70 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics to Help You Get Started

admin/ August 31, 2018/ University, academic, accounting, application, article, compare, contrast, course, courses, descriptive, english, history, maker, mba, phd, questi, questions, report, school, text, topics, worksheet

70 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics to Help You Get Started


You’re looking for a great compare and contrast essay topic to kick start your assignment. How can you choose an interesting topic that’s simultaneously narrow yet broad enough to provide you with plenty of great material?

In this blog post, I’ll give you 70 compare and contrast essay topics. I’ve also included links to sample essays for even more inspiration.

With many of these topics, I’ll also give you some basic compare and contrast points to get your ideas going. Note that my points are pretty general.

When you write your compare and contrast essay , you’ll want to dig deep, do your research , and find the most interesting facts.

Let’s get started!

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Influential People

Stuck on Your Essay?
Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays
Yes! Show me examples.

It’s time to dust off your powers of creativity and have some fun comparing and contrasting influential people.

People are the definition of unique—no two are exactly alike. The challenge is to find the similarities between two individuals, even when they seem to have nothing in common.

Comparing two people from a similar background is pretty easy. But surprising comparisons—such as those between fictional characters and real-life people or between people from different epochs—can lead to the most interesting essays.

When you successfully make those unlikely connections, readers will be awestruck by your sheer brilliance.

1.  Mahatma Gandhi vs. Osama Bin Laden

compare Mahatma Gandhi and Osama Bin Laden were both extremely influential figures who successfully motivated thousands of people to act on behalf of their visions. Both leaders were killed by their opposition.

contrast Gandhi was a pacifist and a bastion of peace and compassion. He fought for freedom and civil rights. Bin Laden was an extreme militant and a bastion of war and intolerance. He fought for the implementation of extreme religious propaganda.

2.  Edward Snowden vs. Julius Caesar

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Both Edward Snowden and Julius Caesar played an instrumental role in the inevitable demise of the powerful institutions in which they functioned—Snowden the 21st century United States of America and Caesar the Roman Republic.

contrast Snowden fights for the rights of the people, while Caesar fought against the people in his quest for ultimate power.

Speaking of Romans:  The Roman and Han empires  make for an interesting comparison. Even though the two nations were separated by time and geography, they experienced striking similarities in technological, political, and economic advances.

3.  OJ Simpson vs. Tom Robinson

compare OJ Simpson and Tom Robinson were both black men who stood accused of violence against white women. Both men were convicted for these crimes. Their convictions left behind a debate as to whether the men were actually brought to justice or rather were victims of racial injustice.

contrast Tom Robinson is a fictional character from the book To Kill a Mockingbird. OJ Simpson is a real-life former NFL player. Tom Robinson was sentenced to death, while OJ Simpson received a prison sentence.

4.  Harriet Jacobs vs. Frederick Douglass

compare Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass were former slaves who became abolitionists. Both Jacobs and Douglass wrote profound autobiographical accounts of their lives as slaves that helped form the argument against slavery.

contrast2 Harriet Jacobs wrote about the struggles and hardships unique to women in slavery, such as sexual abuse. Frederick Douglass wrote about the struggles and hardships specific to men in slavery, such as emasculation. Douglass went on to become a well-known orator and ran for vice president on the Equal Party Ticket. Jacobs remained an important but relatively unrecognized figure in the abolitionist movement.

 5.  Adolf Hitler vs. Joseph Stalin

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Both Hitler and Stalin were dictators who achieved a high level of power during WWI and WWII. Both men were behind innumerable human atrocities that killed millions of innocent people.

contrast Hitler was the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany. Stalin was the leader of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. Nazism, by definition, is opposed to communism.

6.  Maya Angelou vs. Alice Walker

compare Maya Angelou and Alice Walker are both well-known African American authors. They are credited with contributing important fictional and non-fictional texts on the issues surrounding what it means to be black in the United States. They are both inspirational political and civil rights activists. They are both recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

contrast In addition to writing, Angelou is also known for her work as an actress and film and television producer. Even though they addressed similar topics in their writings, the two authors wrote in very different styles—each with her own unique voice.

7.  Hobbes vs. Locke

compare Hobbes and Locke were both 17th century English philosophers. They were both interested in exploring political philosophy. Both men, for instance, talked about a state of nature —the idea of man existing without government—and the dangers of such a state (though that’s where their similarities largely ended on the topic).

contrast2 Hobbes and Locke disagreed on a number of issues . For example, Hobbes believed that man is by nature a social animal, while Locke believed the opposite. Hobbes believed that man has an intrinsic understanding of the difference between right and wrong. Locke believed that man only understands the difference between right and wrong when an authority, such as the law or God, enforces it.

8.  Ellen DeGeneres vs. Oprah Winfrey

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey are both American television personalities who have hosted their own daytime talk shows. Both women have been extremely successful in their careers.

contrast As a comedienne, DeGeneres relies on witty humor and sarcastic criticism to convey her messaging, while the more serious Winfrey relies on inspiration, insights, and aha moments .

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” – Ellen DeGeneres

 9.  Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois

compare Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois were both early 20th century civil rights activists. They were both great leaders of the black community. Both men were also accomplished scholars.

contrast Washington and DuBois disagreed on how to go about achieving racial equality. Washington believed that African Americans should earn equality through self-help and hard work. DuBois, conversely, believed that African Americans needed to become better educated and more politically active.

10.  Plato vs. Socrates

compare Plato and Socrates were both ancient Greek philosophers. They are considered to be the founders of Western philosophy. Both men also founded a school.

contrast Socrates was Plato’s teacher and mentor. Socrates expounded on the wisdom of “I know that I know nothing.” Plato philosophized that the world of ideas was the only constant and that the world of senses is changeable.

11.  Adolf Hitler vs. Regina George

compare Adolf Hitler and Regina George both can be considered dictators in their own right. Both Hitler and George believed that people with blonde hair, blue eyes, and other Aryan features were somehow better than other people.

contrast2 Adolf Hitler was a real person, dictator, and founder of Nazism in Germany. He was responsible for countless human atrocities, including the murder of over 6 million Jews. Regina George is a fictional character from the 2004 movie Mean Girls. George’s biggest human atrocity is the creation of the Burn Book, a book that libels the other students in school.

 12.  Pope Francis vs. Macklemore

compare Both Pope Francis and Macklemore believe in love, equality, and showing compassion to others. Both are cultural icons. Both men have the ability to reach out to and speak to the masses.

contrast Pope Francis is the leader of the Catholic Church. Macklemore is an American entertainer and hip-hop rapper. Macklemore “wears your grandad’s clothes,” while Pope Francis is old enough to be your grandad.

What do Pope Francis and Macklemore have in common? Maybe more than you think!

Click To Tweet

13. Lin-Manual Miranda vs. William Shakespeare

compare Both playwrights have changed the face of theater forever. Both playwrights have been criticized for creating historically inaccurate works. Both writers make political and social commentary in their plays.

contrast Shakespeare’s plays were not musicals (though they often contained musical components). Miranda’s most famous play, Hamilton , is a wildly successful musical. Shakespeare lived and wrote in the 16th century, while Miranda is a contemporary playwright.

14. Ronald Reagan vs. Donald Trump

compare Reagan and Trump were both television and media stars before becoming president. When they were first elected, many people feared that neither one of these men would be strong or effective leaders.

contrast2 When Reagan took office, interest rates and inflation were high. Trump, on the other hand, entered office with historically low inflation and interest rates. Many people believed Reagan understood the problems with government and believed he was willing to work with citizens to help solve problems. Trump has claimed that he alone will be able to solve problems.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: History

compare and contrast essay topics

15.  19th century living vs. modern living

16.  The Roman vs. Han empires

17.  Medicine in Ancient Greece vs. medicine in Ancient China

18. Media coverage of past wars vs. media coverage of current wars

19. Russian propaganda during the Cold War vs. Russian propaganda today

20. The Great Depression vs. the Great Recession

Stuck on Your Essay?
Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays
Yes! Show me examples.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Religion

When you set out to compare and contrast world religions, you may feel like you have fallen down a rabbit hole. A student I know once wrote an essay comparing Jesus Christ and Snow White—talk about falling down a rabbit hole!

What’s more, the crossovers between two opposing religions can be surprising.

21.  Protestantism vs. Catholicism

compare Protestants were originally a part of the Catholic Church. So they still believe that Jesus is the savior and that he was crucified and rose from the dead to save humanity.

contrast2 Among their many differences , Catholics believe in Holy Water, purgatory, and that those wafers you eat at mass are actually, literally the body of Christ. Protestants don’t believe in any of that. (While protestants do take communion, they don’t think the wafers are really a piece of flesh.) Catholics have nuns, priests, and a pope. Protestants don’t.

 22.  Theravada vs. Mahayana Buddhism

compare Both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism follow Dharma, the teachings of Buddha. Both reject the notion of a god or gods (they are nontheistic). Both believe theistic religions are misguided.

contrast Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism have some basic philosophical differences . For example, Theravada Buddhists believe that Buddha died, leaving his teachings behind. Mahayana Buddhists believe that Buddha lives on in various incarnations.

 23.  Judaism vs. Christianity

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Judaism and Christianity are both monotheistic religions that teach about one almighty God. Both are Abrahamic religions. Both religions teach the Old Testament. Both believe in angels, demons, and spirits as spiritual beings.

contrast Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ was the messiah and that he will return to Earth one day. Christians believe that Jesus died for the sins of humankind. Judaism teaches that Jesus was a teacher and a prophet of God, but not God himself. Judaism also rejects the notion of Jesus’s sacrifice.

24. Religious mindset vs. cult following

compare Both organized religions and cults seek spiritual enlightenment and follow the teachings of a leader. Both have members with varying levels of practice and extremism.


Cults are more likely to attempt to extort money from their followers. Cults are also more likely than religions to use mind-control to force members into following the teachings of the cult.

25. Jesus Christ vs. Buddha

compare Jesus Christ and Buddha were both spiritual leaders. Both were teachers and tutors during their time on Earth. Both were miraculously conceived, performed miracles, and were tempted but overcame the devil.

contrast Though Jesus performed several notable miracles, Buddha did not. Buddha believed that he lived his life in search of the truth, while Jesus believed he was the truth.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Countries and Politics

26.  Salem Witch Trials vs. McCarthyism

27.  Welfare programs in the US vs. welfare programs in Canada

28.  Malaysian government vs. Singapore government

29. The Democratic vs. Republican parties in the US

30.  Classical liberalism vs. modern liberalism

31. Today’s Democratic liberals vs. today’s Republican conservatives

32. Past presidential elections vs. the most recent presidential election

Stuck on Your Essay?
Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays
Yes! Show me examples.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Education

You can compare and contrast different facets of education until you are as blue as a Smurf. To succeed, you’re better served by pitting two very specific elements of education against each other.

The trick is to narrow your angle down to a tight focus while leaving room to write enough compelling points to describe the differences and similarities.

33.  Private vs. public universities

compare Both private and public universities offer a range of academic courses and opportunities. Both allow students to earn a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.

contrast2 Private universities are typically more expensive. The College Board reports that for the 2013-2014 school year, private universities cost over $30,000 for one year of tuition, while public universities cost just over $8,000 for in-state and $22,000 for out-of-state tuition. However, private institutions are known to offer better financial aid options.

 34.  Small vs. large universities

compare Both small and large universities can provide students with the opportunities to achieve educational goals. Both offer bachelor’s degrees. (We’re not comparing the size of their parties here…but you could!)

contrast Small universities offer individualized majors, smaller class sizes, and hands-on learning opportunities. Large universities offer state-of-the art research facilities, a wider range of academic programs, and more student clubs and events.

 35.  High school vs. college

compare High school is a stepping stone to attending college. Students need to successfully complete the curriculum of both educational institutions in order to advance in many careers. Both institutions employ instructors to teach coursework. Both require students to refer to textbooks. Both require substantial homework.

contrast High school allows for fewer academic choices. Students are typically limited to a state-designed curriculum that does not take into account a student’s particular strengths and interests. College is a time for students to focus on courses that are specific to their career goals.

Need a compare/contrast essay topic? Try high school vs. college or online vs. traditional classes.

Click To Tweet

36.  Online vs. traditional classes

compare Both online and traditional classes offer education toward a degree program. Students have access to instructors in both class formats. Both involve some form of discussion among classmates. Both often have group projects.

contrast2 Online classes allow for more flexibility than traditional classes. Students can take an online course at any time from the comfort of their homes. Traditional classes require students to attend class at a specific time and location. The access to instructors is virtual in online classes and in-person in traditional classes. Online classes often have discussion board posts that replace live classroom discussions.

