Starting your cultural differences essay can be a challenging undertaking. After all, the traditions and social expectations of any culture are so broad that it can be difficult to find a starting point. Choosing a specific aspect of two cultures to research narrows down the topic, leaving you one or two issues to focus on in detail.

Pick Your Topic

When writing an essay on cultural differences, the first question to address is which cultures to write about. The assignment you are given may ask you to compare and contrast two different cultures, or to compare your own culture to a culture with which you are unfamiliar. Pick a culture you are interested in, within the constraints of your assignment. This could be a culture that exists side by side with yours in your town or city, or a culture that exists on the other side of the world. If you are already partially familiar with that culture, pick an aspect of the culture you would like to know more about to ensure that you are engaged in your research.

Conduct Your Research

An encyclopedia may be a good place to begin your search. While an encyclopedia does not go in-depth into the particulars of a culture, it provides a general picture of topics you might want to investigate. These reference books often direct you to more specific references on your topic of interest, such as books, journal articles and online sources. You are likely to find, for example, a variety of sources about different levels of formality expectations in two cultures.

While doing your research, try to note whenever an aspect of a culture strikes you as strange, and ask yourself whether it is a bias based on your own assumptions. This is especially important if you are writing about the differences between your culture and another culture; you do not want your biases to creep into your writing. If possible, interview a member of the culture you are studying to get input on perceived differences.

Structure Your Paper

The next step is writing a thesis statement -- a sentence that expresses the argument of your paper. Since you are writing about a cultural difference, your thesis statement should mention what difference you want to highlight or explain in your paper. For example, if you are an American comparing your social norms of privacy to those of British culture, your thesis statement might go like this:

"The differences in British and Americans standards of privacy are evident in each culture's approach to personal openness and humor."

Once you have your thesis statement, you can plan out the rest of your paper. Outline paragraphs that compare and contrast the two cultures in regard to the issues stated in your thesis. Describe and explore similarities and differences. If possible, provide an explanation for what about the two cultures causes the differences to exist.

Write Your Paper

Begin your paper with an introduction paragraph that includes your thesis statement and additional sentences that define specific topics your paper addresses. Think of your introduction as a way of letting your reader know the topics your paper will cover. Following a well-argued body with strong supporting examples, end your essay with a conclusion paragraph that restates your thesis and the most important points of your cultural comparisons. Ensure that you cite your sources according to the style guide requested by your instructor.