between two things. They combine descriptive writing with analysis, making connections and showing dissimilarities. Remind students that in this type of writing, they’re not necessarily trying to sway the reader to one opinion or another—they’re just presenting and analyzing facts. These compare and contrast essay topics will give them plenty of practice.
- School and Life Essay Topics
- Entertainment Essay Topics
- History and Politics Essay Topics
- Just for Fun Essay Topics
School and Life Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Public and private schools
- Online school and in-person school
- Any two schools or colleges
- Going to college vs. starting work full-time
- Working your way through college as you go or taking out student loans
- Parents and grandparents
- Elementary school and high school
- Learning to read vs. learning to write
- The importance of any two school subjects
- Wearing glasses vs. having braces
- You and your best friend
- Friendship vs. romantic love
- Group work and individual work
- Only child vs. having siblings
- Nature vs. nurture
- Anxiety and depression
- Old friends and new friends
- Your teacher vs. your parent/guardian
- Car ownership and public transportation
- Learning to ride a bike vs. learning to drive a car
Entertainment Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- iPhone vs. Android
- Instagram vs. Twitter (or choose any other two social media platforms)
- Xbox vs. PlayStation
- Any two sports, like American football vs. soccer
- Cooking at home and dining out
- A movie based on a book and the book it was based on
- Reading and watching TV
- Opera music and pop music (or any two music genres)
- Vegetarian and vegan
- Giving and receiving gifts
- Going to a play vs. going to a movie
- Playing a video game and watching a movie
- Horse racing vs. NASCAR
- Laptop vs. tablet
- Sprint vs. marathon
- Poetry and rap music
- Ping-Pong vs. tennis
- DC vs. Marvel
- Netflix and YouTube
- Shopping online and shopping in person
History and Politics Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Capitalism vs. communism
- Socialism vs. communism
- Monarchy/dictatorship and democracy
- Two political candidates in a current race
- Spanish flu pandemic vs. COVID-19 pandemic
- World War I and World War II
- American pioneers vs. first space explorers
- Gen X vs. Gen Z
- Abraham Lincoln vs. Barack Obama (or any other two presidents)
- Any two U.S. states
- Any two historic eras
- Queen Elizabeth I vs. Queen Elizabeth II
- Republicans and Democrats
- Hitler and Stalin
- The first airplane flight vs. the first manned spaceflight
- American president vs. U.K. prime minister
- Fox News vs. CNN
- Legislative branch and executive branch and/or judicial branch
- Equality and equity
- Elected politicians vs. lobbyists
Just for Fun Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Dogs vs. cats as pets
- Paper books or e-books
- Hot dogs vs. tacos
- Summer and winter
- Fall and spring
- Big Mac vs. Whopper
- Coke vs. Pepsi
- Chocolate shake vs. hot chocolate
- Any two superheroes or villains
- Mondays and Fridays
- Mornings vs. evenings
- First day of school vs. last day of school
- Christmas vs. birthdays
- Hurricane vs. tornado
- Birthday as a kid and birthday as an adult
- Going barefoot vs. wearing shoes
- Appetizers and desserts
- Phone calls and texting
- Pants vs. skirts
- Electric cars vs. gas-powered cars
What are some of your favorite compare and contrast essay topics? Come share your prompts on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .
Plus, check out the big list of essay topics for high school (100+ ideas).
Jill Staake is a Contributing Editor with WeAreTeachers. She has a degree in Secondary English Education and has taught in middle and high school classrooms. She's also done training and curriculum design for a financial institution and been a science museum educator. She currently lives in Tampa, Florida where she often works on her back porch while taking frequent breaks for bird-watching and gardening.
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Scaffolding a Compare and Contrast Essay With Frames and Templates
Writing can be hard and frustrating for upper elementary students; writing a compare and contrast essay can be even harder and more frustrating.
Often, this skill gets pushed to the back burner. It is a lot easier to practice comparing and contrasting with things that take less time - like by using a Venn Diagram.
However, teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to compare and contrast topics within their writing is an important skill. Scaffolding student writing through sentence or paragraph frames and essay templates can minimize the frustration of students, save valuable time, and help your students become better writers. Providing structure helps focus yoru students.
Below, find ideas for scaffolding so that your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students can be successful with comparing and contrasting in their writing - and eventually writing a compare and contrast essay!
Start Small - With Compare and Contrast Sentence Starters or Frames
Students don't have to write an entire essay every time you want them to practice comparing and contrasting within their writing - they can practice this skill by simply writing a sentence that compares or contrasts two things.
Providing students with sentence starters is a great way to ease them into using compare and contrast language in their writing. This is especially beneficial for your ELL and low language students, but ALL of your students will benefit from this strategy.
Example Sentence Starters
1. __________ and __________ are different because __________.
2. __________ and __________ are alike because __________.
3. The most important difference between __________ and __________ is __________.
4. An important similarity between __________ and __________ is __________.
5. While __________ and __________ are alike because __________, they have different __________.
Using a Paragraph Template or Frame
After students have been successful at writing sentences that compare and contrast, expand to short paragraphs. Provide scaffolding similar to the sentence frames to help your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students be successful.
Using scaffolding like this will not only help them with comparing and contrasting language, but will improve their overall writing as well.
(You might find some of these other writing tips and ideas helpful.)
Example Paragraph Frames
1. __________ and __________ have many differences. The most important difference is _________________________. Another difference is _________________________. Finally, _________________________.
2. __________ and __________ are similar in many ways. For example, ____________________. Furthermore, they both ____________________. A final similarity is ____________________.
3. __________ and __________ are similar in some ways, but different in others. For example, they both ____________________. Despite this similarity, they are different because ____________________. This difference is important because ____________________.
Compare and Contrast Essay Template / Structure / Outline
Writing an essay can be overwhelming. Teachers often try to support students by modeling good essay writing - which is an essential step. But having students go straight from having a compare and contrast essay modeled for them to writing their own independently can be a huge jump for some. They are going straight from "I do" to "You do."
A scaffolded essay outline makes a good "we do" for upper elementary students. Provide students with a scaffolded template that clearly lays out the structure of a good compare and contrast essay. This helps students stay on topic and reminds them what a good compare and contrast essay should look like.
Eventually, you will take this scaffolding away. Or, you can use the scaffolding to differentiate. Provide more scaffolding for students that needed, while students have a good grasp might only have topic students scaffolded for them - or maybe even no scaffolding at all.
If you know your students would benefit from this type of scaffolding, but don’t have the time to create it yourself, check out my Compare and Contrast Writing Resource.
It walks students through the writing process with scaffolding each step of the way. This resource also provides a model essay so that you can model expectations for your students. Plus, it can be used over and over again with different topics.
You might also like these other ideas for scaffolding your instruction, or these compare and contrast activities and ideas.
Want a Compare and Contrast Freebie?
Download these reading passages with a compare and contrast activity for free and use it to today!
I will try the strategy, seems easy to follow
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Compare And Contrast Essay
Compare And Contrast Essay Examples
Best Compare And Contrast Essay Examples
Published on: Mar 19, 2018
Last updated on: Jan 1, 2023
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A compare and contrast essay is a common form of academic writing. This essay is based on portraying similarities and differences between the two chosen subjects. A compare and contrast essay is often assigned to students to assess their writing and analyzing skills.
In our day-to-day life, we compare things and our needs to come up with a decision. Writing an essay on this comparison is not different. Only that, it involves a proper structure and an outline to be professionally drafted.
This article carries examples and samples to make the lives of students simpler. Continue reading to learn how to write a compare and contrast essay with examples.
Drafting a perfect writing piece demands a writer to first go through examples and samples to analyze the writing structure. Once you know how ideal compare and contrast essays are drafted, it will be easier to provide quality content.
Below are some examples of compare and contrast essays for different levels.
