Comparative Analysis, by the staff at the Depaul University Center for Writing-based Learning
Though it may sound intimidating when you hear the words “comparative analysis”, the first thing you need to
realize about this genre of writing is that it requires the writer to do something that most of us are familiar with—
comparing and contrasting two or more ideas. This type of writing of is popular in college courses because most of
the time a course will explore more than one theory, writer or text and it is beneficial to be able to explore and
discuss the similarities or differences you may have found.
There are many ways to structure a comparative analysis—maybe you will use one topic as a way to critique
another; for example perhaps you might try showing that although two topics may have many similarities, they are
ultimately different. Though the idea of comparing and contrasting different ideas or topics may seem easy after all,
it is essential to remember that the goal of a comparative analysis is to present a meaningful conclusion or argument
about the topics being compared.
Suggestions for Writing a Comparative Analysis
-Select an over-arching theme to which your topics relate—this will likely come in the introduction of your essay
and will help to create a clear argument and set up the larger reason for why two things are being compared. For
example, you might introduce your comparison of Plato and Aristotle by selecting a way in which they have similar
philosophies and then use your thesis to show how they are ultimately different.
-Articulate why your topics are being compared. This should come near the beginning of your analysis so that the
reader knows why they should care about what you are comparing. Assigning importance to the relationship
between your selected topics also enhances the argument. Also, you will want to remind the reader of why you are
comparing your chosen topics in the conclusion of your analysis.
-When writing a thesis for a comparative analysis, you will want to be as specific as possible since your thesis will
act as the map to your paper for your reader. Also, you will want to choose an over-arching idea that unites the two
topics. Perhaps the most important part of a thesis for a comparative analysis is to set up an argument—doing this
will help you later answer the “so what” question and give your analysis meaning rather than just a paper that
presents the similarities and differences of two topics.
-Use comparative language, especially in your thesis. Some words which convey comparison are: likewise,
similarly, also and moreover; words that convey a contrast include: conversely, rather and however.
-Organization of your topics is key! Although there is not one specific way to organize a comparative analysis, you
might choose to present all of the information on one topic first, then present the information on the other topic and
conclude with your comparison. Another way to organize this type of paper would be to alternate between
comparable points in both topics and conclude with a discussion about the relationship between your topics or ideas.
-Do not forget to link your points back to your thesis—by this we mean to make sure that your evidence and points
of comparison fit in with your thesis. There can be multiple ways to compare two or more ideas or topics; however,
your body paragraphs should only present evidence that relates to your thesis. This can be easy to forget especially
when focusing on comparing and contrasting topics.
-When concluding your comparative essay, be sure to briefly summarize the points you showed in your body
paragraphs. Also, remember to answer the “so what” question in your conclusion—this will help your reader see the
final comparison and why all of your evidence fits together in the comparison.
Helpful Resources Harvard University Writing Center: How to Write a Comparative Analysis
Another website offers a long list of transition words and phrases that will help writers convey comparison, contrast,
generalizations, summaries, emphasis, illustration, exception and several other ideas when writing comparative
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