37. Homeschooling vs. public education

compare Homeschooling and public education provide specific guidelines and learning outcomes for students. Both provide a way for children to experience and learn about the world around them.

contrast Public education provides more opportunities for socialization than homeschooling. Homeschooling can be more demanding on parents as they must be both full-time parent and full-time teacher.

38. Advanced placement (AP) classes vs. honors classes

compare Both types of classes provide more rigor than traditional high school classes and are geared toward higher achieving students. Both types of classes can strengthen students’ college applications.

contrast Honors courses are essentially high school courses that cover subject matter in greater depth. AP courses are designed to mirror college-level courses. High school honors courses do not allow students to earn college credit. Some high school AP courses allow students to earn college credit.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Film and Literature

Chances are, if you’ve been in English class for any length of time, you’ve been asked to compare and contrast two bodies of literature or other fictional work.

This is your chance to surprise the heck out of your professor (and get a good grade) by making unexpected comparisons.

Following are some topic examples.

39.  Twilight  vs. Dracula

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Both pieces of literature investigate vampire lore. Both use foreshadowing as a literary device to move the story forward. Both also share three themes: attraction, addiction, and repulsion.

contrast2 Twilight’s 21st century vampires are sexy and sparkly. Edward Cullen of Twilight is charming and irresistibly dangerous. On the other hand, Dracula is a 19th century blood-thirsty beast that anyone would resist. Bram Stoker’s Dracula had a thick mustache, a large nose, and white hair that “grew scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.” (Bella, eat your heart out.) Also, there are no werewolves in Dracula.

40.  Breaking Bad  vs. Lost

compare Both Breaking Bad and Lost were hit TV series of the early 21st century. Both shows have won a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy. Both have a character named Walt. Both use flashforward scenes to move the narrative forward.

contrast Breaking Bad investigates the concept of the anti-hero in the character Walter White, who is easy to hate but hard not to cheer on as he descends into a life of crime. Lost investigates the virtues of a classic hero in the likeable character of Jack Shephard.

41.  A Rose for Emily vs. The Yellow Wallpaper

compare Both stories depict women being forced into isolation as a result of “lunacy.” Both stories explore the definition of femininity and the repression of women. Both stories explore dysfunctional relationships between women and men.

contrast “The Yellow Wallpaper” tells the story of a woman’s experience of being shut into a bedroom for a summer. “A Rose for Emily” explores a woman’s experience of shutting herself into a house for 40 years. Both stories investigate these themes in very different ways.

 42.  Fahrenheit 451  vs. Red Scarf Girl

compare Both stories uncover themes of cultural repression. Both stories revolve around the human experience of defying unjust government regulations. Censorship and loss of individual rights are themes in both books.

contrast Fahrenheit 451 is a science fiction novel about how the character Montag defies authority and begins to read the books that he had been ordered to burn. Red Scarf Girl is a true story about a young girl, Ji-li, and her experience of defiance and resistance during China’s cultural revolution.

 43.  The Day After Tomorrow  vs. I am Legend

compare Both movies address the theme of the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic struggles for survival. Both movies touch on deeply rooted fears of humanity and our intrinsic understanding that the human race must eventually meet its end. Both showcase a lone scientific hero who tries to save humanity.

contrast In I Am Legend, the harbinger of the apocalypse is a plague that turns people into killer monsters. In the Day After Tomorrow, an out-of-control storm ushers in an apocalyptic ice age.

44.  The Hunger Games  vs. Divergent

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Both novels create a dystopian vision of life in the future where society has been divided into factions. Both novels are coming-of-age love stories. Both stories require the female protagonists to partake in violent rituals.

contrast The Hunger Games explores themes of violence and corruption, and the defiance of unjust authority. Divergent explores themes of following your heart despite the odds.

45.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  vs. The Picture of Dorian Gray

compare Both of these stories feature a protagonist with a dark side that they try to hide from the world. Through such a lens, both stories share the theme of duality.

contrast2 While Dr. Jekyll swings from being good and bad, Dorian Gray slowly transforms from good to bad as the story progresses. Dr. Jekyll outwardly manifests his dark side as Mr. Hyde, but Dorian keeps his darkness hidden, only acting on his impulses in secret. Dorian’s portrait is the only outward clue of his wrongdoing—the picture reveals his true nature with every wicked act.

 46.  1984  vs. The Hunger Games

compare and contrast essay topics

compare Both novels tell the story of a dystopian future where society is oppressed by an all-knowing and watchful authority. Both novels also have segments of the population in extreme poverty.

contrast 1984 is commentary on the dangers of a totalitarian state, and it’s set in Europe. The protagonist is an adult man. The Hunger Games is a coming-of-age story with a US-inspired setting. The protagonist is a young woman.

47.  Julius Caesar  vs. Macbeth

compare These two Shakespearean plays have a lot of common . They both revolve around regicide (the murder of a king). Both involve power plays, scandals, and manipulation (but don’t all Shakespeare tragedies?).

contrast Macbeth relies on prophecies and the fulfillment of prophecies as one of its main literary hooks—it’s a story filled with magic and witches. Julius Caesar is realism-based, focusing on the plausible dramas and tragedies of the Roman Empire.

Bonus read:  Don’t Make These 6 Tragic Mistakes in Your Macbeth Essay

48.  Beowulf vs. Wolverine

compare Both have cool, wolfish names. Both are heroes who undertake epic adventures to fight evil. Both experience serious transitions during their journeys.

contrast Beowulf was created in the ancient stew of medieval literature. Wolverine was created in 1974. Beowulf revels in glories, while Wolverine’s good deeds go without reward .

49.  Beowulf vs. Odysseus

compare Beowulf and Odysseus both must battle monsters on their epic journeys. Both heroes share many of the same traits: courage, intelligence, and strength. Both men use all three traits to win their respective battles.

contrast Odysseus makes it safely home and dies in his old age. Beowulf dies after slaying a dragon. Odysseus uses deception while battling enemies, while Beowulf doesn’t play games to gain an advantage against his enemies.

50. 12 Angry Men stage play vs. a film adaptation of 12 Angry Men

compare Both the play and the movie follow the same basic plot, with jurors attempting to determine the guilt of the accused. In both, the jurors are nameless, known only by their juror numbers.

contrast The scenes are more detailed in the movie compared to the descriptions in the play. The producers took some liberties with adding and/or altering dialogue from the original screenplay.

Bonus info:12 Angry Men was made into a movie in 1957 and in 1997. You might also write a compare and contrast essay about the two film adaptations.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Art

compare and contrast essay topics

51.  Olympia vs. Grande Odalisque

52.  Pablo Picasso vs. Salvador Dali

53. King Arthur vs. Zeus

54. Realism vs. Modernism

55. Michelangelo’s Davis vs. Bernini’s David

56. Impressionism vs. Post-Impressionism

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Culture and Society

Stuck on Your Essay?
Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays
Yes! Show me examples.

There are infinite possibilities when it comes to choosing from compare and contrast essay topics about culture and society. The trick here is to pick a topic that is very specific and interesting.

Here are some ideas.

57.  Korean concept of beauty vs. American concept of beauty

compare Both Americans and Koreans value thinness as an ideal beauty standard. Both cultures hold ideals of beauty that are impossible for most people to achieve.

contrast Americans focus on beauty standards, such as blonde hair, blue eyes, big breasts (on women), round butts, and tans. Korean beauty focuses on ideal face and eye shapes and pale skin.

 58.  Cohabitation vs. marriage

compare Cohabitation and marriage both involve two people living together and sharing resources. Both also usually mean two people are in a serious relationship.

contrast Marriage involves a legal and binding contract between two people that includes healthcare benefits and tax benefits. Cohabitation does not require a legal contract and does not include such benefits.

 59.  Teenagers vs. toddlers

compare Both teenagers and toddlers are moody, willful, and needy. Both teens and toddlers are usually exploring newly found independence. Both often require supervision in many areas.

contrast Teenagers are more mobile than toddlers and can be far more destructive in their actions. Toddlers are a thousand times more adorable than teenagers. Teenagers have the ability to reason, unlike toddlers, but rarely take advantage of this ability.

