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What is a comparative essay and how to write it?


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A desk with office equipment for writing a comparative essay

Comparative essay definition is not that difficult but surely useful to know. This is an analysis paper, which compares the two subjects and shows their similarities and differences. This assignment is a common one for schools and universities as they offer such assignments to their students during exams or as homework. Therefore, it is important to learn how to work on it properly and we are here to help you do it!

Comparative essay outline

A typical comparative essay paper structure is the following:

  • Introduction, which engages the reader and presents a thesis.
  • Body, which shows the comparative analysis of chosen subjects.
  • Conclusion, which summarizes the evidence, restates the thesis, and encourages the reader to share your opinion.

The outline may look easy from the first sight. However, the body section can be organized in many ways. Two of them are used more frequently:

  • Block arrangement
    This one overviews the subjects separately in different blocks. It is used when a person does not have a great knowledge of the topic and cannot get more information about it for some reason. Therefore, he or she analyzes one subject in a few paragraphs and moves to the next one after it is discussed completely.
  • Alternating arrangement.
    This option is the one that teachers like the most. It requires a student to choose a few criteria, which will be used to analyze the subjects alternately. In this case, each paragraph will stand for a certain point of comparison. Such an approach leads to a more focused and precise evaluation, which helps to compare and examine subjects in detail.

If you are not sure which outline would work best for you, ask your professor. Let’s face it – as he or she will be the one assessing your task, it is more about their preferences rather than yours. Alternatively, you can check a few samples on the web to see the structure that you think suits your paper best.

How to write a comparative essay?

Even though the essays are usually not that lengthy, it takes a lot of time to write a good comparative paper. It is important to consider the factors that will determine how you present the facts and the way you write. But the aspects that matter the most are the target audience and the topic.

As your comparative paper is written for knowledgeable audience, you need to make it relevant and engaging. Therefore, you need to organize the work properly and choose a topic that will appeal to the reader. Additionally, you need to follow a comparative essay format indicated in the rubric in order to receive a full grade. Ask your professor or visit school or university website in order to learn more about the formatting rules for papers in your academic institution.


How to start comparative essay so that your paper will be interesting to read until the end? First of all, you have to think about hook phrase. It’s a sentence that has to engage your audience in further reading. You can also provide some brief interesting fact or statistics if it’s relevant for your essay. Then, you can provide the context of the issue so that your readers can gain a deeper understanding of it. And finally, do not forget about your thesis statement at the end of the into.

Tips from experts

Meet our advisors

Read the essay question carefully!

Look for these words:

  • Describe/summarize means give the facts
  • Explain means analyze the topic
  • Argue means to reject/accept a viewpoint
  • Discuss refers to presenting a point of view
  • Critique means give both positive/negative sides
  • Compare and contrast discuss similarities/differences

Structure an essay

Beginners use the five-paragraph structure with references. Advanced writers use a variation of this method.


Write the first ugly draft – using first/third person depending on the requirements. Know how to paraphrase and summarize. Don’t plagiarize – everyone checks if the essay is unique.

Editing & Formatting

I use the chainsaw and surgical methods. Chainsaw cuts material that isn’t relevant. Surgical involves fine-tuning spelling and grammar.

What is the formatting style? APA, MLA, or CMS? What is the word/page count? Follow the rubric.

Penny J. Larsen

College professor with 30 years of teaching experience

Thesis statement

It is crucial to prepare a good thesis as it is a part of an introduction that determines what the whole paper will be about. While writing a comparative essay, remember that a thesis has to inform a reader about the subjects that will be compared and why it is important to do it. All of the body paragraphs will completely rely on a thesis and logically explain similarities and differences between the subjects that you mention.

How do you write a comparative thesis? It is crucial to come up with interesting points of comparison to hook the reader. They may be different depending on the topic. Usually, comparative essays are written for English or literature classes. Students are often asked to compare the main characters or some events that have occurred.

If they are making a comparative analysis of poetry, the attention is focused more on figurative language and the vividness of description. The analysis may also apply to other subjects like law or politics. It is used to understand the significance of approaches or ideas and compare famous historical figures. Whatever the subject is, when writing a thesis, make sure that it is clear what you are comparing and why.

Body paragraphs

A body is the most extensive part of the whole paper. Here, you have to prove your thesis statement with the help of arguments and relevant examples. There are some general rules of writing essay body, and here are the most important ones:

  • Essay body usually includes 3-6 paragraphs. In some cases, it can be even more, but this number is usually enough.
  • Each point should be discussed in a separate paragraph. Be sure to include an introductory sentence in each, support the point you are making with factual information, and slowly transition into the next paragraph.
  • It is recommended to use different transition words so that your paragraphs are read smoothly. Use phrases like “Firstly, secondly, finally…” “Furthermore,” “In addition,” etc.


The last part of your essay should be clear and concise as well. Here, you showcase how well you succeed in proving your thesis statement. However, be careful with the information you include. There should be:

  • No excessive facts. Your conclusion should go over the basic arguments presented in the body.
  • No new information. This part has to include only the information that was discussed in your paper before that.
  • No copying. Your thesis statement has to be repeated in other words; otherwise, it would look unprofessional.
  • No quotes. While it’s a good idea to leave your readers some food for thought, it wouldn’t be appropriate to include a quote.

Once you are done with each section of your paper, do not forget to review it one or a few more times before the submission. Be sure to check if the paper is easy to read and understand, as well as check it for mistakes and typos.

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