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Home Article Need Help with Comparative Essays?

Need Help with Comparative Essays?

As a professional writing service, Express-Essays.com has provided its customers with thousands upon thousands of essay papers. The primary purpose of a comparative essay is to look at two (or more) separate objects, concepts or ideas with the aim of comparing and contrasting them. Arguments are needed to highlight any comparison or contrasting points. There are a couple (two) ways to do this. Firstly, the writer can compare one object against the other. This technique is mainly used where the two objects, concepts or ideas are similar in type. Alternatively, the writer can choose to compare both objects (concepts or ideas) in an unbiased or non-judgmental manner i.e. without prejudice. This means directly separating the two primary subjects

Comparative essays differ from the contrasting variety insofar as this type requires the writer to examine both the likenesses and differences in the subject matter. An essay of the contrasting variety, on the other hand, requires the writer to focus solely on the differences.

 
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Essays of the comparative type adhere to the basic structure of any essay, which means they have:

  1. an introductory paragraph,
  2. some body paragraphs, and
  3. a concluding paragraph.

The main emphasis should be placed in the essay’s body. After that, it is crucial to keep your writing simple and it is a good idea to make the introductory paragraph as brief as you can. The primary objective for comparing subject matter should be set out in the thesis statement and reiterated in the concluding paragraph to aid the reader’s memory.

Your list of likenesses and differences can be developed once the introduction is done. This will help you create an outline or draft, which will form the foundation of your essay. When the list of likenesses and differences is complete, work out which side carries the most weight. Develop a theme or thesis statement to reflect the weighting i.e. whether there are more likenesses than differences or the other way around.

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Devise a suitable structure for your comparison essay and choose the best method for building your argument(s). You can compare items point-by-point where you would identify related features that have something in common with the items you are comparing (juxtaposing). Alternatively, you could undertake a subject-by-subject examination where you would separately discuss the different points of one object first and then do the same with the other object. The latter method is better where the subject matter has no related points or when you are comparing over two items.

The following are a few points to bear in mind when you are ready to start writing:

  • Comparisons must be well-balanced, with unbiased importance allocated to all points;
  • You should conclude by making your point in a convincing and emphatic way so that readers are left with a clear impression. Reiterate the main points from the body of the essay.
  • Give preferential treatment to those points with the highest importance. Leave plenty space to develop main points.
 
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Whether comparative essays are successful or not depends on the writer’s ability to bring comparison elements to the fore in a sufficiently creative and compelling manner to capture the reader’s attention. The list of topics for comparative essays is endless. You can write about any items that can possibly be compared, can be matched or anything that has relatable features.

If you follow the above tips, you are equipped to write good comparative essays. With a little help from the professionally qualified writers at Express-Essays.com, writing a comparative essay is much easier and can even be fun!

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    Comparative essays

    Printable version of Comparative Essays (PDF) .


    Writing a comparison usually requires that you assess the similarities and differences between two or more theories, procedures, or processes. You explain to your reader what insights can be gained from the comparison, or judge whether one thing is better than another according to established criteria.
     

    Helpful tip: When you are asked to write a comparative essay, remember that, unless you are instructed otherwise, you are usually being asked to assess both similarities and differences. Such essays may be called comparative essays, comparison essays, or compare-and-contrast essays.
     

    How to write a comparative essay

    • Establish a basis of comparison

      A basis of comparison represents the main idea, category, or theme you will investigate. You will have to do some preliminary reading, likely using your course materials, to get an idea of what kind of criteria you will use to assess whatever you are comparing. A basis of comparison must apply to all items you are comparing, but the details will be different.

      For example, if you are asked to “compare neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture,” you could compare the influence of social context on the two styles.
       

    • Gather the details of whatever you are comparing 

      Once you have decided what theme or idea you are investigating, you will need to gather details of whatever you are comparing, especially in terms of similarities and differences. Doing so allows you to see which criteria you should use in your comparison, if not specified by your professor or instructor.

    e.g.

    CriteriaNeoclassical ArchtectureGothic Architecture
    Neoclassical architecture versus Gothic architecture
    ChurchesAppeal to Greek perfectionAppeal to emotion
    Civic buildingsColumnsTowers and spires
    PalacesFormulaic and mathematicalWild and rustic

    Helpful tip: Organize your criteria in columns or a Venn diagram; using visual methods to map your pre-writing work can help you to stay on track and more clearly get a sense of how the essay will be structured.

    Based on the information in the above table, you could focus on how ornamentation and design principles reveal prevailing intellectual thought about architecture in the respective eras and societies.

    • Develop a thesis statement

      After brainstorming, try to develop a thesis statement that identifies the results of your comparison. Here is an example of a fairly common thesis statement structure:

      e.g., Although neoclassical architecture and gothic architecture have [similar characteristics A and B], they reveal profound differences in their interpretation of [C, D, and E].

