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Compare or Contrast Essay

This essay may develop in either direction--compare, which is looking at similarities, or contrast, which is looking at differences.

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One of the first things you need to do when thinking about writing the comparison/contrast essay is think about why you would write one. Often, the thesis becomes the purpose statement, in which you call your reader's attention to the fact that there may be similarities and differences between two things, but YOU want to show something in particular to them. Remember, the audience determines what is included in the paper--and if you have a purpose for the topic to be discussed, then you have a better handle on your audience's needs.

For example, you may want to help someone decide whether to join the military or go to college out of high school. The audience would probably be 17 or 18, high school senior and wondering what will happen after graduation. Your purpose should be more than just SHOWING the differences between the two choices, but it should help them decide. You can either tell the audience in your thesis which "side" you believe is the better choice (for them), or you could wait until after the essay is developed and reiterate the positive points of one side or the other as part of the conclusion.

The following pages here have sample essays and hints for peer or self review.

A good place for finding a topic is to look at your latest decisions. For example, did you debate about whether to come to college right out of high school versus working for a while? Or did you debate about whether to go to the university or the community college? Or even did you recently buy a car and try to decide whether to buy new or used? or truck versus car? Look at your life for inspiration.

Big decisions

Remember, if you have trouble finding a topic, or if you have questions about whether your topic and audience would work, please see the Contact Me page.