Compare And Contrast Essay Example for Middle School
The compare and contrast essays at the middle schools are of an elementary level. They follow the same basic outline and the writing process. An example of a good compare and contrast essay is given below.
Middle School Comparative Essay Example (PDF)
Compare and Contrast Essay Example for 3rd Grade (PDF)
Compare and Contrast Essay Example for 4th Grade (PDF)
Compare and Contrast Essay Example for 7th Grade (PDF)
Compare And Contrast Essay Example for High School
The high school essay is different from the college compare and contrast essay. It does not require an expert level of logical analysis from the students. Instead, it is just an opportunity for them to learn better.
The following is the best sample for a high school compare and contrast essay:
Comparative Essay Example for High School
Compare And Contrast Essay Example for College
The compare and contrast essay’s primary purpose is to enable the students to focus on logical comparison and contrasting aspects. The example provided below will help college students to draft a perfect compare and contrast essay.
Comparative Essay Example for College
How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay?
Writing a perfect compare and contrast essay depends on how strong the planning and execution are. When you are assigned a compare and contrast essay, it is not preferred to start writing it right away.
Focus on the prewriting steps that include planning and outlining the information to make the essay readable. Below are the pre-writing steps that should be taken to start your compare and contrast essay:
- Select a topic - > To choose subjects to compare, make sure that they belong to the same category. Choosing compare and contrast essay topics can be time-consuming, but it is an essential step in drafting an essay.
- Brainstorm ideas - Brainstorm similarities and differences you think can be used to make the comparison best. To make the brainstorming process easy, create a table or Venn Diagram to list similarities and differences.
- Research and gather information - Brainstormed ideas need strong facts to be proved right. Conduct research to gather evidence and facts to support your points.
Thesis for Compare and Contrast Essay Example (PDF)
- Draft an outline - No matter the subject or essay type, an outline is essential. Before writing your essay, organize all the gathered material in the following sections:
- Body Paragraphs
How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay?
According to the basic compare and contrast essay outline , it is started with an introductory paragraph, followed by body graphs, and a concluding section at the end of the essay.
An engaging introduction helps attract the audience's attention and motivates them to read the entire essay. A catchy introduction has the following elements:
- Hook statement - It is an opening sentence written to attract the audience to your discussion.
- General information about the topic- general information describes the purpose of choosing a topic or subject.
- Write a thesis statement - A thesis statement or the writer’s main argument is presented at the end of the introduction.
For example, an introduction to elementary school vs. middle school can be:
“What is it like to transition from elementary to middle school? That is a question many kids ask each year. Having experienced both, I can tell you that there are plenty of similarities as well as some very big differences between the two types of schools.”
Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction Example (PDF)
2. Body Paragraphs
The body section of an essay includes every critical information to be shared with the audience. All the points in this section are presented to prove the thesis statement and provide details about the subject.
The body paragraphs of a compare and contrast essay are structured according to two methods:
The subject-by-subject or block method is the most commonly used structure for a comparison essay.
This subject structure focuses on;
- Discussing the similarities and differences between one side of the topic.
Subject By Subject Method Example
Another typical structure followed for writing the compare and contrast essays is the point by point structure. It is easier and more popular.
The point structure focuses on;
- Discussing the comparison/ similarities between the two sides/ topics in the first part.
- Discuss the contrast/ differences between the two sides/ topic in the second part.
No matter which method you choose, keep in mind that the whole essay should be aligned according to the selected method.
“Elementary schools and middle schools have many traits in common. Typically, both are open five days a week for a set number of hours each day. Students sit at desks in classrooms and are expected to listen to and learn from their teachers. There is a set time for lunch.
Each day, students are given homework assignments. Students take quizzes and tests. In all of these ways, middle school should feel somewhat familiar to new students.
However, there are some big changes that new middle school students should be aware of. In elementary school, students usually stay in the same classroom with one teacher for most of the day. That is not the case in middle school, where students typically have a different teacher for each subject.
