How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

Have you ever wondered, what’s the biggest mistake most students make when writing a college essay? Contrary to popular beliefs, it’s not related to grammar, vocabulary, formatting, or any other details and nuances.

It’s more of a strategic matter, at the same time a simple and yet very profound – it is called rush. That’s right – rush, speed, and inability to plan one’s work carefully. Even in a simple academic task such as an essay, planning or outlining is a huge prerequisite to success. Neglecting this success factor leads to vague or unfinished papers, messy thoughts, and the absence of a clear storyline.

This article focuses on how to make a great outline in a compare and contrast essay. A few simple steps and basic skills provided here will enable anyone to write a perfect outline for a compare and contrast essay in any major and discipline.

Compare and Contrast Essay

How to Outline

Let’s be honest from the very start – there is no universal recommendation on how to outline. Outlining is just a strategy, while the concrete realization of this strategy depends on each one of us.

We are all different. Some prefer to take notes the conventional way – using a pen and a piece of paper. Others like it the modern way – in a fancy note-taking program on a laptop, or an app on a smartphone. There are also those who prefer visualizing and memorizing everything in their heads, and they seldom bother taking notes.

Whatever type of personality you are, you would have your own ways of planning and outlining. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try something new, after all, we constantly learn new things, take examples from others, and change our own habits. The key is not to be afraid to try and make mistakes, especially when studying in a college and working on such a creative task as compare and contrast essay.

Periodicity is a King of Success

You have to be very lucky one to complete writing a decent college essay in one go. Usually, a good paper takes several approaches. You start doing it and then make a break to restore your energy and come up with new thoughts and ideas. When learning to write a compare and contrast essay, a wise student would progress step-by-step, making several attempts and doing a little revision work with each new attempt.

The same goes for outlining – one may take a few initial notes during a break between classes or plan the key milestones during lunchtime, or dictate a couple of ideas to a smartphone assistant when riding a bike back home. The next attempt will build upon the previous one.

By the way, the whole nature, the biological evolution itself is based on millions of iterations, cycles of repeating actions with only minor deviations. With each new cycle, the product (biological species, or a compare and contrast essay in our case) becomes better and better. So, the next time you start preparing an outline for an essay, keep in mind that a slow and incremental approach would yield a much better outcome, provided that you have time to take everything slowly.

Outlining a Compare and Contrast Essay – The Key Things to Know

  • A compare and contrast essay is a unique type of academic essay, which specializes in analyzing things for differences and commonalities. The focus of this work can be on just about anything: objects from our everyday life, ideas, economic and political issues, theories, concepts, people and their characters, beliefs, and much more. By learning to compare and contrast, students develop their analytical skills and ability to pick up the smallest details and prioritize certain things over others.
  • This type of essay cannot be written without proper preparation or at least a thorough thinking process. Free-riding here won’t work! One cannot just quickly compose a decent compare and contrast essay. Hours or even days are typically spent analyzing the topic, collecting data about the subject (research question), and preparing lists of commonalities and diversities, advantages and disadvantages, and pros and cons.
  • To outline a good compare and contrast essay, we recommend using a simple table or a numbered list. Split the table into two or more columns (depending on the number of things to compare and contrast) and describe the key features/characteristics. A graphic layout contributes to better analysis and supports weighted argumentation.
  • Outlining is a must! Make it a habit early on in your academic life and your studies will become much easier. Regardless of the outlining method (visualizing in your head, taking notes with a pen and sheet of paper, or using electronic gadgets) the benefits of outlining outweigh any difficulties and resource consumption. In the end, a good outline will enable you to save time, structure your writing, set accents, and lead to a better grade as a result.

Writing an Outline for Compare and Contrast Essay – A Step-by-Step Guide

Follow the below guide to writing your first ever outline for a compare and contrast essay, or improve your writing skills if you already have some experience in this regard.

  1. Understanding the assignment. Half of the success of your writing work depends on how well you understood the task. Often, we rush into writing, and somewhere in the middle of our work we suddenly realize that we are doing something wrong, that the focus of our essay is way off, that the research prompt has a different context, etc. Avoid these fallacies by reading the assignment carefully and making sure you understand what is expected of you.
  2. Select the outlining method. Depending on the nature of the task and its complexity, we may choose to outline in a variety of ways: by drawing a mind map, a thought tree, a simple table, or by visualizing an outline in our minds. It’s important that you stick to a selected method all the way through your work to keep things in order and to store all your ideas in a single place.
  3. Outline the introduction. Introduction in a compare and contrast essay is hard to overestimate. It has to contain a few interesting opening sentences, which will literally grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading till the very last paragraph. So, no boring and common phrases, please! You must introduce intrigue and engage your audience by presenting a unique thesis statement and letting them know that they will not be disappointed by reading your work.
  4. Plan the main body. In a compare and contrast essay, the main body must contain a comprehensive analysis of the compared phenomena, including a comparison of advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons, downsides, etc. The more things you outline in the very beginning, the easier it will be for you later when doing the actual writing work. Remember, that your reasoning must be organically linked to the thesis statement and the introduction in general. Use transition words and phrases if needed, such as ‘therefore’, ‘to support the above statement…’, ‘firstly, secondly.…, ‘likewise’, and so on.
  5. Sketch an outline of the conclusion. Usually, conclusions are not necessary to outline, simply because they heavily depend on the actual flow of thoughts in the main body. Nevertheless, a good story should always end with an interesting or unexpected conclusion, and it is totally feasible to plan it ahead. For example, in your conclusion, you may want to mention how your findings revolutionize (question, challenge) existing knowledge and beliefs.
  6. Check your work. No matter how much time you have left to spare, it is important to spend it all reviewing your outline. Ask yourself – is this enough to write a good compare and contrast essay? Did I select the right focus and come up with an interesting thesis statement? Will my analysis be holistic and unbiased? These sorts of questions should help you find gaps in your outline and revise it, since editing an outline is much easier than editing a complete essay.

Still Find It Hard to Write a Perfect Outline for a Compare and Contrast Essay?

The above guide has everything you need to write your first outline for a compare and contrast essay. With our expert guidelines, you should have no problem making it decent enough from the very first try. However, students may need a longer time to develop a good outlining skill, and it may take them several iterations until they land a great compare and contrast essay.

If you want to save time and effort, as well as take a deeper dive into the art of outlining, we recommend hiring a professional writer. You may choose to order expert tutoring or full assistance in writing a compare and contrast essay from scratch – either way, you are guaranteed to get a perfect paper, which will yield you high grades. We recommend weighing in all your options and estimating resources, after all, for education to be productive it has to bring pleasure and not interfere with a healthy way of living and social responsibilities!