    Helpful tip: Avoid a thesis statement that simply states your obvious purpose.

    e.g., The aim of this essay is to compare [A and B] with reference to [X, Y, and Z].
     

    • Organize your comparison

      You have a choice of two basic methods for organizing a comparative essay: the point-by-point method or the block method.

      The point-by-point method examines one aspect of comparison in each paragraph and usually alternates back and forth between the two objects, texts, or ideas being compared. This method allows you to emphasize points of similarity and of difference as you proceed.

      In the block method, however, you say everything you need to say about one thing, then do the same thing with the other. This method works best if you want readers to understand and agree with the advantages of something you are proposing, such as introducing a new process or theory by showing how it compares to something more traditional.

    Sample outlines for comparative essays on neoclassical and gothic architecture

    Building a point-by-point essay

    Using the point-by-point method in a comparative essay allows you to draw direct comparisons and produce a more tightly integrated essay.
     

    Helpful tip: Note that you can have more than three points of comparison, especially in longer essays. The points can be either similarities or differences. Overall, in order to use this method, you must be able to apply criteria to every item, text, or idea you are comparing.
     

    1. Introduction

      1. Introductory material
      2. Thesis: Although neoclassical and gothic architecture are both western European forms that are exemplified in civic buildings and churches, they nonetheless reveal, through different structural design and ornamentation, the different intellectual principles of the two societies that created them.
    2. Body section/Paragraph 1: Criterion A (Ornamentation)

      1. Text 1
      2. Text 2
    3. Body section/Paragraph 2: Criterion B (Major appeal)

      1. Text 1
      2. Text 2
    4. Body section/Paragraph 3: Criterion C (Style)

      1. Text 1
      2. Text 2
    5. Conclusion

      1. Summary
      2. Why this comparison is important and what it tells readers

    Building a block method essay

    Using the block method in a comparative essay can help ensure that the ideas in the second block build upon or extend ideas presented in the first block. It works well if you have three or more major areas of comparison instead of two (for example, if you added in a third or fourth style of architecture, the block method would be easier to organize).

    1. Introduction

      1. Introductory material
      2. Thesis: The neoclassical style of architecture was a conscious rejection of the gothic style that had dominated in France at the end of the middle ages; it represented a desire to return to the classical ideals of Greece and Rome.
    2. Body

      1. Text 1: History and development
      2. Text 2: Change from earlier form; social context of new form
      3. Synthesis and analysis: What does the comparison reveal about architectural development?
    3. Conclusion

      1. Summary
      2. Why this comparison is important and what it tells readers

    Back to Writing Centre resources .

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    How to Write a Comparative Essay

    Three Parts: Developing the Essay Content Organizing the Content Writing the Essay Community Q&A

    Perhaps you have been assigned a comparative essay in class, or need to write a comprehensive comparative report for work. In order to write a stellar comparative essay, you have to start off by picking two subjects that have enough similarities and differences to be compared in a meaningful way, such as two sports teams or two systems of government. Once you have that, then you have to find at least two or three points of comparison and use research, facts, and well-organized paragraphs to impress and captivate your readers. Writing the comparative essay is an important skill that you will use many times throughout your scholastic career.

    Steps

    Part 1

    Developing the Essay Content

    1. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 1

      1
      Analyze the question or essay prompt carefully. You may have a great idea for a paper in your head, but if it doesn’t perfectly match the prompt, you may not create the product your instructor has asked for. [1] Look over the prompt (and rubric, if you have one) carefully and underline key phrases. Keep a list of these things by you as you work. [2]

      • Many comparative essay assignments will signal their purpose by using words such as “compare,” “contrast,” “similarities,” and “differences” in the language of the prompt.
      • Also see whether there are any limits placed on your topic.
    2. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 2

      2
      Understand the type of comparison essay you are being asked to write. While some essays may be simple compare/contrast essays, others may ask you to begin with that framework and then develop an evaluation or argument based on your comparisons. For these essays, simply pointing out that things are similar or different will not be sufficient. [3]

      • The assignment will generally ask guiding questions if you are expected to incorporate comparison as part of a larger assignment. For example: “Choose a particular idea or theme, such as love, beauty, death, or time, and consider how two different Renaissance poets approach this idea.” This sentence asks you to compare two poets, but it also asks how the poets approach the point of comparison. In other words, you will need to make an evaluative or analytical argument about those approaches.
      • If you’re unclear on what the essay prompt is asking you to do, talk with your instructor. It’s much better to clarify questions up front than discover you’ve written the entire essay incorrectly.
    3. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 3

      3
      List similarities and differences between the items you are comparing. Showing the similarities between the two subjects is the essence of a comparison paper, but you also need to recognize their differences. Making an effective comparison requires that you examine the differences between the subjects, as well. By examining the contrast between your subjects, you can provide valuable insights into how they relate to each other.