Students must move to a different classroom for each subject too. Since there is not one classroom in which to store supplies, middle schools often provide students with lockers. For many kids, getting a locker is a welcome rite of passage.”
In this section, a writer summarizes all the essay's major points. It also presents the final verdict to prove the thesis statement.
“Making the move from elementary school to middle school may seem scary, but knowing what to expect can really help. Elementary school provides kids with the experiences they need to be ready for middle school. Even though moving on means adjusting to a new environment, some things, including many of the classmates who accompany you, will remain the same.”
Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion Example (PDF)
After completing the essay, revision is done to fix all mistakes and errors in the content. Proofreading is an important step to making your paper flawless and effective.
Before submitting your essay, check for mistakes in punctuation, grammar, format, tone, vocabulary, syntax, etc.
Make the required editings in this step and submit a well-written assignment.
Students from every level and field require examples to learn how their academic assignments should be drafted. As the grades cannot be risked, students should always look for examples and expert help for their assignments.
Take a look at this sample and know how to write a great essay in no time.
Sample Compare and Contrast Essay (PDF)
If you are looking for free examples for your compare and contrast paper, MyPerfectWords.com is the right place. We are the top essay writing service that assists with all academic assignment types.
We are a trusted and reputable company that provides legal writing services by drafting original content for our clients.
So whether you are looking for written academic papers or essay topics for college, our professional essay writers are the best choice.
Place your order and let professionals do your assignment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you start a compare and contrast paragraph.
The opening sentence names the two subjects. The next sentences discuss how they are very similar, different, or have many important similarities and differences. Continue discussing these with compare-contrast cue words like "like," "similar to" and also."
What is the last step before writing a compare and contrast essay?
The last step before writing a compare and contrast paragraph is to compose a thesis. This is because the gathering of supporting details has already been done, which makes it easier when coming up with this type of paper.
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How You Can Teach the Compare and Contrast Essay With Examples
- September 7, 2022
- Informative writing , Scaffolds for writing , teaching writing
Are you afraid to dive into teaching the compare and contrast essay too soon in your school year? Don’t be. I’m going to show you how you can find topics for compare and contrast essays and how to simplify teaching this genre of informative writing during the first weeks of school. Ready?
In this blog post, you’ll discover some ideas for how to find topics for compare and contrast essays. You’ll find simple examples of how this type of informational writing might look in an elementary classroom, using graphic organizers. There is also a free template and graphic organizer for students to learn how to write a compare and contrast paper.
Before beginning this type of writing, it may be helpful to teach how to write a summary . When teaching how to write a summary, you’re going to be teaching about fact and opinion, complete sentences, good paragraphs, and more.
Topics for Compare and Contrast Essay
As I am writing this blog post, we’re heading into National Hispanic Heritage Month . This gives a wealth of opportunities for compare and contrast writing. You could have your students research Ellen Ochoa and Roberto Clemente for example. After they’ve written a short summary about the lives of both of these people, they can compare and contrast them both in a culminating writing assignment.
Or perhaps you’re studying animals. You could have them learn about polar bears and panda bears or two different tropical rainforest animals . After they write a summary of both, they’re prepared to write a compare and contrast essay.
You could even do this in music class or art class. Students could learn about, then compare and contrast two different composers, or genres of music. This would be the same with artists or periods in art history.
In science class, they could compare and contrast two different phases of the moon, or two different insect life cycles and activities, such as the migration of Monarch butterflies and how bees make honey . There’s also the classic compare and contrast a book and a movie, as well.
The ideas are truly endless. But my advice (to save you time prepping and grading) is that you choose the topics. I wrote about why this is a good idea in this blog post about narrative writing .
Steps in Writing a Compare and Contrast Essay
You might want to set aside five days for this process if you teach writing daily. I recommend starting a daily writing practice in your classroom to get the best results from your students. But for some class schedules, that might not be possible, in which case, you might need two weeks to introduce and teach the steps in writing a compare and contrast paper.