60. Traditional Chinese parenting vs. Western parenting

compare Both Chinese and Western parents want the best for their children. Both educate and discipline their children in ways they feel will best prepare their children for the future.

contrast Compared to Western parents, Chinese parents (particularly “Tiger Moms”) are very strict. They do not allow their children much free time and stress discipline and rigid schedules.

61. Authoritative parenting vs. permissive parenting

compare In both parenting styles, parents attempt to communicate with their children. In both styles, parents are also likely to encourage creativity and expression in their children.

contrast Authoritative parents are assertive and in control while not being extremely demanding. Permissive parents are more lenient and likely to avoid conflict with their children.

Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Technology

Stuck on Your Essay?
Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays
Yes! Show me examples.

62.  Apple vs. Google smartphones

63.  Apple vs. Microsoft

64.  Honda vs. Ford

65.  Gasoline vs. ethanol vs. biodiesel

66.  Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4

67.  Tablets vs. textbooks

68. Solar energy vs. wind energy

69. Face-to-face relationships vs. online relationships

70. Safety of cars with seat belts only vs. safety of cars with seat belts and airbags

Final Thoughts

compare and contrast essay topics

Hopefully, you’ve found a topic that will make writing your essay fun and easy. If you need even more ideas, here is a web app that helps you compare just about anything . And here’s a cool website with compare and contrast topics galore .

Once you’ve settled on a topic, I recommend reading these posts to get started with your essay:

  • Compare and Contrast Essay Tips from a Kibin Editor
  • This Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Will Help You Beat Writer’s Block
  • 2 Compare and Contrast Essay Examples Worth Emulating (with annotations)

Once your own compare and contrast essay is drafted, send it to one of our awesome essay editors for review .

Good luck!

Stuck On Your Essay?
Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays
Yes! Show me examples.

Psst… 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays .


  • compare and contrast essay
  • topic ideas



  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Vocab
  • Skills
  • Tools
  • Forum
  • Site Map
  • News
  • About
  • Home
  • Show AWL words
  • Subscribe to newsletter
  • Login

  • The writing process
    • What is the writing process?
    • Understanding the title
    • Brainstorming
    • Researching
    • Outlining
    • First draft
    • Checking
    • Redrafting
    • Proofreading
  • Reports
    • Report writing
    • Structure
    • Language
  • Essays
    • Essay types
      • Discussion
      • Persuasion
      • Compare & contrast
      • Cause & effect
      • Problem-solution
    • Structure
      • Essay structure
      • Introduction
      • Main body
      • Conclusion
  • Cohesion
    • What is cohesion?
    • Cohesion vs coherence
    • Transition signals
  • Style
  • Paraphrasing
  • References & citations
    • What are references?
    • In-text citations
    • Reference sections
    • Reporting verbs
  • Critical writing
  • Other important skills
    • Definitions
    • Classifying
  • Exams
    • TOEFL
    • IELTS
      • The test
      • The criteria
        • TF: Task 1 (academic)
        • TF: Task 1 (general)
        • TR: Task 2
        • Coherence
        • Vocabulary
        • Grammar
      • Test tips
  • Resources

 Subscribe to
the newsletter

AWLWords on this page from the academic word list

Show AWL words on this page.

Levels 1-5:   

Levels 6-10: 

Show sorted lists of these words.



Internal links
Related areas of this site

To be added later

External links
Other websites

To be added later

  1. Writing
  2. Essays

Compare & contrast essaysHow things are similar or different

Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger
essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on
what a compare and contrast essay is , how to
structure this type of essay, how to use
compare and contrast structure words ,
and how to make sure you use appropriate
criteria for comparison/contrast .
There is also an
example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some
exercises to help you practice this area.

What are compare & contrast essays?

To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to
see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and
the differences. This essay type is common at university,
where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking
you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc.
Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may
be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that
only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.

  • Compare and contrast Newton’s ideas of gravity with those proposed by Einstein [‘compare and contrast’ essay]
  • Examine how the economies of Spain and China are similar [‘compare’ only essay]
  • Explain the differences between Achaemenid Empire and Parthian Empire [‘contrast’ only essay]


There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay,
namely using a block or a point-by-point structure.
For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first,
and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards.
This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for
cause and effect
problem-solution essays.
For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the
similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits.
The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it
ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.


Don’t like ads? Log in now to get rid of them!

The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.


