Has this ever happened to you?
Professor: Where is your thesis statement?
If so, don’t worry. You’re not the first person to struggle with writing a thesis statement, and you won’t be the last. This part of essay writing has vexed many college students, but luckily, I’m here to show you the ropes.
Almost every college essay you write will require a thesis in one form or another. A compare and contrast essay is no exception.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the finer points of how to write a compare and contrast thesis statement and offer some pro tips and resources for tackling that essay like a boss.
Everything’s an Argument
Every time you sit down to write an essay, try to think of it like an argument. Yes. An argument. Always.
This is important because your thesis is the main argument—the main point—you’re trying to make in your essay.
It’s a claim you make about your topic. Then you spend the rest of the essay backing up that claim with examples, reasoning, and sometimes professional sources that reinforce this claim.
A compare and contrast essay doesn’t always require you to cite sources, though. So let’s just focus on what you can do to write a great thesis and, thus, a great essay.
Think about it this way—if someone handed you this list…
…you would probably wonder why the heck the person just did that. Similarly, your professor wants to see how well you can identify the relationship between two things.
If you write a strong thesis, then you’ll show your professor that your compare and contrast essay has a purpose.
The Compare and Contrast Thesis Statement: Prework
If you’re going to write a strong thesis, you’ll want to make sure you know your approach before going in. Here are some pro tips to help you get started.
Pro tip #1:
Pick topics that interest you. It’s way easier to write about something you like or care about. Need some help with picking a topic? Check out this list of compare and contrast essay topics.
Pro tip #2:
Once you have your topics, try saying the following aloud (and maybe when you’re by yourself so that people don’t look at you funny in the campus library):
“(Topic 1) and (Topic 2) have a lot in common. They also have some differences.”
Then pretend someone just replied with, “So what?”
Repeat this exercise as you write the essay. It will help you reinforce your thesis and make sure that the point you’re making is meaningful.
Every time you start a new paragraph and write a topic sentence that reinforces your thesis, pretend that you’re being asked “so what?” again. Work on answering that question as you continue writing the paragraph.
Though eccentric, both Gandalf and Dumbledore resemble kind-hearted grandfatherly figures when they first appear in the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series, respectively.
Your friend says:
You could reply:
Both characters are powerful wizards capable of terrible destruction, but showing them as kind old men humanizes and establishes them as protagonists that the reader can root for rather than fear.
Writing like this makes your essay more meaningful. Keep asking and answering “so what?” and you’ll write a strong essay that keeps reinforcing the thesis.
The Right Tool for the Job
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” thesis that works for any essay. Just like you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail, you’re not going to use an argumentative essay thesis for your compare and contrast essay.
If you’re going to write a solid compare and contrast thesis statement, then you’ll need to make sure you understand the anatomy of this essay. Let’s break down the compare and contrast format, bit by bit, and see how the thesis applies to each part.
Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to settle on your topics before moving forward. It’ll help you visualize how the following can be applied specifically to your topics.
1. Your approach
There are a few common approaches you could take when writing a compare and contrast essay.
Comparing/contrasting two things in the same category that are different somehow.
- Your house vs. a friend’s house
- Your favorite coffee shop vs. Starbucks
- Two types of cars
Comparing/contrasting two things that seem very different but actually have a lot in common.
- Bats and bears (both are mammals and hibernate during the winter)
- Pablo Picasso and Winston Churchill (both were painters)
Comparing/contrasting two things that appear the same but are actually very different.
- Tim Burton’s Batman vs. Christopher Nolan’s Batman
- Any movie and the book it’s based on
Applying the thesis:
Your thesis will be different depending on which approach you use. For example, if you were to compare/contrast two things that seem different, your thesis might look something like this:
While bats and bears appear to have little in common at first glance, they are remarkably similar.
And if you compared/contrasted two things that seem similar, your thesis might look like this:
While Batman is always depicted as the famous “Caped Crusader” in each Batman film, this character is wildly different depending on the film’s director.
Another pro tip:
To create a stronger thesis, be specific! For a compare and contrast essay, use several of your main points in your thesis to show the reader where your argument is going.
While bats and bears appear to have little in common at first glance, they are remarkably similar in their species classification and hibernation habits.
2. Your method
A compare and contrast essay is usually written using one of two methods.
Method #1: Subject by subject
This method is almost like writing two smaller essays in one. One half of the body paragraphs would cover the first subject, and the other half would cover the second subject.
While Batman is depicted as the “Caped Crusader” in either film series, Tim Burton’s Batman of the 1990s is far more comical, wittier, and less intimidating than Christopher Nolan’s early-2000s version.