- Step 1. Introduce the two topics. Do an activity to find out the background knowledge of your students and to make connections to the first topic. This might be a K-W-L activity, watching a short video, reading a book or an article together and then having a class conversation about it.
- Step 2. Students will write a summary of one of the topics. Using the summary writing template, they will have a foundation of facts to draw upon for the compare and contrast writing.
- Step 3. Do the same thing again for the second topic.
- Step 4. Have students spend some time filling out a graphic organizer defining what are the shared characteristics and what is unique to each of the topics.
- Step 5. Use a writing template with as much or as little scaffolding as your students need when you are first teaching compare and contrast writing. Once students have developed experience in this writing genre, they’ll be able to do more with less scaffolding.
- Step 6. Students should edit their writing or a partner’s writing. They can do this in five minutes if you are using my CUPS editing system. If you’re unfamiliar with it, this video shows you how the editing process is done by the students themselves. They learn more by doing it themselves.
- Step 7. Finally, the students will revise anything that needs to be moved, clarified, or enhanced. They will write their final copy to turn in.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Use compare and contrast writing to strengthen critical thinking skills across the curriculum. Here’s how.” quote=”Compare and contrast writing can be used to strengthen critical thinking skills across the curriculum. ” theme=”style3″]
Graphic Organizers and Scaffolds for Writing
If you’ve been following this blog, you might have already read that I prefer to use one or possibly two graphic organizers for each type of writing. This is because it takes brain power to figure out how to use a graphic organizer or how to take notes in a certain style.
You don’t want your students to waste time trying to learn how to use a new graphic organizer every time they write. You want them to free up that brain power to focus on the task at hand, which is writing clearly and concisely.
If you’d like to grab some graphic organizers for compare and contrast writing, you can find them in the Member Vault . These are organizers for lower grade students and upper grade students. There is a scaffolded writing page with simple sentence stems for beginning writers.
Simple Example of Compare and Contrast Writing
In the free downloadable packet with graphic organizers , you’ll also find a simple writing scaffold appropriate for elementary grades. It can be used the first one or two times your students write a compare and contrast essay.
In the elementary grades, a compare and contrast essay can be as short as three paragraphs. One, introducing the topics and what they have in common. Two, expounding on the differences. Three, a concluding paragraph or statement.
The writing scaffold in the packet begins with the statement, “Although ___ and ___ are different, they are alike in some ways.” It continues with a paragraph about the commonalities. “For example, ____ and _____ both _______.” The writing sheet gives room to elaborate on what the two things have in common. Then it has a paragraph about the differences. “Also, there are some differences between ___ and ___. For example. _____.” The page ends with a simple transition to a concluding statement. “As you can now see,_____.”
Beginning writers may struggle to fill in the blanks the first time. The next time, it will be faster and easier. Hopefully, soon after that, you’ll be able to remove this scaffold.
Connect the Writing Across the Curriculum
When I taught third grade, we started learning about compare and contrast writing with two animals popular at that grade level…polar bears and panda bears. I introduced the topic with a book by Sandra Markle, a science writer who really appeals to the younger students. ReadWorks.org had grade level articles for the students to read and learn about them. I gave them the graphic organizer and scaffolds they needed.
After they finished writing, we did a fun art project similar to this one from The Global Art Classroom . We hung their art and their writing together to make a beautiful bulletin board. The students were proud to share their work.
In music class, they sang songs about bears, and in P.E. they made teams of pandas and polar bears. All it takes is a bit of creativity to come up with ways to incorporate any theme across the curriculum.
I hope you find this helpful. If so, please consider taking a look at my course, Building Strong Writers With Simple Systems . Everything you learn in that course, and everything I talk about on this blog are designed to be simple and easy to implement in your classroom right away.
If I can help you to make teaching writing easier, then your students will learn that writing doesn’t have to be hard!
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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
Table of Contents
What is a compare and contrast essay.
Essentially, compare and contrast essays ask students to evaluate the similarities and differences between two things.
Usually, there will be some meaningful connection between the two things that are to be compared and contrasted.
