Basic Outline For Compare And Contrast Essay

It’s paralyzing. Moving forward seems impossible, and self-doubt creeps in. You feel like a lost puppy, unsure of what to do next.

When writer’s block strikes, it can be doggone demoralizing. But the good news is that an outline is your best friend for getting organized and ready to write.

In this post, I’ll show you how to develop a compare and contrast essay outline that lets you kick writer’s block to the curb and craft a structurally sound essay about anything.

Let’s start with making sure everyone’s on the same page about what makes up a compare and contrast essay. Ready?

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

In the simplest terms, a compare and contrast essay takes two subjects (i.e., objects, events, people, or places)—closely related or vastly different—and focuses on what about them is the same or what’s different or focuses on a combination of similarities and differences.

It’s not, however, just a simple comparison – that’d be too easy, right?

It must serve a larger purpose by doing one of the following:

  • State something unknown.
  • Clear up a misunderstanding.
  • Show that one thing is superior to another.
  • Lead to a new way of doing/seeing/understanding something.
  • Argue a point with supported facts.

There are several formats for writing a compare and contrast essay, but I’ll use point-by-point organization to make my outline.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Point-by-Point Organization

The point-by-point comparison focuses on comparing and contrasting one aspect about both subjects at the same time.

It’s typically easier for readers to follow this structure. It provides a clear, easy-to-follow structure. To keep things simple, I’ll use a 5-paragraph essay structure to create a compare and contrast essay outline.

The outline consists of three parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraphs
    1. The first difference between subjects
    2. The second difference between subjects
    3. The third difference between subjects
  3. Conclusion

Now that you have the basic structure down, let’s break down the components using my two favorite four-legged beasts: Molly and Morgan.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Introduction

The introduction is where you introduce your topic both in broad and specific terms. It’s also where make your thesis statement. The thesis statement provides the main point of or ideas within your essay.

The introduction has three key elements. I’ll go through each separately.

1. Introduction to the main topic

To introduce your main topic, you ideally want to start with a hook sentence and then detail the specifics of the topic itself.

Comparing and contrasting Morgan and Molly, my opening lines to introduce the topic might read something like this:

“Do opposites really attract? The law of attraction says they do, but is this phenomenon limited to humans? It’s definitely not, nor is it limited to romantic relationships. Dogs with drastically different personalities and habits form close attachments all the time.”

 2.Specific subjects to compare and contrast

Next you need to identify who or what you’re comparing and contrasting specifically under the main topic and theme.

The next lines in my introduction might look something like this:

“The dogs in my household, while similar in many ways simply because they’re dogs, are vastly different creatures. Molly is a 70-pound bully who likes to pounce, lick, and paw at canines and humans until she gets her way. Morgan, on the other hand, is a 50-pound sweetheart who is content with whatever is going on. Despite their differences, the two dogs are strongly attached to one another.”

3. Thesis statement

Finally, to wrap up your intro, you want to express the specific aspects you’re comparing and contrasting. This provides a clear idea of where your essay is going.

My thesis statement focuses on three specific habits/characteristics of my rambunctious dogs. It might be something like this:

“Most notably, Molly and Morgan differ in how they accessorize, what their favorite toys are, and how they deal with downtime, yet the two have a strong bond as ‘sisters’ who cuddle at every opportunity.”

Whew! The introduction is often the toughest part. It’s where you’ll lay out the structure of your essay. (For this reason, it’s usually a good idea to write the introduction last.) Since that’s done, we’ll move on to Part B, the body paragraphs.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: The Body Paragraphs

Since I’m focusing on just three aspects about Molly and Morgan, I’ll have three body paragraphs. Under the point-by-point organization for a compare and contrast essay outline, you’ll need as many paragraphs as the number of aspects you’re comparing and contrasting.

Each paragraph will have a topic sentence focused on the aspect you’re comparing and contrasting. Each paragraph will also have two details about each subject as they relate to the aspect:

Body paragraph #1

The topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. The topic sentence of my first paragraph might look like this:

Aspect #1 – Topic sentence: “The first difference between Molly and Morgan is the way they accessorize; while both are budding fashionistas, each of the girls has her own personal style.”