To support this thesis, you would break down the things that are different between these two “subjects,” one at a time.
Tim Burton’s Batman (first half of body):
- Witty and less intimidating
- The style reflects 1990s-era American culture.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman (second half of body):
- Intimidating/fierce depiction
- The style reflects early 2000s-era American culture.
Method #2: Point by point
This method allows you to break down your topics by each point of similarity or difference. For each body paragraph, you support the thesis by writing about each topic at the same time.
Let’s use the same thesis from above and see how this method is organized in defending that compare and contrast thesis statement:
- The tone (comical vs. serious)
- Tim Burton’s Batman
- Christopher Nolan’s Batman
- The character (witty vs. intimidating)
- Tim Burton’s Batman
- Christopher Nolan’s Batman
- Time period effect on style
- Tim Burton’s Batman
- Christopher Nolan’s Batman
Either one of these methods can work for your compare and contrast essay. They’re both good structures to follow when trying to support your thesis.
And remember—the thesis is only as strong as the evidence that supports it, so choosing your method before you start writing is a good idea.
3. Know the process
By now, you’re probably starting to get a good idea of how you might put together this essay, but keep in mind that strong organization is key. It’s always smart to do the following steps before you even think of sitting down to type your first draft.
I know, I know—this is just something your professor tells you to do. But it really works! Many students get frustrated when writing and switch topics halfway through because they didn’t work out what they really wanted during a good old-fashioned brainstorming sesh.
My advice: Grab a snack and a cup of coffee. Stare out the window. Let the ideas start flowing in, and think about what you might have to say about them. Jot down some notes. You’re off to a good start.
Need some help with brainstorming? Read 6 Prewriting Strategies to Get Your Essay Rolling.
Really? Another step? You bet! I’ve seen a lot of students get stuck by the second paragraph because they didn’t plan ahead. Trust me—outline each paragraph of your essay. It’ll be so much easier to actually write the essay if you’re following a roadmap you’ve made for yourself.
Need some more help with outlining? Read This Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Will Help You Beat Writer’s Block.
Don’t write the compare and contrast thesis statement…yet
That’s right. Unless you’re 100% certain of what you’re going to say, your thesis could change often as you write.
Instead, jot down a few ideas of what your thesis might be. Use these as a guide, but don’t sweat it if your thesis ends up being way different than what you had originally planned.
Try writing your body paragraphs first. These are the most important parts of your essay, and when you’ve finished a draft, you can look back and see which of your main points are the strongest.
A thesis should only be one to two sentences long, so you’ll have to consolidate your ideas into this short space—this one argument.
Did you know that Kibin has a neat tool that can help you build that thesis if you get stuck? Give it a try: Kibin Thesis Builder.
The intro and conclusion can be written after you’ve hammered out the body paragraphs. Just make sure you’re following the correct organization for essay writing:
- Intro and thesis
- Body paragraphs 1, 2, 3, etc.
- Conclusion (restate thesis)
Now that you know how to write a compare and contrast thesis statement, get ready to blow your professor out of the water with a rockin’ essay. Say it with me now: this essay is going to be awesome.
And it will be. Just make sure you focus on all we’ve covered in this post to get started, and you’ll do great!
- The thesis is your main argument.
- Choose a topic you’re interested in.
- Answer “So what?”
- Know your approach.
- Subject by subject or point by point?
- Brainstorm, outline, draft.
As a final bit of advice, if your professor gives you instructions for how to organize and write this essay, follow them as closely as possible. If these instructions are in a workbook, make sure you’ve read and understand them. Ask your professor for clarity if necessary.
Also make sure you read some good compare and contrast essay examples to familiarize yourself with this essay style.
And of course, when you’ve finished working on that first draft, Kibin editors are standing by to help you make it shine.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
Students like writing compare and contrast essays as they have enough space for creativity. Such papers allow expressing your thoughts regarding some contradictive issues. It makes more fun to draw a parallel between two people or objects instead of describing a single issue.
It does not mean, however, that compare and contrast essay is an easy assignment to complete. There are so many possible compare and contrast essay topics, and some of them are hard to carry out.
Keys to Writing Compare & Contrast Essay
Before you start, it is crucial to choose topics that you really know well. Most often, you should find two things that have enough differences and similarities. You can take two pets, cats and dogs, while comparing a food (i.e., banana) with music (i.e., hard rock) basically, makes no sense.
Of course, if you're a part of Arts class where tutor appreciates uncommon parallelism, you may try your luck in your compare and contrast essay. You may talk about a sense of taste and the book of your favorite author. For instance, you may try to explain how it tastes to be Dracula. Or you can highlight how it smells to be Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from famous novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Such creative comparisons are often appreciated and awarded with more than "A." Original and unexpected compare and contrast essay topics serve as your ticket to special universities where Arts are studied. Along with a personal statement written by professional writers, such essay will increase your chances to get enrolled.