These types of essays are not merely about stating the obvious, instead, they challenge the students to explore two or more topics and then to express subtle similarities and understated differences that may not be immediately obvious to the casual reader.
For example, there is little point in asking students to compare and contrast a computer and a bicycle.
Both are material objects, but apart from that, the extreme differences are obvious. More useful would be to ask students to compare and contrast two different models of computers or two different brands of bicycles to help them decide which to buy.
Compare and contrast essays encourage students to make distinctions and evaluate things that largely belong in the same category. This is an instrumental and practical skill to develop.
In this article, we will explore how to approach the writing of compare-and-contrast essays in a step-by-step manner. Following this method, students will soon be able to write a well-structured compare-and-contrast essay on practically any topic.
Let’s get started.
A COMPLETE UNIT ON COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY WRITING
Teach your students how to write amazing compare and contrast essays with this COMPLETE UNIT of work which guides students through the process of research, analysis and articulating their thoughts into a well-structured essay.
HOW TO WRITE A COMPARE & CONTRAST ESSAY
1. understand your task and purpose.
Compare, and contrast type questions ask students to do one of three things:
- To compare two or more things.
- To contrast two or more things.
- To compare and contrast two or more things.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume the compare and contrast essay is focused on comparing and contrasting two things.
Now, let’s break down the two keywords to examine what they ask the students to do:
Compare asks the students to look at two things in relation to their similarities.
Let’s compare apples and oranges as a quick example.
Apples and oranges have many commonalities. Firstly, they are both fruits that are grown on trees. They are also both a popular and tasty food choice for many people.
Additionally, apples and oranges are nutritious and provide essential vitamins and minerals for our bodies.
Finally, apples and oranges can be used in various recipes, from baked goods to juices, and they are both easily accessible and affordable. So, even though apples and oranges are different in many ways, they both have some similarities that make them essential parts of a healthy and balanced diet.
Contrast asks the students to examine how the two things differ. Let’s now explore the differences in a quick written example.
Apples and oranges differ in many ways. Firstly, they have a different appearance – apples are round and come in different colors like red, green and yellow, while oranges are oval and have a bright orange appearance.
Secondly, they have a different texture – apples are crunchy, while oranges are juicy. They have different tastes – apples are sweet and tangy, while oranges are sweet and slightly sour.
They also contain different vitamins and minerals – apples are a good source of vitamin C, while oranges are a great source of vitamin C and fibre. So, even though they are both fruits, apples and oranges are different in terms of their appearance, taste, and nutritional value.
It is important that students do both when they are asked a compare-and-contrast question. It may seem obvious, but very often students do one and neglect to do the other.
These ‘things’ could be anything from historical figures to poems, philosophies to fictional characters, but the essential criteria will remain pretty much the same regardless.
2. Identify Similarities and Differences
The starting point for planning this type of essay is to list the similarities and differences between the two things. This can be done simply in table form or, for the more visually orientated, in the form of a Venn diagram.
Venn diagrams are an especially useful form of graphic organizer that allows the student to see the information at a glance. This is extremely helpful while students are writing.
Brainstorming the similarities and differences can be done by focusing on one subject at a time or by dealing with common traits or features one by one. This will depend not just on the student’s preferences but on the nature of the subjects being examined.
Whether listing the similarities and differences in columns or on a Venn diagram, it’s helpful for students to keep their list of characteristics parallel. That is, the related features between each of the subjects should be displayed clearly together.
3. Choose a Suitable Organizational Structure
Once your students have listed their main points, they need to choose a suitable organizational structure to help present their ideas in essay form.
In most instances, one of two structures will best meet the needs of any compare-and-contrast type essay. These two possible organizational structures are:
- The block structure
- The point-by-point structure
In the block structure, each subject is dealt with in turn. That is, the characteristics of Subject 1 are written about first and, in the second half of the essay, the characteristics of Subject 2 are written about.
The block structure is generally easier to write as the student need only focus on one subject at a time.
