Writing a Compare/Contrast ESSAY

A comparison shows similarities; a contrast highlights differences.  Often, the two go hand in hand.  We use comparison/contrast daily to make decisions and choices in our lives.  We compare and contrast reviews and opinions about movies before deciding whether to see the one about a bank robbery or the one that tells a passionate love story.   We choose one History or English class over another.  After comparing the instructors and workload, one is more suited to our individual needs.  We compare the Honda CRV with the Toyota Rav-4 to decide which mini-SUV is right for our needs and the needs of our family.  We compare one presidential candidate to another to decide who will get our vote.

This assignment is a challenge for you compare/contrast

people, places, objects, events, beliefs, etc.


Assignment:  Choose two subjects.  Be sure to pull from the text to give detailed example(s), descriptions, and quotes for each. 

Purpose:  To compare and/or contrast; lay two things side by side and evaluate them; perhaps to make a decision or come to a conclusion about the two things.

Audience:  General or specific.

Details: The final draft of your research paper should follow the five+ paragraph format, be typed/printed/stapled/double spaced, 1000+ words in length, be written in the assigned rhetorical strategy, and include an outline, an underlined thesis statement, quotes/evidence/details from three or more sources (only one may be from the Internet), MLA in-text citations, an MLA Works Cited page, and a word count.  If your paper does not meet the above criteria, then it will not be accepted.


  1. Choose two subjects.
  1. Brainstorm ideas about these subjects.  What do you know about these subjects?  What is important for the audience to know about these subjects? Research your subjects. 
  1. Review your brainstorming.  Then, highlight the best three topics on which to compare and/or contrast your subjects. This will require you to mentally start writing your paper.  What specific examples, details, and quotes can you give for each subject? Collect these from the sources.
  1. Think of your audience.  A general audience works for this assignment, so you can just write for anyone.   However, you can choose a specific audience (elderly, teenagers, Christians, etc.).  If you do, keep your audience in mind and choose examples that would appeal to them.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline – Alternating

I.       Introduction – three prong thesis statement

  1. Topic I – ______________________________________________________

Subject 1 – __________________________________________

        Subject 2 – _________________________________________

  1. Topic II – _____________________________________________________

Subject 1 –  _________________________________________

        Subject 2 –  _________________________________________

  1. Topic III – ____________________________________________________

Subject 1 –  _________________________________________

        Subject 2 – _________________________________________

  1. Conclusion

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline – Block

  1. Introduction – three prong thesis statement
  1. Subject I – ___________________________________________________

Topic 1 – ____________________________________________

        Topic 2 – ___________________________________________

Topic 3 – ____________________________________________

  1. Subject II – __________________________________________________

Topic 1 – ____________________________________________

        Topic 2 – ___________________________________________

Topic 3 – ____________________________________________

  1. Conclusion


Be yourself; be unique.  Use some imagination!


  1. Ask a peer editor to respond.  Have a classmate respond to your essay, noting its strengths and making suggestions for improvements. 
  1. Use comparing/contrasting transitional words.


And, also, additionally

As well as




In like manner


On the contrary

In contrast to

In the same way

Just as…so

On the other hand






Both, neither


The opposite of

The same as


Contrary to

Compare/Contrast Essay Ideas


For example…


For example…


Doctor vs. Nurse Practitioner


Mac vs. IBM


Christmas vs. Easter


Honda CRV vs. Toyota Rav-4


World War I vs. World War II


Indianapolis 500 vs. Dayton 500


Boston vs. Chicago

Horse Racing

Kentucky Derby vs. Belmont Stakes

Styles of Music

Reggae vs. Ska


Boston vs. New York

Parenting styles

Spock vs. Brazelton


Indiana vs. Arizona


Jordan vs. Bryant


U.S.A. vs. Croatia

Military Figures

Grant vs. Lee


Freud vs. Jung


Maya Angelou vs. Lucille Clifton


MLK vs. Malcolm X


Catholicism vs. Muslim


John Wooden vs. Bobby Knight


Golden Retriever vs. Italian Greyhound


San Diego vs. Lake Tahoe

Educational Theorists

Piaget vs. Thorndike


Shania Twain vs. Faith Hill


Washington vs. Lincoln


Twain vs. Vonnegut


Japanese vs. Chinese

Majors in College

History vs. English


GEICO vs. All State


Woodstock ’69 vs. Woodstock ‘99


Canon vs. Panasonic


Socrates vs. Plato

Baseball Stadiums

Wrigley Field vs. Yankee Stadium

Football Stadiums

Lambeau Field vs. Mile-High

1.Examine two photos of the Beatles:  one from their early days when their music was sexy, fun, and innocent; and one from the later years when they produced music which was more complex and introspective.  Now listen to songs from both periods.  Compare the results.  Write an essay that attempts to answer this question:  what does the change in appearance and the change in tone of the lyrics/music say about changes in our culture at the time?

  1. Watch two films, the original and the remake, and read reviews of both movies.  Write an essay comparing and contrasting the two.  Then, agree or disagree with the critic(s).   Which version is better?  Also, what does the remake say about changes in our culture?
  1. Write an essay comparing Dracula – perhaps Bela Lugosi’s version – to Anne Rice’s modern vampire Lestat in the film Interview with a Vampire, and read reviews of both movies.  How has the image of the vampire changed to reflect modern culture?  Why?

Compare and Contrast Essay Ideas – Analogy

  • Heart – Pump
  • Brain – Computer
  • Wires and Electricity – The Nervous System
  • Wires and Electricity – Multiple Sclerosis
  • A person’s life – A book
  • River – Mother
  • A person – A city
  • A person – A parade
  • Professional football – Warfare
  • An adult’s home – A castle
  • Life – Party
  • Life – Football Game
  • Camera – Eye
  • Writing – Composing
  • New York City Street – Battlefield
  • Backpacker – Kangaroo
  • Music – Language
  • Animals – United States Presidents
  • Marriage – Driving
  • A blind date – A surprise package
  • A child’s room – A kingdom
  • Mind – Eye
  • Dance Hall – Church
  • Home – Country
  • Lawyers – Basketball players

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