Sources to be Used
In any case, writing about things to compare and contrast is an activity which requires your full attention and creativity. But when you have to compare things objectively, you should operate facts. Just like an argumentative essay, your text will need corresponding evidence. Search for the primary and secondary sources on the given topics before you start your first draft. Make sure these sources are no older than 5 years. They should be as relevant as possible. Don't forget to apply only credible sources to reveal your topics. Those are:
- Academic journals
- Scientific magazines
- Official reports
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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
The traditional essay tips won't work with compare and contrast paper. We have gathered the best ideas online to share with students. If you write such assignment for the first time in your school or college life, read information from us.
You need to keep in mind the most common writing mistakes school and college students make to avoid them.
Start with the type of your compare and contrast essay topic. The topics are divided into 4 different groups:
- Events (point to the differences and similarities of some historical events or episodes from the book)
- Situations (choose to compare two different cases or episodes from your life)
- People or fiction characters (choose the story)
- Places (describe different locations)
No matter what comparison and contrast topics you write on, you need to keep to the traditional structure of the academic paper.
Start with a capturing and interesting hook. Outline what your topic is. Point to the main argument of your topic known as a thesis statement. This sentence or two usually come in the last sentence of your first paragraph.
- Developing your arguments
You need to research your topic to choose three claims. Include evidence with the supporting points next to each argument. There should be up to three supporting points in each body paragraphs.
- Refuting opponent's arguments
This time, you need to research the topic to view the facts that contradict your thesis. It is important to choose at least one example and develop a paragraph with the counter-argument as well. Write down maximum two opposing views followed by a couple of your refutations.
Restate your thesis statement and stress why your side is right once again.
You can learn more information on the structure of five-paragraph paper online.
Writing Tips Used by Smart American College Students
Moreover, use such helpful words as "because,""for example," "the writer mentioned...," "according to the book/movie," "from the given reading, we know that...," "on the following page, I have found..."
"Why do you believe Americans will win the next Olympic games?"
"According to the reading I have found in my college library, their team showed better results than Canadians during the last games."
- Check possible examples of compare and contrast essays when working in your hook sentence. It has a great influence on the reader's decision whether to read your text on a specific topic or not. You may add numbers, figures, facts - whatever to make your reader interested. On the whole, there are many types of hooks:
- Anecdotes and jokes
- Literary quotes
- Quotes of famous people
- Lines from poetry
- Setting scenes
- Scientific facts
- Questions and rhetorical questions
- Metaphors and similes
- Thesis statements
We think it is better to write a thesis statement in the last sentence of the argumentative essay’s introduction to conclude.
- Brainstorm all the time. The best way to decide on two good compare and contrast topics to analyze is to brainstorm and write down possible versions on a blank paper. Once you choose the subjects, you have to organize your thoughts. Prepare a table where you will mention both similarities and differences between the two subjects.
- Get professional help and examples. Find online educational services which help to choose some good sources on the given topic. Those can be movies, books, articles, etc. It is the last pre-writing stage which is known as a literature review. School and college students conduct in-depth research to enrich their compare and contrast essay drafts with important details. If you miss any words to finish your essay, a literature review is a brilliant way to reach the necessary word count.
- Don't forget about the formatting and in-text citations. Apply direct and indirect quotes to make your text longer and more persuasive. Citations will serve as the strong evidence to support your compare and contrast topics.
It was just a short preview of every section of your compare and contrast paper in English. Selecting the proper topics might take a while if you don't have a list of sample topics in front of you. We are ready to share the best compare and contrast essay subjects with you right now. You may use any example as the subject for your comparative essay when the theme is not assigned to you.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
We have divided the topics into several categories to make it easier to select one. The list starts with the most relevant subjects college students usually discuss. Other categories are full of great ideas too.
- School vs. College: What's New?
- Students Who Work and Unemployed Students: Who Takes the Best of This Life?
- Research Paper and Essay: What Is More Responsible?
- American English vs. British English: Major Differences
- What Makes Education and Employment Similar?
- SAT and TOEFL: Differences and Similarities
- How Are Master Degree and Ph.D. different?
- Persuasive and Argumentative Paper: Different or the Same
- Traditional Education or Remote Learning?
History and Political Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Comparison of Lincoln's and Washington' Ideas
- Renaissance vs. Baroque Epoch
- Anthropology vs. Religious Studies
- American Government vs. Soviet Government
- US President vs. UK Prime Minister
- North and South Before the Civil War in the US
- Henry VIII vs. King Louis XIV
- Fascism and Nazism: Different or the Same?