However, the point-by-point structure more often provides a clearer vehicle for comparing and contrasting the various aspects of both subjects.
Using the point-by-point structure generally requires more skill from the student to weave the similarities and differences of each subject into the fabric of each paragraph. However, it is also the default setting for most compare and contrast essays, and students should be practised in it accordingly.
4. Gather Supporting Evidence
Once students have analyzed the question and identified the similarities and differences between the two subjects, they’ll need to gather supporting evidence to back up any assertions they make in their essays.
Students can use many different types of evidence to support the statements in their essays.
Some of the most common types of evidence in compare and contrast essays include statistical, textual, testimonial, and anecdotal evidence.
Let’s take a closer look:
Statistical Evidence is perhaps the strongest type of evidence that can be used to support an argument. People like numbers! However, the most important aspect of using statistical evidence is that they come from a reliable source – those cynical of statistics echo the old adage, “ There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics ”.
Textual Evidence is often needed to support an argument, especially when writing about a book, a play, a speech, etc. When using textual evidence in an essay, it is important that students state clearly the source of the evidence they use. Textual evidence can come in many different forms, including:
● Direct quotations from a text
● Summaries of the content of a text
● Paraphrasing of what an author has said on a topic.
Testimonial Evidence refers to the use of expert opinion to bolster an assertion. As with the use of statistical evidence, it is important to select the sources in question carefully. Selecting an unreliable or compromised ‘expert’ can call into question the merit of any argument made. When an expert has been chosen to provide testimonial type evidence, students should establish their credibility by stating who they are and why they are considered an expert before quoting them.
Anecdotal Evidence is often considered to be the weakest form of evidence due to its highly personal nature. Basically, anecdotal evidence takes the form of the retelling of a personal experience. Though it is often criticized as a weak form of evidence, it can be useful when used correctly in an essay. Anecdotes often work well as a ‘hook’ to grab the reader’s attention at the beginning of an essay. Not only do they grab the reader’s attention effectively, but anecdotes also work well in building a personal connection with readers from the outset.
5. Compare and Contrast Essay Transitional Language
Nothing makes a text staler for a reader than the overuse of favorite words and the endless repetition of pet phrases.
Variety is the spice of not only life but of essay writing too. As students weave comparisons and contrast into their essays, they’ll be required to employ transition signals to introduce their points.
Transition signals are words and phrases that are used to signal the relationship between ideas in a text to the reader. It is helpful to students to have a variety of these to hand and to know which can be used to introduce comparisons and which can be used to introduce contrasts.
Let’s take a look at some examples for each:
Comparison Transition Signals
- Just as / Just like
- In a similar manner
- Analogous to
Contrasting Transition Signals
- In contrast to / Contrastingly / In comparison / By comparison
- On the contrary
- On the other hand
Tips for Writing a Great Compare and Contrast Essay
- Start by choosing two logical subjects that you would like to compare and contrast.
- Research both subjects thoroughly to gain a deeper understanding of their similarities and differences.
- Create a clear and compelling thesis statement that defines the purpose of your essay.
- Organize your essay into paragraphs that compare and contrast specific aspects of each subject.
- Use relevant and appropriate examples to support your comparisons and contrasts.
- Use transitional words and phrases to help guide the reader through your essay.
- Avoid simply listing the similarities and differences of each subject. Instead, focus on making meaningful comparisons and contrasts.
- Use a variety of sentence structures and vocabulary to make your writing engaging and interesting.
- Revise and edit your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammatical correctness.
- Proofread your essay one final time to catch any remaining errors and make sure that your essay is ready for submission.
Remember, writing a compare and contrast essay is an opportunity to show your creativity, critical thinking skills, and writing abilities. So, have fun with it and let your unique voice shine through!
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Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST TEACHING STRATEGIES AND ACTIVITIES
Compare and Contrast Activity #1
Students should get into the habit of closely examining the question they are writing the essay in response to, especially in high-pressure situations like exams.