Object 1 – Point 1
Object 1 – Point 2
Object 1 – Point 3
Transition sentence/paragraph
Object 2 – Point 1
Object 2 – Point 2
Object 2 – Point 3

Point 1
Object 1 ➤ Object 2
Point 2
Object 1 ➤ Object 2
Point 3
Object 1 ➤ Object 2

Compare and Contrast Structure Words

Compare and contrast structure words are
transition signals which show the similarities or differences.
Below are some common examples.

  • Similarly
  • Likewise
  • also
  • both… and…
  • not only… but also…
  • neither… nor…
  • just like (+ noun)
  • similar to (+ noun)
  • to be similar (to)
  • to be the same as
  • to be alike
  • to compare (to/with)

  • Computers can be used to communicate easily, for example via email. Similarly/Likewise, the mobile phone
    is a convenient tool for communication.
  • Both computers and mobile phones can be used to communicate easily with other people.
  • Just like the computer, the mobile phone can be used to communicate easily with other people.
  • The computer is similar to the mobile phone in the way it can be used for easy communication.
  • However
  • In contrast
  • In comparison
  • By comparison
  • On the other hand
  • while
  • whereas
  • but
  • to differ from
  • to be different (from)
  • to be dissimilar to
  • to be unlike

  • Computers, although increasingly small, are not always easy to carry from one place to another. However,
    the mobile phone can be carried with ease.
  • Computers are generally not very portable, whereas the mobile phone is.
  • Computers differ from mobile phones in their lack of portability.
  • Computers are unlike mobile phones in their lack of portability.

Criteria for comparison/contrast

When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the
following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.

  • Aaron is tall and strong. In contrast, Bruce is handsome and very intelligent.

Although this sentence has a contrast transition , the criteria
for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong).
We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely
appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this
type of paragraph or essay.
Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).

  • Aaron and Bruce differ in four ways. The first difference is height. Aaron is tall, while Bruce is short. A second
    difference is strength. Aaron is strong. In contrast, Bruce is weak. A third difference is appearance. Aaron, who is average
    looking, differs from Bruce, who is handsome. The final difference is intelligence. Aaron is of average intelligence. Bruce,
    on the other hand, is very intelligent.

Example essay

Below is a
compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the
point-by-point structure .
Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e.
similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the
thesis statement and
summary ,
as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.

Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have
revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away.
Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.

Compare transitions
Contrast transitions

Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means
such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task,
ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication
are similar in their general form, they
differ in regard to their
speed and the
range of tools available.

One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication.
In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls.
Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms.
Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition,
oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.

However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances,
the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident
in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination.
In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent.
In the past, if it was necessary to send a short
message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate.
This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.

Another significant difference is the range of communication methods.
Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating
over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter.
By comparison, there are a vast array of communication
methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned,
but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and

In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities,
such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences,
chiefly in relation to the speed of communication
and the range of communication tools available.
There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future,
and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.

Compare transitions
Contrast transitions


Like the website? Try the book. Enter your email to receive a free sample from the
recently published title, EAP Foundation: Academic Presentations.


Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.

The essay is a comparison and contrast essay
An appropriate structure is used, either
block or
Compare and contrast structure words are used accurately
The criteria for comparison/contrast are clear
The essay has clear
thesis statement
Each paragraph has a clear
topic sentence
The essay has strong support (facts, reasons, examples, etc.)
The conclusion include a
summary of the main points


There is a downloadable
graphic organiser for
brainstorming ideas for compare and contrast essays in the
writing resources section.

Next section

Find out how to write
cause & effect essays in the next section.

  1. Writing
  2. Essays
  3. Cause/effect

Previous section

Go back to the previous section about
persuasion essays .

  2. .
  3. Persuasion
  4. Essays
  5. Writing

You need to login to view the exercises. If you do not already have an
account, you can register for free.

  • Register        
  • Forgot password        
  • Resend activiation email

Scroll to Top

Author: Sheldon Smith. Last modified: 05 August 2017.

Tag Cloud 



Contact Info  

I’d love to hear from students or teachers who use the site. Whether you want to give feedback or just ask a question about
EAP, feel free to email me at: [email protected] .


EAPFOUNDATION.COM Website Copyright © 2013-present by Sheldon C H Smith