How to Write a Comparative Essay? 9 steps

Guide for writing influential Comparative Essays with easy to understand instructions and compelling tips. This article includes 9 powerful steps and 6 incredible tips for helping you to write better Comparative essays.

Comparative essays take readers into an analysis of two sides. This article will provide comprehensive detailing on what makes a comparative essay.

What is a Comparative Essay?

As mentioned earlier, a comparative essay looks at comparing two separate items. In reality a comparative essay both compares and contrasts both items against each other. Some of these items may include:

  • Comparable events such as World War 1 and World War 2
  • Positions on a single issue such democracy in North and South Korea
  • Statistics such as U.S. economic growth in 2008 and 2009
  • Literary characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot

The purpose of the essay could be to discuss the common features of the opposing sides. It could also be about simply displaying the advantages and disadvantages of either side. It is a good idea to detail at the beginning of the essay what the content is meant to relay. That way the reader will be able to better follow the arguments and make easy sense of the piece. Although there are no strict guidelines on how to format a comparative essay, the narrative should flow in such a way that will allow the argument to unfold sensibly.

Instruction (9 steps)

1. Determine that the essay will be comparative

In an academic setting, a student may be asked to directly compare two items or left free to come to the conclusion that a comparative essay is what is needed. A student may also be given a specific consideration to compare such as the GDP growth statistics of two nations. They may however also be given free rein to compare the economic growth of the two nations allowing them to take into account other statistical information within this area such as unemployment and inflation rates.

2. Define both sides

Before putting your reflections on how the two sides compare, it is a good idea to first define each side individually. Put in some research and look at each side objectively without judgements. A short history on each side may be a helpful introduction into the comparative essay.

3. What is the Common Denominator?

Just as you define both sides individually, also take time to bring out why the two sides should be comparable. At this point you will also want to predetermine the specific areas that the essay will focus on. The reader will now be able to see what the points of interest will be. The writer can also take time to indicate areas that will be excluded from the argument.

4. State the Expected Outcome

This is a chance to clearly state the reason for the comparison being conducted and what the writer expects to prove from the analysis of the two sides. It should tally with the description in the essay title.

5. Compare and Contrast

Before tackling the main body of the comparative essay, it is a good idea to first make a list of the similarities and differences between the two opposing sides. Take notes of this analysis breakdown. The information gleaned from this stage is what will help fill out the main body of the text.

6. Create You Thesis

From the comparison and contrasting done earlier, a writer can now put down their thesis statement. There is usually one of two outcomes possible. Either the differences outweigh the similarities or the similarities outweigh the differences.

7. Structure Your Main Body

There are two main ways of arranging how the main part of your analysis will be laid out in the main body. The first option is the alternating pattern. In this arrangement, the writer goes into specific points one by one and plays them both sides. So for each point the writer examines the contribution from item A and follows this with the contribution from item B. Both are placed in one paragraph before moving on to the next key point or contribution. For example when comparing the nutrient value of apples and oranges, the first paragraph could focus on whether they both contribute Vitamin A to the body and how this contributes to the consumers' health. The next paragraph would focus on Vitamin B and the body would progress in that manner.

The second way of structuring the body is called the block method. Here the idea is to discuss each opposing side in its entirety before looking at the other. There are no direct comparisons made as with the alternating pattern, however the points may be arranged in such a manner that the reader can clearly see how the comparisons were carried out. Another way of showing the comparisons is to make direct reference to the first item's analysis within the second item's argument. You can illustrate a similarity by pointing out 'Just as with item A, item B also ...'. A disagreement could be shown by 'Unlike item A that ....'.

8. When to Use each structure

The alternating pattern is preferable because it is much easier to follow as the comparing and contrasting is done directly as pertains to each key point being covered. It illustrates how well the writer has explored each point and how it relates to the two subjects. It also ensures that no point is made without a comparison on the other end. This method is highly suitable for academic papers as the professor/lecturer will be able to gauge the depth of analysis that has gone into the paper.

The block method is more easily used where the two items being compared have very many similarities and using the alternating method will mean repeating one's sentences as they follow each other. It is also useful if there are more than two subjects under comparison.

9. The Conclusion

Provide a very brief overview of the similarities and differences outlined in the main body. Ensure that the final conclusion draws to a close all the information relayed in the main body. It should bring together all that you have illustrated. End with a firm judgment of your analysis.


1. Come up with key points and jot down your analysis of both sides. This makes it easier when working on the main body as you only need to elaborate on your analysis of each point.

2. Be very clear on what you are analyzing. In academic papers you do not want to see a comment from your professor asking what exactly was under comparison. Keep the chosen themes running throughout the paper.

3. Try not to repeat yourself. If the comparisons are proving to be similar in nature, use the block method when putting down your main body.

4. Provide a suitable title to your work and make sure the entire paper from the introduction to the conclusion flow sensibly. Let there be a logical sequence in your presentation.

5. Do not end your essay with the two subjects are similar yet different conclusion. That shows a weak comparative analysis.

6. Try to tackle each key point in a relaxed manner. Do not rush yourself or you are liable to provide jumbled or confusing information. Try to keep it focused and sensible.

May I know your favorite Comparative Essay Topic? I am feeling excited to read and reply your valuable comments.