How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay: Build the Framework
In order to understand how to start an essay, you must first have a full understanding of what you’re going to be writing about. In a compare and contrast essay, you are discussing both the similarities and the differences between two subjects. While you may be someone who can start an essay off of the top of your head with no problem, many people find it easier to sit down and write out an outline before beginning. The order in which you introduce your points in your introduction is the order in which you should introduce them in your essay, so it’s good to have the framework completed before beginning. Knowing how to start a compare and contrast essay is the first step to writing an interesting essay that will keep readers engaged all the way to the end.
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Before deciding how many paragraphs to break your essay up into, you should first figure out approximately how long the essay is going to be. If it only has to be 500 words, you don’t need to split it up into 7 different paragraphs. But if it is a longer essay, such as 5,000 words, you’ll want to break it up into smaller chunks in order to keep the reader’s attention throughout the paper.
Once you know how long the essay must be, you must then determine exactly how you’re going to split up the topics. Are you going to have four paragraphs – an introduction, a paragraph on the first subject, a paragraph on the second subject, and a conclusion? Or maybe your four paragraphs will be an introduction, the similarities between the two subjects, the differences between the two subjects, and a conclusion? If you’re planning on writing a longer paper, maybe you’ll split it up into five different paragraphs – an introduction, unique aspects of the first subject, similarities between the two subjects, unique aspects of the second subject, and a conclusion. These aren’t the only options you have; depending on your topic, there are many other ways of organizing your paragraphs. There is no right way to go about organizing your paper, it is up to your own discretion. How do you think you should organize it so that the paper will flow the smoothest?
Another thing to consider is your audience. Are you writing for a third grade class, or are you writing for college professors? Your audience will largely affect the tone and voice of your essay, as well as the words, phrases, and grammar you use throughout it.
The introduction should entice readers into reading your essay, so make sure you start out strong. You may begin by mentioning one interesting fact about one of the subjects, or by asking a question that will be answered later in the paper. An introduction should describe what the compare and contrast essay is about, so if you’re discussing the similarities and differences between vacationing in a city and vacationing in the country, be sure you make that clear. One key thing to remember: don’t say “in my essay I will be talking about this and this”. There are much more interesting ways to lead into your topic. Instead of saying “I’ll be discussing the similarities and differences between a vacation in the city and a vacation in the country”, you could say something like “What makes a city so unique? What draws people to the countryside? Though both are compelling in different ways, they hold more similarities than you may realize”. This statement may also double as your thesis, which is your view or stance on the particular topic at hand.
The introduction will also introduce the general outline of the essay. Let’s say the first paragraph is comparing and contrasting the people of the city and the country, the second paragraph is about the landscape and general aesthetic quality of the two, and the third paragraph is about what you can do for entertainment. You’ll mention all of this, and mention them in the order the paragraphs will be presented in.
Every great essay starts with a great brainstorm. Before trying to compare and contrast your two subjects, begin by writing down every bit of knowledge you have on the two off the bat, being sure that you are keeping the two subjects separate from each other for now. What is it that you already know about your subjects? What are you going to need to research further? Now take a look at the two lists you have made. The differences are probably fairly obvious, but can you pick out any similarities? If not, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.
When researching your subjects, try to find information that may not be common knowledge. If someone is going to pick up an essay on the similarities and differences between city and country, chances are they already have a lot of background knowledge on the subject. You’ll want to find a small handful of facts that will make readers think ‘wow!’ and continue to read until the end.
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The conclusion should wrap up the entire essay and not leave any loose ends. Whatever you told readers you were going to speak about throughout your essay, make sure you write a concise summary of it in your conclusion (and make sure you are referring back to something in the body of your essay). As a simple example, you could say something such as “although cities are full of hustle and bustle and the countryside is more relaxed, both are areas where people go to find inspiration for novels, paintings and screenplays”.
Once you have the framework of the essay, the rest of it will fall into place. The next time you’re staring at a blank Word document, make take out that old fashioned pen and paper and start making that outline! You’ll find that starting a compare and contrast essay is easier than you may have imagined.
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Last Updated July 2021
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