How to Write a Compare and Contrast Thesis Statement
Has this ever happened to you?
Professor: Where is your thesis statement? Student: …
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.
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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…
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.
Stuck on Your Essay? Check Out These Example Compare and Contrast Essays Yes! Show me examples.
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:
- 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 .
About the Author
Ryan G. has an MFA in Fiction Writing from a literature-based program. He teaches English composition courses, tutors a diverse student body in a writing center, and designs online learning modules for comp and business writing. He is also a Kibin editor .
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- Comparing and contrasting in an essay | Tips & examples
Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay | Tips & Examples
Published on August 6, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on November 11, 2022.
Comparing and contrasting is an important skill in academic writing . It involves taking two or more subjects and analyzing the differences and similarities between them.
Table of contents
When should i compare and contrast, making effective comparisons, comparing and contrasting as a brainstorming tool, structuring your comparisons, frequently asked questions about comparing and contrasting.
Many assignments will invite you to make comparisons quite explicitly, as in these prompts.
- Compare the treatment of the theme of beauty in the poetry of William Wordsworth and John Keats.
- Compare and contrast in-class and distance learning. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?
Some other prompts may not directly ask you to compare and contrast, but present you with a topic where comparing and contrasting could be a good approach.
One way to approach this essay might be to contrast the situation before the Great Depression with the situation during it, to highlight how large a difference it made.
Comparing and contrasting is also used in all kinds of academic contexts where it’s not explicitly prompted. For example, a literature review involves comparing and contrasting different studies on your topic, and an argumentative essay may involve weighing up the pros and cons of different arguments.
As the name suggests, comparing and contrasting is about identifying both similarities and differences. You might focus on contrasting quite different subjects or comparing subjects with a lot in common—but there must be some grounds for comparison in the first place.
For example, you might contrast French society before and after the French Revolution; you’d likely find many differences, but there would be a valid basis for comparison. However, if you contrasted pre-revolutionary France with Han-dynasty China, your reader might wonder why you chose to compare these two societies.
This is why it’s important to clarify the point of your comparisons by writing a focused thesis statement . Every element of an essay should serve your central argument in some way. Consider what you’re trying to accomplish with any comparisons you make, and be sure to make this clear to the reader.
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Comparing and contrasting can be a useful tool to help organize your thoughts before you begin writing any type of academic text. You might use it to compare different theories and approaches you’ve encountered in your preliminary research, for example.
Let’s say your research involves the competing psychological approaches of behaviorism and cognitive psychology. You might make a table to summarize the key differences between them.
Or say you’re writing about the major global conflicts of the twentieth century. You might visualize the key similarities and differences in a Venn diagram.
These visualizations wouldn’t make it into your actual writing, so they don’t have to be very formal in terms of phrasing or presentation. The point of comparing and contrasting at this stage is to help you organize and shape your ideas to aid you in structuring your arguments.
When comparing and contrasting in an essay, there are two main ways to structure your comparisons: the alternating method and the block method.
The alternating method
In the alternating method, you structure your text according to what aspect you’re comparing. You cover both your subjects side by side in terms of a specific point of comparison. Your text is structured like this:
Mouse over the example paragraph below to see how this approach works.
One challenge teachers face is identifying and assisting students who are struggling without disrupting the rest of the class. In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher can easily identify when a student is struggling based on their demeanor in class or simply by regularly checking on students during exercises. They can then offer assistance quietly during the exercise or discuss it further after class. Meanwhile, in a Zoom-based class, the lack of physical presence makes it more difficult to pay attention to individual students’ responses and notice frustrations, and there is less flexibility to speak with students privately to offer assistance. In this case, therefore, the traditional classroom environment holds the advantage, although it appears likely that aiding students in a virtual classroom environment will become easier as the technology, and teachers’ familiarity with it, improves.
The block method
In the block method, you cover each of the overall subjects you’re comparing in a block. You say everything you have to say about your first subject, then discuss your second subject, making comparisons and contrasts back to the things you’ve already said about the first. Your text is structured like this:
- Point of comparison A
- Point of comparison B
The most commonly cited advantage of distance learning is the flexibility and accessibility it offers. Rather than being required to travel to a specific location every week (and to live near enough to feasibly do so), students can participate from anywhere with an internet connection. This allows not only for a wider geographical spread of students but for the possibility of studying while travelling. However, distance learning presents its own accessibility challenges; not all students have a stable internet connection and a computer or other device with which to participate in online classes, and less technologically literate students and teachers may struggle with the technical aspects of class participation. Furthermore, discomfort and distractions can hinder an individual student’s ability to engage with the class from home, creating divergent learning experiences for different students. Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.
Note that these two methods can be combined; these two example paragraphs could both be part of the same essay, but it’s wise to use an essay outline to plan out which approach you’re taking in each paragraph.
Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.
Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .
Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.
You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.
Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:
- The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
- The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.
It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.
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Compare & Contrast Thesis Statement: Overview & Examples
Juliann Urban has taught high school English for five years and has previously held the positions of English tutor for at-risk high school students and lead teacher at a private K-12 tutoring center. She holds a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in secondary education from Governors State University, an associate in arts degree from Moraine Valley Community College, and a professional educator license with senior high and middle school language arts endorsements.