If you can ignore their cuteness (yup, I’m biased, but you have to admit they’re pretty adorable, right?), we’ll dive into the two details for each dog. My detail sentences might look like this:

Subject #1: Molly

  • Detail #1: “Molly takes the sporty approach and is perfectly content with her owner’s baseball cap firmly on her head.”
  • Detail #2: “Her choice in headwear is indicative of the brute, in-your-face interactions with her sister and owners.”

Subject #2: Morgan

  • Detail #1: “On the other hand, Morgan prefers the downhome, classic country look of a bandana.”
  • Detail #2: “Her accessory preference speaks to her humble, attention-loving and passive demeanor.”

See how easy crafting a paragraph is when you break it down?

You could write paragraphs in your sleep now, right? No? Okay, let’s do the same thing for the second and third body paragraphs.

Body paragraph #2

Aspect #2 – Topic sentence: “Another difference between the girls is their favorite toys; even though they are both equally protective of their favorites, their choices contradict their personalities.”

Subject #1: Molly

  • Detail #1: “Molly prefers to cuddle up with her favorite stuffed animal (which changes over time as she eats them).”
  • Detail #2: “She often can be found protectively cuddling the stuffed animal in her sleep and making sure her owners give it plenty of love, too, by pushing the drool-covered plush in their faces at any opportunity.”

Subject #2: Morgan

  • Detail #1: “Conversely, Morgan prefers the traditional rawhide bone.”
  • Detail #2: “She will growl, snarl, and bare teeth to protect it from anyone (even her owners!).”

Two body paragraphs down – only one to go. If you’re struggling, just take a breather.

Take your time, and work through the outline one section at a time if you need to.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your compare and contrast essay outline doesn’t have to be either (unless you’re a procrastinator).

Body paragraph #3:

Now we’ll look at my third body paragraph. The final body paragraph wraps up the last aspect identified in the thesis. Mine might be constructed something like this:

Aspect #3 – Topic Sentence: “The final difference between the two pups is how they deal with downtime, more specifically, their ability to just chill while ignoring (or not ignoring) distractions.”

Subject #1: Molly

  • Detail #1: “Molly isn’t content unless she’s getting attention, even if that attention is simply having a warm human body next to her; she’s frequently found flopping on the couch looking pensive and bored out of her pay-attention-to-me-now-or-I-will-lick-your face-endlessly mind.
  • Detail #2: “While it’s sometimes possible to catch a photo-op with her sandwiched between pillows wearing a pleading look, breaking out the camera usually produces a face-licking attack before the shot is even focused.”

Subject #2: Morgan

  • Detail #1: “Morgan, however, handles downtime differently. Perfectly content without constant attention, Morgan takes it as an opportunity to curl up and catch some ZZZs.”
  • Detail #2: “A heavy sleeper who snores and runs in her sleep while dreaming of chasing squirrels, Morgan is happy sleeping for hours and is undisturbed by camera flashes and clicks.”

That’s it. The body paragraphs are complete. Not so bad, was it?

While I had three body paragraphs, your outline might have only two. Or it might have five. It depends on the number of points you’re comparing and contrasting.

Now we’re ready to wrap things up with the conclusion.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline: Conclusion

Hot diggity dog! If you’ve made it this far, you’re in the home stretch—developing the conclusion of your compare and contrast essay outline.

The conclusion is the easiest part. You’ve already set the stage for it with your thesis statement and body paragraphs. It’s just a matter of putting it all together while focusing on three areas:

1. Summary of main points

First, you want to summarize your main points. It’s more than a simple summary, though. You want to synthesize your thesis with the information in your body paragraphs.

I might summarize with a few sentences like this:

“In conclusion, these three aspects clearly show how Molly and Morgan go about their doggy lives in different ways. While Molly likes to accessorize with baseball caps, cuddle with stuffed animals, and sit around looking bored, Morgan prefers rawhide bones, relaxing solo, and sleeping contently whenever she can.”

 2. Evaluation

Next, you want to evaluate what you’ve discussed or talk about possible future developments.

This is where you show the greater purpose of your topic. Your conclusion should answer one question: What does it all mean?

As you work on this part, keep in mind that your conclusion should bring things full circle to your introduction.

My compare and contrast essay outline requires just focusing on an evaluation.

My evaluation sentences might look something like this:

“In some ways, the differences parallel their personalities—Molly as a brute and Morgan as a sweetheart. The differences also show how both dogs sometimes stray from their normal behavior, notably through how they interact with their favorite toys. Taken collectively, however, their differences don’t stop the law of attraction from coming into play. Though they like a different look, like to play with different toys, and like to relax differently, they adore each other and cuddle up together at every opportunity.”

 3. Significance

Finally, you need to show the significance of the differences. What was your end goal in showing the differences? (Hint: Refer back to your introduction and thesis statement if you’re stuck here.)

I might use one sentence to show the significance, tie everything back to the intro, and create finality all in one swoop by writing something like this:

“This shows that opposites really do attract—even among canines.”

Download Template for Your Own Compare and Contrast Outline

Have your own compare and contrast essay to write? Make the process easier, and banish writer’s block by downloading this compare and contrast essay outline in MS Word or PDF format to get started.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Template (.doc)

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline Template (PDF)

Whether you’re ready to write or still flushing out your topic, using an outline keeps you on-task. It keeps you on-topic to create a logical, easy-to-follow format.

Additional Help for Your Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

Still struggling? Try reading some completed example compare and contrast essays. If that doesn’t work or you’re still feeling a bit unsure, read more about this type of essay.

Finally, don’t forget about editing and proofreading! Even the best writers make mistakes or have difficulty recognizing weak points in their own writing.

If you’re aiming to put your best paw—err draft—forward, have one of our talented Kibin editors edit your essay for grammar, logic, clarity, and flow.

Write on, and best of luck!

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

Throughout the course of your education and career (if you choose to become a writer), you’ll have the opportunity to work on different writing assignments and, of course, essays are inevitable. The essay is a piece of writing that methodically analyzes and evaluates a topic or issue. That’s why there are different types of essays, used to discuss, analyze, evaluate, or compare different situations or subjects e.g. argumentative essay, cause and effect essay, and compare and contrast essay. Your ability to create an excellent paper depends on structuring a perfect outline. Throughout this post, I’m going to show you how to compose an outline for compare and contrast essay to get good grades (or positive feedback from the client) every time.

Compare and contrast essay outline

The easiest definition of compare and contrast essay that explore both the similarities and differences between two subjects by comparing or contrasting them. It’s very easy to mistake this style of essay writing for a simple comparison between some topics or subjects, but that’s not entirely correct. Always bear in mind that your essay has to serve a larger purpose and include the following:

  • Demonstrate that one thing is superior to another
  • Identify and clarify common misunderstandings
  • Provide a new way of doing or understanding something
  • State, elaborate, discuss something unknown
  • Support every claim with facts and accurate, reliable sources

When it comes to structuring the outline for this kind of essay, there are different methods you can follow depending on the organization.

Point-by-point pattern (organization by criteria)

This outline is primarily used to compare items or subjects that are almost similar or when you plan (or have to) evaluate only a few characteristics or criteria when comparing them. Use the diagram below to create the outline for the point-by-point pattern.

Block pattern (organization by item)

In instances when you have to compare items, situations, or topics that are entirely different or when there are multiple criteria to involve, the point-by-point pattern doesn’t function quite well. That’s why you should opt for block pattern or organization by item.

Why? The reason is simple; the same criteria don’t apply to different topics, people, objects, events, and so on. When the essay requires a multitude of approaches to explore, it’s important to learn how to organize it properly in a bid to ensure easy reading. Create the outline based on the diagram below.

Block pattern can be structured in a different manner as well. Instead of the separate paragraph for each point, you compare, you can set out one section to name their similarities and a second paragraph to analyze dissimilarities point by point.

Now that you know how to create a functional outline, you’re ready to move on to the essay writing process.

Introduction

The intro for this kind of essay doesn’t differ much from other types. It’s the part where you introduce the overall subject of the piece and specific items, situations, or events you have to compare and/or contrast. As seen in diagrams, the introduction should feature:

  • The mentioning of the main topic – begin with a hook sentence and detail specific to the topic itself. Your hook can be a quote, question, anecdote, anything you see fit for the particular subject you have to write about
  • Specific subjects to compare and contrast – of course, you can’t start writing about similarities and differences between two items out of the blue. That’s why you should set out a sentence or two to mention specific topics you’ll compare under the central theme
  • Thesis statement – it marks the tone of the essay and catches reader’s attention. Last sentence (or two) of your paper should account for a specific and concise thesis. There’s no need for wordiness in this part because thesis, as the entire introduction, shouldn’t be too long.

Once you’re done with the intro, you’re ready to move on to the body paragraphs.

