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Compare and Contrast Essay Format

Updated: Feb 12, 2016
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In writing the Compare and Contrast Essay, the student illustrates the similarities and differences between two objects, topics or subjects; these items are both compared and contrasted based on their distinctive characteristics, qualities, definitions, functions, properties and purposes, etc.


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Compare and contrast essay is an essay that follows a format very similar to the general five-paragraph essay taught and accepted in higher education:


An Introduction Paragraph that includes a Thesis Statement – the one-sentence argument being declared early on in the paper, which is announces the premise of the rest of the paper. In this case, the Thesis Statement announces that the two terms being examined do indeed compare and contrast based on a common set of criteria.


At Least Three Body Paragraphs – serves to support the Thesis Statement –with each paragraph illustrating a specific point that ultimately supports the essay’s argument, or Thesis Statement.


A Conclusion Paragraph – ties the paper together; it also announces that the essay and its argument has come to a close, most times in an effort to solidify the argument made in the essay.



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Typical Format for a Compare and Contrast Essay


1. Introduction Paragraph – the first paragraph introducing the essay’s topic or topics being examined. It includes, most importantly, a Thesis Statement – the paper’s premise that is to be argued or maintained throughout the essay, which in this case is a sentence or two explaining that the two items compare and contrast based on a shared set of characteristics, functions, definitions or properties, etc. In most cases, it is generally accepted that the student, at least in this paragraph, list the three main points they will illustrate in the rest of the essay to ultimately defend their Thesis Statement.


2. Body Paragraphs – the (minimum of) three body paragraphs that support, evidence, explain and illustrate how the Thesis Statement (in this case, how the items are similar and different) is true. Each body paragraph should begin with a Transitional Phrase indicating to the reader that a new point (meaning one of the three main points) is being examined or put forth – again, all of which will be defending the Thesis one paragraph at a time, each one focusing on just one point at a time.


Also, before each body paragraph’s main point is illustrated, the student must remember to restate their Thesis – but not verbatim as it was stated originally in the Introduction Paragraph – to keep the reader focused and reminded of the argument being made or put forth.


The three main points of the Compare and Contrast Essay can be illustrated in at least two ways: one, with each body paragraph showing how the two items Compare and Contrast; the other way is illustrating, in separate paragraphs, how the two items compare and contrast.


3. Conclusion Paragraph – serves to tie the paper together so the reader better understands the paper’s argument; this paragraph summarizes the essay, from its original Thesis Statement to its supportive three main points (which were illustrated and expounded on in the body paragraphs). It, also, generally begins with a transitional phrase to indicate the conclusion of the essay. "Lastly", "in conclusion", "to sum it up", "ultimately" are the most appropriate ones to use in this case.


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