The purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to analyze the differences and/or the similarities of two distinct subjects. A good compare/contrast essay doesn’t only point out how the subjects are similar or different (or even both!). It uses those points to make a meaningful argument about the subjects. While it can be a little intimidating to approach this type of essay at first, with a little work and practice, you can write a great compare-and-contrast essay!
Some instructors prefer that you only write about the differences between two things, while others want you to focus on explaining the similarities as well. Either way, you'll need to make sure that your thesis statement reflects your instructor's expectations. For example, if I wanted to write about Social Networking sites, I'd need to write different thesis statements depending on my compare/contrast assignment.
Compare and contrast essays are often assigned to students because they promote critical thinking, analytical reasoning and organized writing. A compare and contrast essay should look at a subject in a new way, with fresh insight, using the similarities and the differences between two topics or two perspectives on one topic.
Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.
If you want to write a successful compare/contrast essay, you'll need to avoid writing about really obvious differences and similarities. For example:
To write a compare/contrast essay, you’ll need to make NEW connections and/or express NEW differences between two things. The key word here…is NEW!
Sample thesis statement for compare/contrast paper: While both Facebook and MySpace allow you to meet other users who have similar interests, only MySpace allows you to demonstrate your personal style.
Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases: