HomeEssay topicsComparative Essays: Free Essay Samples, Qualities, Topic Ideas, and Format

Comparative Essays: Free Essay Samples, Qualities, Topic Ideas, and Format

A comparative essay, which is also referred to as a compare and contrast essay, is one  of the most common types of academic essays that students are asked to write in the course of their learning. A comparative essay requires you to identify and explain the similarities and differences between two subjects. The subjects are not always obvious, such as comparing a dog and a cat. The essay tests your ability to analyze distinct concepts evident in the two subjects and draw comparisons. As such, you can be asked to write a comparative essay on the literary devices used in two different poems, two different education systems, or two political systems, among others.

Defining a Comparative Essay

A comparative essay is an academic essay in which a writer compares two items with the aim of showing their differences and similarities. The subjects of comparison often fall within a similar category, such as cars or pets, but they have stark differences that form the basis for comparison. Sometimes, they fall within different categories, such as movies and books. Nonetheless, the two items must have a meaningful connection. Although essay instructions will often ask students to ‘compare’ items A and B, it is assumed that the student will write about both items’ similarities and differences.

Sometimes, you might want to focus on comparing two items. To achieve a good comparison, it is best to select two varying subjects, such as red grapes and white grapes. These are two different types of grapes; therefore, it would be interesting to see their similarities. When focusing on contrasting two subjects, consider drawing your subjects from closely related categories (e.g., the red grape variety grown in France and the red grape variety grown in South Africa). Since they are both red grapes, your reader would be interested in knowing what sets them apart.

Our Free Comparative Essay Samples

An actual comparative essay sample will give you a better glimpse of what your professor expects. Below are two comparative essays that some of WritingElite.net’s essay writers wrote.

Comparison Between Communism and Socialism (Format: APA 7)

Compare and Contrast the UK and the US Education Systems (Format: MLA)

Comparative Essay Topic Ideas

Sometimes, your professor will give you a topic to write about. However, most times, you will be required to come up with a topic of your own. It is important to select a topic that will be of interest to your reader. It should be captivating enough to convince your reader to yearn to learn more about the subject matter. Topics transcend many fields, including technology, education, sports, farming, gender roles, people’s personalities, foods, religion, traditions, race, and politics, among others. Some comparative essay ideas on everyday topics are listed below:

Technology

Snapchat Vs. Facebook

Here, you can compare and contrast the two social media sites’ features. Based on your research and analysis, explain why one is better than the other in terms of its effectiveness as a marketing tool. Are both effective social networking tools? Is one of the sites preferred over the other? What do they have in common? Does one appeal more to a certain age group than the other?

Politics

Communism Vs. Socialism

Sometimes, these two political systems are used interchangeably since they share some similarities. However, they differ in many ways. Analyze these similarities and differences, drawing examples from history and research.

Education

Compare and Contrast the UK and the US Education Systems

A comparative essay on the UK and the US education systems can focus on the similarities in the courses offered and the quality of education based on official world rankings. Differences include course durations, tuition costs, cost of living in one country versus the other, et cetera.

Sports

Indoor Sports Vs. Outdoor Sports

Which of these two types of sports require more physical energy and fitness? What are the similarities and differences in terms of the equipment used? Which one requires rigorous training? Do they have similar fan bases? Are they both popular among a particular age group?

Religion

Islam Vs. Christianity

Islam and Christianity share some similar characteristics. Followers of both religions believe in the existence of a Supreme being- God. Some differences exist; Christians believe in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, while Muslims do not. A comparative essay on these two religions can be drawn from the belief systems between both, religious festivals associated with each religion, teachings, et cetera.

How Do I Start Writing My Comparative Essay?

A good way to start your comparative essay writing process is to brainstorm about the topic you have in mind.  You can use a Venn diagram to write down the similarities and differences between your subjects of comparison. In the three circles below, the intersection highlights the similarities between the two subjects. The outer circles show the traits unique to a particular subject.

Typically, a Venn diagram should have three points of comparison and three points of contrast. However, the minimum is two comparisons and two contrasts.

Compare and Contrast Using a Venn Diagram

You can also simply list your subjects’ similarities and differences in individual columns. That means you list your first subject’s similarities and differences in one column and your second subject’s similarities and differences in the other column. Listing the similarities and differences only serves as a guide when writing the essay. You should remember to go beyond listing and analyze the similarities and differences and draw conclusions. To achieve, you can follow our comparative essay format.

Comparative Essay Format

Like most essays, your comparative essay will have three sections, the introduction, body, and conclusion. However, each of these sections has a particular format. Adhering to a structure makes your writing process easy, organizes your ideas better, and makes your essay easy to understand. Often, a comparative essay follows either of two structures: the alternating method and the block method.

Alternating Method

First, you introduce your topic, make your essay’s theme known, and write your thesis statement. Present these three items in the introductory paragraph.

The next paragraphs are the body paragraphs. When using the alternating method (point-by-point-method), the writer lists all similarities and differences between the two items being compared in one paragraph.

Each body paragraph must have a topic sentence, arguments about the first item, and arguments about the second item. The last paragraph is the conclusion. Here, you should sum up all the information in the preceding paragraphs and restate your thesis statement.

Introduction

Introduces the essay topic

States the essay’s theme

Presents a clear the thesis statement

Body paragraphs

First paragraph- Compares/contrasts the first element of subject A and B

Second paragraph- Compares/contrasts the second element of subject A and B

Third paragraph- Compares/contrasts the third element of subject A and B

Conclusion

Sums up the main essay points. Restates thesis statement.

Block Method

Just like the alternating method, the block method should have an introductory paragraph that introduces the essay’s topic and states its theme and thesis statement.

With this method, each subject is discussed in its own block (i.e., paragraph). The elements of A are discussed in one or more individual paragraphs, followed by the elements of B in individual paragraphs too.

Introduction

Introduces the essay topic

States the essay’s theme

Presents a clear thesis statement

Body paragraphs

First paragraph- Discusses all the elements of subject A

Second paragraph- Discusses all the aspects of subject B

Third paragraph- Analyzes the similarities/differences between the items discussed in the first (A) and second (B) paragraphs.

Conclusion

Sums up the main essay points. Restates the thesis statement.

Qualities of a Good Comparative Essay

  • Uses transitional words/phrases: These allow a seamless flow of ideas in the essay. They make it easy for a reader to follow your essay’s ideas. Examples include:

First, next, finally, Subsequently, consequently, in addition to, in fact, and correspondingly, among others.

  • Uses evidence to back up arguments

Depending on the essay, the arguments can be based on personal experiences. Evidence can also be drawn from academic journals, books, movies, or authoritative websites. When not writing from personal experience, always remember to cite the source of any information used. Using evidence adds credibility to your arguments.

  • Has an introduction that lets the reader in on your subject.

The introduction also carries the thesis statement, which explains your stand on the topic. For example, is online learning better than physical learning? Do the two complement each other, so none is better than the other?

An example of a thesis statement: While physical learning allows students maximum face-to-face interactions with their teachers and classmates, online learning has become indispensable since it affords students the flexibility to attend class from anywhere in the world.

  • Has a topic sentence in every paragraph

The topic sentence comes at the beginning of every paragraph and highlights the paragraph’s main idea. Subsequent sentences will entail information that supports the topic sentence’s main idea.

An example of a topic sentence: Students who attend physical classes spend more money than those who attend online classes.

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