A comparison and contrast essay focuses on the similarities and differences between two or more ideas or items. The goals of a compare and contrast essay are varied. Some comparison and contrast essays are designed to foster critical thinking skills for the student. Other times, the author may write a comparison and contrast to help the audience make a decision about a topic, such as which political candidate to vote for. Understanding the parts of a comparison and contrast essay will help you write an effective, well-organized essay.

Introduction and Thesis

The introduction of the comparison and contrast paper should cover the main point that you will be discussing. Explain to the audience what you will be comparing and contrasting, and what the purpose of the comparison and contrast is. The introduction should also have a strong thesis statement. The thesis statement should overview the key similarities and the key differences between the two items. It may also explain the significance of the differences and similarities. For example, "Majoring in psychology and sociology both lead to careers that study people and how they think and interact. However, majoring in psychology allows students to help people directly through therapy and counseling services."

Comparison Section

The first section of the essay should compare the two or more items being discussed. Provide details about the key similarities and use descriptive detail and examples to illustrate your points. For example, when comparing a psychology major with a sociology major, you might give specific details about how the degree plans are similar, using actual examples of courses included in the majors from your university's student handbook. You might also explain how the sequence of required courses are similar by including a side-by-side comparison of.the courses students in each major take during specific years of their degree programs.

Contrast Section

After you have explained the similarities, you should explain the main differences between the items. Like the comparison section, you should use actual examples and provide enough detail so the audience can follow the logic of your contrast section. For the psychology and sociology majors example, you might explain the differences between the goals of each of the programs. For instance, many psychology programs are geared toward helping students work toward a master's degree in counseling, whereas many sociology degrees are intended to help students get into graduate school to eventually earn a PhD, where they will conduct research in sociology.

Conclusion

After you have thoroughly compared and contrasted the options, briefly summarize the key similarities and differences. After the brief recap, explain the significance of the similarities and differences and why these differences and similarities might affect the audience's decision. If the assignment asks you to come to a conclusion about which option is preferable, make a strong statement about which option is best, given the criteria, and support your decision with evidence presented in the paper.