How Do You Structure a Comparative Essay?

Compared to many other types of essays, comparative ones give you a certain degree of freedom – at least as long as you maintain the general framework. Comparative essays are not as difficult and demanding as persuasive ones might be, but they do call for certain skills in observing and analyzing.

Comparative essays can take different forms, starting from comparing two methods of obtaining a certain chemistry solution to comparing four poems and aiming to discover common themes running through (as we explained in one of our posts).

How you structure and arrange your essay will depend significantly on what you are comparing (quite expectedly) and what you deem more logical to include. However, there are some general rules.

As always, divide your writing in three parts – the introduction, main body and the conclusion. The first one, where you invite your reader to go through your work, is to be written last. This is hardly a rule, but rather a common practice, as it is easier to make an intro to your work through the prism of your conclusions.

In the introduction, you will be representing the subjects of comparison and state its purpose. Nothing difficult, is there?

The main body is where you are let free. As we’ve already said, comparative essays give you freedom in choosing HOW to compare two or more objects. The most commonly used way is to address the characteristics of the first object using as many paragraphs as you want, then move to the second one and keep going until you run out of the objects.

If you are inclined to use this method, make sure that the characteristics of the objects are presented in the same sequence. In other words, if you are comparing ducks and swans, move from appearance to habitat for each of them, not vice versa. In this case every paragraph will be dealing with a certain characteristic.

You can also include similar characteristics of two objects in a single paragraph. In this case your essay will go like this:

Paragraph one: appearance of ducks; appearance of swans

Paragraph two: habitat of ducks; habitat of swans

Paragraph three: …

Using this method prevents you from forgetting any important characteristics and makes sure you put equal emphasis on all of them.

Finally, you can divide these paragraphs into smaller ones, i.e. you will assign the first paragraph to appearance of ducks, the second paragraph to appearance of swans and so on.

The choice is yours, but you should be aware of some common mistakes often made in the process. The first one is ‘comparing speed to weight’, meaning that you compare two characteristics of different types, which cannot be compared.

The second one is putting emphasis on one of the characteristics and not covering another one in sufficient detail. All of them matter for your analysis, so do not neglect any.

In the final part, you have to summarize key points and make a valid conclusion on their basis. No restating – only summarizing and analyzing. Based on what you described in the main body tell how two objects differ and state reasons (or results) of such differences.

As in any other essay, start each paragraph with a topic sentence and try to make your introduction as engaging as possible. This is about everything you have to bear in mind when starting to work on this essay. You are not supposed to carry the world on your shoulders, but only demonstrate skills of analysis and logical thinking. There is nothing difficult about that.

Best regards, team of