Body paragraphs

A total number of paragraphs in the body section depends on a number of aspects or criteria you have to discuss. For example, if you have to make a comparison between two different events through two aspects, you’ll need two paragraphs. Three criteria require three paragraphs, and so on. Sometimes, you’ll get the amount of aspects to use for comparison/contrast from your professor or a client, while in other instances, you’ll just have to determine the number yourself during the research process.

When you get the title and aspects to compare but without a certain number of criteria to cover similarities and differences, you have to brainstorm. Take a blank piece of paper and write the first item in the left corner, the second item in the right corner. Make a Venn diagram and start analyzing.

REMEMBER: Typically, you don’t need more than three aspects to cover, unless otherwise noted.

When you start brainstorming and researching the topic, the chances are high you’ll find a wide array of differences and similarities. However, your essay has to be well-crafted, and you can’t include absolutely everything you find (that way you’d write forever). To determine what to compare or differentiate answer these questions:

  • Is this relevant for my course?
  • What matters to the argument I’m going to take (or I’m given)?
  • What’s informative and interesting?
  • What’s relevant to my assignment?

Each paragraph in the body should start with a topic sentence (point 1, criterion 1/item A, B) focused on the aspect you’re about to compare/contrast. Then, you proceed with details you find when conducting research. Remember, just like in other types of essays, thorough research is highly relevant here, too.

It’s not just about mentioning differences and similarities one by one and stating your opinion or argument about them. Every detail you find should be supported by substantial evidence, statistics, studies, official data, and so on.

To show comparisons and emphasize the overall effect, don’t forget to use some connectors such as:

  • At the same time, as well as
  • Both
  • Compared to
  • Correspondingly
  • In addition
  • In the same way
  • Just as
  • Likewise
  • Same as
  • Similarly

Of course, you can include connectors to express or heighten the contrasting effect. For example:

  • Conversely
  • Even though, although
  • However
  • In contrast
  • Meanwhile
  • Nevertheless
  • On the contrary
  • On the other hand
  • Unlike

For the best possible result and successful completion of the essay, the body paragraphs should be analyzed from the perspective of an independent analytic. Ideally, your paper shouldn’t be biased. You don’t want the reader of your paper to assume what item you prefer or despise automatically.

Conclusion

At this point, you have the introduction and body paragraphs, which indicates you’re ready to conclude the essay. Generally, this is the easiest part, but you should ensure it’s properly structured as well. Here’s what your conclusion should contain:

  • Summary of main points – at the very beginning of this part, you should summarize the main points you’ve made throughout the essay. It’s important to synthesize your thesis with info in body paragraphs
  • Evaluation – provide a short analysis of what you discussed in the paper or mention possible solutions. The approach depends on the nature of your subject
  • Significance – not only do you have to clarify the importance of the main topic, but also mention the significance of comparisons or contrasts. How to do this? It’s not that difficult; answer the What was my goal in showing similarities/differences between these items? Your response indicates their significance.

Post-writing stage

You finished writing the paper, but your work isn’t over just yet. Before sending or submitting the essay, it’s necessary to proofread and edit the paper to eliminate all mistakes and unwanted parts.

Proofreading isn’t only necessary for correcting typos or grammar, these seemingly unimportant errors that “everyone makes” break the reader from the flow of the paper and undermine its power of persuasion. When you finish the essay, read your work from top to bottom without doing anything. You’ll probably spot some mistakes, but don’t rush correcting them immediately. Then, start reading again and correct typos, grammar errors, and sentence constructions. Don’t resist the urge to rewrite some sentences for better effect.

Nowadays, in the era of technology, you might feel tempted to download software (or find grammar/spelling checker online) and let it do the work for you. First of all, they aren’t always correct, and secondly, your critical thinking skills will improve only when you do it yourself. The software can be used as additional essay help. Another useful idea is to ask a family member or a friend to read the essay and see if they can spot some mistakes.

You’re almost ready to submit your essay, check whether you included references (if not, do so) and you’re done.

Bottom line

Compare, and contrast essay is concerned with evaluating differences and similarities between given items or topics. It’s not just a mere comparison; the essay requires thorough evaluation and analysis supported by reliable data. This post explained how to create the outline properly, and all you have to do is to write according to the structure provided. Remember, once you create the structure and choose the adequate pattern (point-by-point or block), you just have to fill in the missing detail with results of your search.

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