Handout: Writing a “Comparative Essay”


What is a comparative essay?
As the terms implies, a comparative essay is an essay in which the author compares two things. I use the word “things’ to refer to people, animals, music, instruments, food, highways, clothing, emotions – whatever. Basically, in a comparative essay the author thoroughly studies aspects of two separate things and writes intelligently on how the things are related. The author ends the essay with a meaningful and impacting conclusion based on the analysis of the evidence.

What a comparative essay does not do is make simple generalizations about two things.

Good comparative essays reflect an author’s thorough analysis of things. That is, in a comparative essay, the author shows how they have studied ALL aspects of the things and has come to some central conclusion based on their analysis.

Think of the box analysis.

  1. The box is made of cardboard.
    1. Cardboard is durable and can endure.
  2. The box is square.
    1. The design of the box allows for ease of packing.
  3. The box has the ability to contain things.
    1. The box’s size, however, limits the type of things that can fit inside.
  4. Therefore, the box is a vessel for human intention.
    1. How you intend to use the box reflects purpose and character.

What should you do before you begin writing your comparative essay?

1. Choose two things to compare (pretty obvious there)
2. Thoroughly analyze aspects of each thing. Ask yourself some poignant questions such as:
– How does the thing affect my five senses?
– How does the thing work?
– What is the thing good for?
3. Make a separate list of attributes for each thing.
4. Compare the attributes.
5. Determine a conclusion from your comparisons.
6. Create an outline for your essay.
7. Begin writing.

How do you write the introduction?
Begin with a general observation which establishes the similarities between the two things. Example sentence,

“New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys share a number of commonalities. For one, each all male singing pop group are platinum selling artists credited with chart topping songs and multiple Grammy nominations. Secondly, the expedient rise and dramatic fall of each group shows that while heartfelt ballads and body-shaking beats can propel such musical acts to celebrity status almost overnight, the combination of fans’ changing musical tastes and a volatile music scene prove that boy bands are little more than proverbial flash in the pan musical acts.’

Tips on writing a comparative essay

  1. The key principle to remember in a comparative essay is that you must clarify what it is what you are comparing.
  2. You should examine the objects separately and together and describe what you can learn when viewing the two things together.
  3. Come up with a strong thesis or idea about the two things.
  4. Keep the essay interesting. You will loose your reader if you are not interested in your comparison.
  5. Make sure to address all points of evidence and analysis.
  6. Have fun.



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