Compare-and-Contrast Essays – Tips & Examples

10.03.23 Types of academic essays Time to read: 6min

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Assigning students the task of comparing and contrasting topics in academic essay form is a standard practice, both in coursework and examinations. This article will elucidate the processes and strategies involved in crafting such essays.

Ultimately, it aims to refine your approach, ensuring your future academic essay compositions are closely aligned with the given requirements.

Compare-and-Contrast Essays – In a Nutshell

Compare-and-contrast essays ask students to apply critical thinking to what they have learned. Typically, they are used in arts and humanities essay writing but they can apply elsewhere, too.

Note that comparing and contrasting two – or sometimes more – things also necessarily means pointing out similarities.

Typically, compare-and-contrast essays consist of:

  • An opening that briefly defines the subject.
  • A body that compares and contrasts the material.
  • A conclusion that provides some final analysis or summation.

Definition: Compare-and-contrast essays

In brief, compare-and-contrast essays are defined as relatively short texts – no more than 3,000 words is typical – that compare people, propositions, ideas, or objects.

Essentially, they’re used as a way to help people organize their thoughts within a written structure or format, which means they’ll be more analytical than simply listing what they know about a given subject.

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Compare-and-contrast essays: The introduction

Although not essential, many strong compare-and-contrast essays commence with a bold statement or question that sets up the argument to come. This will be stress-tested, as it were, by comparing and contrasting two or more – sometimes opposing – positions.

The introduction should cover what is being compared – two writers, multiple philosophical positions, or whatever else – so the reader understands the remit of the essay.

In some cases, it might be advisable to explain why two or more things should be compared and contrasted, perhaps because they are sometimes incorrectly viewed as similar.


Keats and Yeats are both regarded as Romantic poets but their styles differ greatly. This essay will compare and contrast their styles, citing examples of their differences and similarities. It will also cover examples of their work which can be viewed as not belonging wholeheartedly to the Romantic tradition at all.

Compare-and-contrast essays: The body

The next step with compare-and-contrast essays is to get into how two or more things can be said to be similar or dissimilar to one another. Effectively, this means comparing them and assessing who, where, why, and how they can be regarded in the same light and, conversely, when not.

Various methods can be employed to structure the body of compare-and-contrast essays but they must all focus on which precise examples have been chosen.


Sailing to Byzantium by Yeats and John Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn both speak of Romantic themes and, indeed, antiquity. Both use metaphors and symbolism that speak of their age and historical place, however. Consequently, they aren’t necessarily committed to Romanticism in its backward-looking context.2 Both poems deal with nature and art in a conflicting sense. However, each poem addresses death very differently, Keats speaking of it almost in terms of a life force while Yeats uses more immortal imagery as if death isn’t part of nature at all.

Compare-and-contrast essays: The conclusion

To write a good conclusion in compare-and-contrast essays, you should:

  • Sum up the similarities between the subjects you have discussed.
  • Point out what creates the most contrast between the subjects of the essay.
  • Offer a final insight or opinion about whether contrasts outweigh similarities or vice-versa.


Keats and Yeats have similar language use in their poems, a passion for the same sort of subject matter, and, indeed, a joint worldview to a certain extent. That said, their preoccupations come to the fore in the details of their poetry, notably when they offer Romantic tropes but in ways that still read highly individualistically. Both appear to be searching for the truest voices from their inner selves, something that ultimately makes the way they contrast with one another more telling than when they can be more directly compared within the Romantic tradition.

Structuring compare-and-contrast essays

As previously mentioned, compare-and-contrast essays can use different methodological styles, typically in their body.

There are three main techniques, as detailed below.

The block method is typically used in compare and contrast methods that deal with two subjects. In the first part, one is discussed, and in the second part, the other will feature.


  • Good for short essays
  • A simple, easy-to-understand layout


  • Not ideal for three or more subject matters
  • Doesn’t bounce between subject matters


With this method, the essay would be structured in this way:

  • Introduction
  • First point of comparison with Keats’ writing
  • Second point of comparison with Keats’ writing… and so on
  • First point of comparison with Yeats’ writing
  • Second point of comparison with Keats’ writing… and so on
  • Conclusion

The alternating method also works well for comparing and contrasting essays with two subject matters at hand.


  • Good for longer essays
  • Doesn’t stick to one subject matter for too long


  • Sometimes leads to formulaic writing
  • Requires writers to have multiple examples to cite


With this method, the essay would be structured in this way:

  • Introduction
  • First example of comparison between Keats’ and Yeats’ writing
  • Same example but contrasting Keats’ and Yeats’ writing
  • Second example of comparison between Keats’ and Yeats’ writing
  • Same example but contrasting Keats’ and Yeats’ writing
  • Third example… and so on
  • Conclusion

Also known as point-by-point writing, this method can be used for any number of compared and contrasted subject matters.


  • Good for long and short essays
  • Helpful for three or more subject matters


  • Requires a similar number of similarities and contrasts for balance
  • Offers less clarity of structure


With this method, the essay would be structured in this way:

  • Introduction
  • Similarities between the writing styles of Keats, Yeats, and Coleridge
  • Contrasts in the writing styles of Keats, Yeats, and Coleridge
  • Conclusion

Compare-and-contrast essays: Writing process

There are typically five steps to bear in mind when writing compare-and-contrast essays.

  • Brainstorm
    Make a note of everything you know that is relevant to the subject matter at hand in a few words. Now arrange them in a Venn diagram. Differences should be fenced off on their own while comparable examples will be in the middle, intersecting section.
  • Thesis statement
    With your thoughts arranged, assess the argument you will subsequently make in your essay. Write this down in a summary statement of your intended thesis.
  • Choose a method
    Plan how you will structure your essay and which of the aforementioned methods will work best for your thesis.
  • Write your essay
    Next, it is time to commit your essay to paper. Begin with a strong introduction. Leave sufficient time for a concluding summary at the end.
  • Proofread
    Even strong compare-and-contrast essays can be let down by minor mistakes. Be sure to proofread yours before finishing.
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Tips for writing compare-and-contrast essays

Make writing compare-and-contrast essays easier by:

  • Being clear about what a comparison and a contrast are in each example.
  • Sticking to the subject matters at hand and not bringing in others.
  • Try to give equal weight to all subject matters in compare-and-contrast essays or they may be liable to bias.


Compare-and-contrast essays are short academic texts that offer similarities and contrasts in two, often related subject matters.

Yes, you can. This may reflect in the structure you choose to employ, though.

Yes, when you compare something, offer an example. The same goes when contrasting.

Finish all compare-and-contrast essays with a summation of all the examples given, and offer an opinion that reflects the thesis of the essay.