- World War I and World War II: Difference in Events
Compare and Contrast Topics for Beginners
- Compare Apple and Orange
- Night Time and Day Time: Advantages Each Period Has
- What Makes People Completely Different from Animals
- Living in Poverty and Being Rich
- Coffee and Tea: The Effects of Both
- Living in Big City or Staying in Village
- Feeling Sad against Feeling Lonely
- Differences and Similarities between American and British Traditional Dishes
- Camping in the Woods or Resting by the Sea?
Opposite Things to Compare and Contrast
- Females and Males
- Coke vs. Pepsi
- Red vs. White
- Country in War Compared to Country in Peace
- Driving a Car or Riding a Bus
- Love and Hatred
- Bad and Good Aspects of Overwork
- Moon and Sun
- Dolls or Soft Toys: What Should Parents Buy to Their Children?
Ideas Teenagers May Use in Their Papers
- Childhood vs. Adulthood
- Living at Home or Living on Campus
- Reading or Watching Screened Versions: What Teens Prefer
- Working in Office or Being a Freelancer?
- Academic Writing vs. Scientific Writing
- TV Shows and Radio Shows: What Is More Trendy?
- Education or Professional Career: What Is Easier and What Is More Difficult?
- Greek and Roman Culture: Differences and Similarities
- Comparing Art and Science Classes
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IT & Social Media Compare & Contrast Ideas
- E-mail or Traditional Mailing: What Will Happen in the Future?
- Online vs. Traditional Commerce
- Online Dating vs. Real-Life Relations
- Computer Games, Video Games, or Smartphone Games
- Choosing between New York Times and Forbes
- FaceBook or MySpace: Which Social Network Offers More Opportunities?
- Searching for Job Online or Traditionally?
- Using Online Writing Services against Traditional Writing Services
- Benefits Marketing Specialists Get from Using Online Advertising vs. Traditional One
Movie & Music Compare and Contrast Themes
- Buffy, the Vampire Slayer or Charmed?
- Books against Movies: Why Reading Is Preferred
- Jazz vs. Rock
- Sam vs. Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings)
- Gandalf vs. Dumbledore
- American Cinematography vs. Soviet Union Cinematography
- Thor and Loki: Friends or Enemies According to Movie of 2009?
- Horror Films and Thrillers: What's in Common?
- Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy?
Literature Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Comedy vs. Drama
- Greek vs. Roman Mythology
- Beauty and the Beast: Lessons Learned
- Prose or Lyrics: What People Prefer More and Why?
- Poetry of XIII Century and Nowadays Lyrics
- Shakespeare's Othello Compared to Hamlet
- Fiction or Non-Fiction Literature: When You May Need Different Types?
- Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter: Which Fantasy Book Is Better?
- Literature of the Past against Literature of the Future
Scientific Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Oven vs. Microwave
- Physics vs. Chemistry
- Our Galaxy, Milky Way, and Andromeda, the Closest
- What Makes Earth Different from Mars
- First Mission to Moon and Second Visit: What Are the Differences and Similarities?
- Thomas Jefferson or DaVinci: Whose Innovations Matter More?
- Earthquakes or Tsunami: Which Consequences Are Worse?
- Limited Control Tools or Software with Fool Access to Navigation
- Formulas of Two Different Chemical Reactions
Popular Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Soccer vs. Football
- Chinese vs. Korean
- Public Opinion vs. Personal Point of View: Discuss Subjectivity & Objectivity
- Juice and Water
- Light Beer vs. Dark Beer: Which One Is More Popular?
- Anorexia Nervosa and Obesity: What Is More Dangerous?
- Marriage and Divorce: Two Sides of the Coin
- Windows or Linux: Paid vs. Free OS
- Marxism vs. Other Ideas of Capitalism
Philosophy Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Is Home Really a Better Place Than Miami Beach?
- Life and Death: Various Philosophical Views
- Living in Your Dreams or Living in Reality: Pros and Cons
- Friends and ... Where Is the Edge?
- Physical & Mental Needs of Human Beings
- Reality or Fantasy World?
- Main Philosophical Ideas of Macbeth against the Main Ideas of Hamlet
- Dogs and Humans: They Are More Similar Than We Think
- Sources with Free Access and Rights Reserved: Should We Protect Intellectual Property?
- Greek Philosophers vs. Roman Philosophers
Compare and contrast essay topics for college students might be tricky to choose. The whole process of academic writing is even longer and more complex. Online help from expert writers will save you a plenty of time. You just need to order a good essay from experts with the highest academic degrees in a variety of fields.
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