Too often, students under pressure misread essay prompts and either miss out on a crucial aspect of the set question or, worst of all, answer an entirely different question to the one that was set.
To help students focus on the specifics of the question, encourage them to underline keywords and phrases with a highlighter or a colored pen.
Another great way to encourage students to focus attention on the specifics is to have students practice rewriting the question in their own words.
While this may not be practical in an exam situation, it is a great way for students to get accustomed to paying close attention to essay questions in less pressured scenarios such as homework and classwork.
Compare and Contrast Activity # 2
Set a compare and contrast question and then instruct your students to use a Venn diagram as a brainstorming tool to help organize their ideas.
Students should draw two circles slightly overlapping and write down things the subjects share in common in the intersection of the two circles. This will enable students to see areas of commonality and divergence between the two subjects at a glance.
Compare and Contrast Activity # 3
Students can use the information they produced in the previous two activities for this activity.
In this activity, students will draft three paragraphs for a compare-and-contrast essay using the point-by-point structure.
To do this, they will use the traditional five-paragraph essay structure as follows:
- Paragraph 1: Introduction
- Paragraphs 2, 3, & 4: Body Paragraphs
- Paragraph 5: Conclusion
The focus of your students’ outlines will be on the body paragraphs. From the points listed in the previous exercises, students select 3 main points to focus on; one for each of the body paragraphs they’ll write.
Instruct students to make their point by focusing on Subject 1 first, and then on Subject 2. This will complete the first paragraph. They’ll then repeat this process for points 2 and 3 to produce paragraphs 2 and 3.
At the end of this, they will have the three body paragraphs of their compare and contrast essay. From there, they can then reverse engineer their introduction and then complete their conclusions.
This exercise is a useful way to provide students some practice in structuring body paragraphs. Not only that, but it’s also a legitimate way to write an essay itself. This method can often reveal to the writer the best way forward when it comes to writing the introduction and conclusion.
Compare and Contrast Activity #4
Using the points outlined in previous activities, challenge students to produce as many types of evidence in support of each assertion as possible. In groups, students can then present their evidence to each other and discuss which is the most convincing and why given the specific context.
Compare and Contrast Activity # 5
Whether making comparisons or contrasts, students must consider carefully which criteria they are using in regards to the two subjects they are dealing with.
For example, if students are contrasting two subjects, say, two people, they may write something like,
Alfred is intelligent and handsome, whereas Brian is short and strong.
While the use of the transition signal whereas in the above sentence effectively sets up a contrast between Alfred and Brian, what isn’t clear is which criteria are being contrasted.
When discussing Alfred’s attributes in the first part of the sentence, the criteria employed are intelligence and looks. In the second part of the sentence, two new criteria are introduced, namely height and physical strength.
This is one of the most common errors made by students in these types of essays. To help students gain practice in this area, write a few example sentences on the whiteboard using the model sentence above to help. Then, have students identify the four different criteria and write two separate contrast sentences that avoid the error illustrated.
For example, in response to the model sentence, students might write the following two corrections:
i. Alfred is intelligent and handsome, whereas Brian is stupid and ugly.
ii. Brian is short and strong, while Alfred is tall and weak.
You can encourage students to vary the contrast transition signals they use to gain practice in this area too.
Compare and Contrast Essay ExampleS (student Writing Samples)
Below are a collection of student writing samples of compare and contrast essay. Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail. Please take a moment to read both the compare and contrast essays in detail and the teacher and student guides highlighting some key elements to consider before writing.
Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of compare and contrast writing.
We would recommend reading the example either a year above and below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.
While there are many technical aspects for students to master on the road to producing well-written compare and contrast essays, the above provides a clear signpost to set them off in the right direction.
Most of the specific skills focused on in the practice activities above will not only improve your student’s abilities to write compare-and-contrast-type essays but will improve their writing in other areas too. Just be sure to offer ample opportunities to practice!
ESSAY WRITING CHECKLIST & RUBRIC BUNDLE
COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY TUTORIAL VIDEOS
The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
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