Derek has a Masters of Science degree in Teaching, Learning & Curriculum.
Table of Contents
Compare and contrast essay thesis, how to write a thesis statement for compare and contrast, compare and contrast thesis examples, lesson summary.
A common type of essay that students are assigned to write is the compare and contrast essay. A compare and contrast essay discusses the similarities and differences between two things or subjects. To compare means to note the similarities, and to contrast means to note the differences. There are a variety of subjects that can be compared and contrasted in an essay. One could compare two sports, two countries, two animals, or two books.
Every compare and contrast essay must contain a thesis statement . The compare and contrast essay thesis statement is an important component. It narrows down the focus of the essay for the writer, which in turn helps the writer stay on topic throughout the writing process. The thesis statement also helps the reader to understand what the focus of the essay will be.
Compare and Contrast Thesis Statement Definition
The thesis statement is sometimes called the focus statement; it states what the focus or main idea of the essay will be. A compare and contrast thesis statement should state what two subjects are being compared and contrasted in the essay. It should also briefly sum up the similarities and differences between the two subjects without giving away too much information. The thesis statement appears as the last sentence in the essay's introduction.
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- 0:04 Comparing vs. Contrasting
- 0:40 Thesis Statement…
- 2:42 Thesis Statement…
- 5:11 Lesson Summary
It is now clear what a thesis statement is, but how to write a thesis statement for a compare and contrast essay must now be explained. When drafting a thesis statement for any essay, be sure that the thesis does two things: name the subject of the essay and make an assertion about it. The compare and contrast essay thesis is no different. First, it should name the two subjects that will be compared and contrasted in the essay. Second, it should make an assertion or declaration about the similarities and differences between the two subjects.
Thesis statements are requirements of essays because they are purposeful. A thesis informs the reader about the focus of the essay. A thesis also helps the writer to stay on topic throughout the essay by controlling the ideas that go into the essay. Every idea that is incorporated into the essay must be related to the essay's focus or thesis statement. Therefore, the writer should take care when drafting the thesis statement.
The thesis statement should be clear and informative. If one is comparing two characters from books, the books as well as the characters should be named in the thesis statement. If two movies are being compared, the movie titles should be given in the thesis statement. It should also be obvious from the thesis statement that the essay will compare and contrast the two subjects.
Although thesis statements should be informative, they should not give away too much information. It is important to identify the essay's topic in the thesis statement, but do not reveal the main points about the topic in the thesis. The thesis statement should entice the reader to read the essay, not provide a summary of the essay.
Good thesis statements are also interesting. While not a requirement of thesis statements, presenting an interesting or thought-provoking idea about the essay's subject in the thesis statement will entice the reader. Try to formulate an interesting point about the two subjects being compared and contrasted in the essay instead of just stating that the subjects have similarities and differences.
A thesis statement should never refer to the writer of the essay or use first-person pronouns. For instance, never write something like, "In this essay I will talk about the similarities and differences between..." or "I think there are similarities and differences between...." Unless otherwise directed, essays should be written from an objective point of view. This means the writer should not use any pronouns such as you , I , me , we , us , or our . It may be helpful to think about writing the essay from an expert's or a textbook author's point of view. An expert or textbook author would never write, "I think" or "I am going to." They would just convey the facts to the reader.
Below are some compare and contrast thesis examples. Read each example followed by an analysis of why it is or is not a good thesis statement.
A compare and contrast essay discusses the similarities and differences between two subjects. To compare means to note similarities, and to contrast means to note differences. A compare and contrast essay must contain a thesis statement. The thesis statement states the focus or main idea of the essay. A compare and contrast essay's thesis statement should do two things: name the two subjects that will be compared and contrasted and make an assertion about the subjects' similarities and differences. The thesis statement controls every idea that is put into the essay. Thesis statements should be clear, informative, and interesting. Thesis statements should not give away too many of the essay's main points or use pronouns such as "I" or "you." Instead, thesis statements should be authoritative and written from an objective point of view.
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How do you start a compare and contrast thesis?
A compare and contrast thesis should start by naming the two subjects that will be compared and contrasted. It should then make an assertion about the subjects' similarities and differences.
What is a compare and contrast thesis statement?
A compare and contrast thesis statement states the focus or main idea of the essay. It should name the two subjects that will be compared and make an assertion about their similarities and differences.
What makes a good compare and contrast thesis?
A good compare and contrast thesis states the focus of the essay. It should be clear, informative, and interesting. It should not use pronouns such as "I" or "you" or give away too many of the essay's main points.
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With these points in mind, let’s take a look at 13 compare and contrast thesis statement examples to get you started with your essay. I’ve included a broad topic for each thesis statement and divided the lists into general comparisons and literary comparisons. I’ve also linked each of the topics to a related example essay for extra inspiration.
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:
In this thesis statement, the Civil and Revolutionary Wars in American history were compared and contrasted. As you can see, the comparisons are made to essentially explain why the two wars...
A compare and contrast thesis statement should state what two subjects are being compared and contrasted in the essay. It should also briefly sum up the similarities and differences between...