Comparative Analysis
to compare and contrast

The comparative model applies to writing tasks that involve comparing two subjects: highlighting their similarities, contrasting their differences, or both.

The model serves to organize the discussion so the writer and the reader recognize the reason for the comparison. The writer needs to select the best details to make her or his point. The reader needs to understand the meaning clearly and not be left wondering.

The mode is an analysis because the comparison makes a meaningful point.


Goals of this Presentation


Comparative writing, whether it focuses on comparisons, contrasts, or both, must have a clear purpose. It must analyze, illustrate, or evaluate.


One subject must be the focus and the other subject must assist in the explanation. If the subjects are dealt with equally, or if the presentation of differences and similarities is the only purpose, the paper easily becomes tedious and boring.


Weak purposes:

"I learned many important things from each job."

"Our families are completely different, but we love them both."

Neither of these purposes are interesting or meaningful. Everyone learns "important thing" from any job (the point is how we apply what we learn). All families are different (they are also similar). Most people love their families (even if they hate them at times). A purpose in writing shows how one individual's experiences changed something.

Two Purposes of Comparative Analysis:

These are the only two purposes in any comparative analysis.

Compare or Contrast?

When the purpose is clear, the choice between comparing and contrasting is usually obvious.

Comparsion is normally dominant when subjects appear to be different. The purpose becomes one of highlighting how alike radically different things can be. "Palm trees and the grass in the front yard are more alike than most people may realize."


Contrast is the method of choice when the topics appear to be similar. The purpose becomes one of highlighting how different similar things can be. "My twin uncles are really very different."


The significant details selected for each method are selected to highlight the purpose of the writing.


Both comparing and contrasting are not needed in a paper. In fact, if you can easily do both, you probably have a weak purpose.

Comparative Analysis:

The Subject Pattern

The subject pattern of writing is preferred when the subjects are more important than the underlying points. This is often the case when the purpose of the writing is to inform, illustrate, or describe.  In this pattern, one subject is discussed thoroughly, in one, two or more paragraphs. Once that discussion is completed, the second subject is discussed.

Usually, the development pattern (the points discussed for each subject) is identical. This reduces the chance of confusion.

Usually, the most important subject is discussed second.


Subject Pattern

Subject Pattern Example

This example highlights the "inform or describe" purpose.

When writing, it is more important to have a purpose, rather than to balance all sides of an issue. Although there are many positive aspects about Orlando, this paper deals with jobs and cheap entertainment.

The purpose focuses the discussion. This allows the details to all aim toward the same goal. The details become significant.


Topic: Tampa, with its location and diverse economic base, is likely to suffer the recession much better than Orlando.


Subject A: Orlando is smaller and dependent on the tourist industry.

Subject B: Tampa is larger and more diverse

Conclusion: With the economy suffering, Tampa is likely to be affected less than Orlando.

The Point Pattern

The point pattern of writing is preferred when the points are more important than the subjects. This is often the case when an evaluative purpose is the goal of the writing.

In this pattern, each paragraph examines one point in regards to one subject first, and the other subject second. The next paragraph moves to another point, and the order of the subjects remains the same.

As with the subject pattern, the most important or preferred subject is mentioned second, so the transition to the conclusion is clearer.


Point Pattern

Point Pattern Example

This example highlights the evaluative purpose.

The writing has a very clear purpose that directs the choice of details. Although this outline may appear to be short, each paragraph would include at least one or two examples for each subject (community college and university). This would make each of the three body paragraphs at least 100-200 words, with specific details.


Topic: Universities are much more rigorous than community colleges.

Point A: Classes are more demanding.

Point B: Professors focus on scholarship.

Point C: Student Life focuses on careers.

Conclusion: The rigor of a university prepares students for the challenge of career and scholarly life.


The most important consideration of Comparative Analysis is to spend the time to identify a clear purpose. This allows a writer to separate significant details from the nearly limitless number of insignificant details that can be listed about any two subjects.


Comparative Analysis must have a strong thesis (purpose).

 To evaluate one in term of the other.


To inform or describe significant similarities and/or differences.

Select a pattern than highlights the intent.

Use clear transitions to keep the two subjects clear.

Toggle open/close quiz group