      • The best place to start is to write a list of things that the items you are comparing have in common as well as differences between them. [4]
    4. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 4

      4
      Evaluate your list to find your argument. It is likely that you will not be able to write about everything on your list. Read through the list and try to identify a theme or patterns among items that are listed. This can help you decide on the basis of your comparison. After you work through the list, you should have the building blocks of your argument and thesis.

      • You may want to develop a system such as highlighting different types of similarities in different colors, or use different colours if you are using an electronic device.
      • For example, if you are comparing two novels, you may want to highlight similarities in characters in pink, settings in blue, and themes or messages in green.
    5. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 5

      5
      Establish the basis for your comparison. This provides the context for your comparison: how will you examine these two things? Among other things, the basis could be a theoretical approach, such as feminism or multiculturalism; a question or problem that you wish to discover an answer for; or a historical theme, such as colonialism or emancipation. [5] The comparison needs to have a specific thesis or overarching idea that determines the reason why you are comparing the two (or more) objects. [6]

      • The basis for your comparison may be assigned to you. Be sure to check your assignment or prompt.
      • A basis for comparison may have to do with a theme, characteristics, or details about two different things. [7]
      • A basis for comparison may also be known as the “grounds” for comparison or a frame of reference.
      • Keep in mind that comparing 2 things that are too similar makes it hard to write an effective paper. The goal of a comparison paper is to draw interesting parallels and help the reader realize something interesting about our world. This means your subjects must be different enough to make your argument interesting.
    6. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 6

      6
      Research your subjects of comparison. Although you want to have a thorough understanding of both things being compared, it’s important not to provide more details than the assignment can handle. Compare a few aspects of each topic instead of trying to cover both topics comprehensively.

      • Research may not be required or appropriate for your particular assignment. If your comparative essay is not meant to include research, you should avoid including it.
      • A comparative essay about historical events, social issues, or science-related topics are more likely to require research, while a comparison of two works of literature are less likely to require research.
      • Be sure to cite any research data properly according to the discipline in which you are writing (eg, MLA, APA, or Chicago format).
    7. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 7

      7
      Develop a thesis statement. Every essay should be controlled by a clear, concise thesis statement. Even if your basis for comparison was assigned to you, you need to express in a single sentence why you are comparing the two items. The comparison should reveal something about the nature of the items or their relationship to each other, and your thesis statement should express that argument. [8]

      • Your thesis needs to make a claim about your subjects that you will then defend in your essay. It’s good for this claim to be a bit controversial or up for interpretation, as this allows you to build a good argument.

    Part 2

    Organizing the Content

    1. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 8

      1
      Outline your comparison. Before you start writing, it is best to plan out your organization strategy. A unique feature of a comparative essay is that you have several different organizational strategies to choose from.

      • Use a traditional outline form if you would like to, but even a simple list of bulleted points in the order that you plan to present them would help.
      • You can also write down your main points on sticky notes (or type them, print them, and then cut them out) so that you can arrange and rearrange them before deciding on a final order.
    2. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 9

      2
      Use a mixed paragraphs method. Address both halves of the comparison in each paragraph. This means that the first paragraph will compare the first aspect of each subject, the second will compare the second, and so on, making sure to always address the subjects in the same order. [9]

      • The advantages of this structure are that it continually keeps the comparison in the mind of the reader and forces you, the writer, to pay equal attention to each side of the argument.
      • This method is especially recommended for lengthy essays or complicated subjects where both the writer and reader can easily become lost. For Example:

        Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X / Engine power of vehicle Y

        Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X / Stylishness of vehicle Y

        Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X / Safety rating of vehicle Y

    3. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 10

      3
      Alternate the subjects in each paragraph. Devote every other paragraph to one of the subjects. This means that the first paragraph will compare one aspect of a subject and the second, the same aspect of the other subject; the third paragraph will compare a second aspect of a subject and the fourth, the same aspect of the second subject – and so on, making sure to always address each subject in the same order. [10]

      • The advantages of this structure are that it allows you to discuss points in greater detail and makes it less jarring to tackle two topics that radically different.
      • This method is especially recommended for essays where some depth and detail are required. For example:

        Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X
        Paragraph 2: Engine power of vehicle Y

        Paragraph 3: Stylishness of vehicle X
        Paragraph 4: Stylishness of vehicle Y

        Paragraph 5: Safety rating of vehicle X
        Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

    4. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 11

      4
      Cover one subject at a time thoroughly. This means that the first set of body paragraphs is devoted to addressing every aspect of the first subject and the second set, to addressing every aspect of the second subject, making sure to address each aspect in the same order. [11]

      • This method is by far the most dangerous, as your comparison can become both one-sided and difficult for the reader to follow.
      • This method is only recommended for short essays with simplistic subjects that the reader can easily remember as (s)he goes along. For example:

        Paragraph 1: Engine power of vehicle X
        Paragraph 2: Stylishness of vehicle X
        Paragraph 3: Safety rating of vehicle X

        Paragraph 4: Engine power of vehicle Y
        Paragraph 5: Stylishness of vehicle Y
        Paragraph 6: Safety rating of vehicle Y

    Part 3

    Writing the Essay

    1. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 12

      1
      Write your essay out of order. In many cases, writing your essay from start to finish is harder than writing it out of order. Also, you’ll likely find yourself revising the early parts of your essay once you complete the body of the paper. Instead, you can opt to write your sections out of order. However, you always need to write your thesis statement before you can get started.

      • Body paragraphs first. Work through all that information you’ve been compiling and see what kind of story it tells you. Only when you’ve worked with your data will you know what the larger point of the paper is.
      • Conclusion second. Now that you’ve done all the heavy lifting, the point of your essay should be fresh in your mind. Strike while the iron’s hot. Start your conclusion with a restatement of your thesis. [12]
      • Intro last. Open your introduction with a “hook” to grab the reader’s attention. Since you’ve already written your essay, choose a hook that reflects what you will talk about, whether it’s a quote, statistic, factoid, rhetorical question, or anecdote. Then, write 1-2 sentences about your topic, narrowing down to your thesis statement, which completes your introduction. [13]
    2. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 13

      2
      Write the body paragraphs. The first sentence of a body paragraph (often called the topic sentence) prepares the reader for what you’ll be covering in that paragraph, the middle of the paragraph presents the information you’ve gathered, and the last sentence draws a low-level conclusion based on that information. Be careful not to overstep the bounds of the paragraph by making a much larger point about your two topics; that’s the job of the conclusion paragraph.

      • Organize your paragraphs using one of the approaches listed in the “Organizing the Content” part below. Once you have defined your points of comparison, choose the structure for the body paragraphs (where your comparisons go) that makes the most sense for your data. To work out all the organizational kinks, it’s recommended that you write an outline as a placeholder.
      • Be very careful not to address different aspects of each subject. Comparing the color of one thing to the size of another does nothing to help the reader understand how they stack up. [14]
    3. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 14

      3
      Write the conclusion . When the essay’s done, the reader should feel like (s)he learned something and know that the essay is done, not be looking around for missing pages. The conclusion should open by giving a brief, general summary of the points you covered in the body paragraphs, then draw a larger conclusion about your two subjects. [15] (Be careful to base your conclusion in the data and not your personal preferences, especially if your essay prompt has instructed you to keep a neutral tone.) The last sentence of the essay should leave the reader feeling that all the different threads of the essay have been drawn together in a cohesive way.

      • Be aware that your various comparisons won’t necessarily lend themselves to an obvious conclusion, especially because people value things differently. If necessary, make the parameters of your argument more specific. (Ex. “Though X is more stylish and powerful, Y’s top safety ratings make it a more appropriate family vehicle.”)
      • When you have two radically different topics, it sometimes helps to point out one similarity they have before concluding. (i.e. “Although X and Y don’t seem to have anything in common, in actuality, they both ….”)
    4. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 15

      4
      Write the introduction . Start with a general point that establishes the similarity between the two subjects, then move to the specific focus of the essay. At the end of the introduction, write a thesis statement that first announces which aspects of each subject you plan to compare and then states what conclusion you’ve drawn from them.

    5. Image titled Write a Comparative Essay Step 16

      5
      Revise your writing. If time is not an issue, the best way to revise your work is to leave it for a day. Go out, have something to eat or drink, have fun – forget about the paragraph/essay until tomorrow. Once you settle down to revise, remember that the two most important things to do are to find problems and to fix them. These should be done separately (i.e., go through and find all the problems you can without correcting them, then tackle them during a second run-through). Although it is tempting to do them at the same time, it is smarter to do them one by one; this ensures you have checked everything and, ultimately, makes the job quicker and more efficient.

      • Even the best writers know editing is important to produce a good piece. Your essay will not be your best effort unless you revise it.
      • If possible, find a friend to look over the essay, as he or she may find problems that you missed.
      • It sometimes helps to increase or decrease the font size while editing to change the visual layout of the paper. Looking at the same thing for too long makes your brain fill in what it expects instead of what it sees, leaving you more likely to overlook errors.

    Community Q&A

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    Add New Question

    • Question
      How do I start a comparative essay on water and oil?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      It depends. Are you comparing their uses, their properties or something else? Just take what you are comparing and, in effect, summarize what your argument/s are going to be. So for example: Imagine living in a world without water? Now one without oil… Which one is worse? Water and oil are both non-renewable resources that our planet is quickly running out of. Saving water, however, should be prioritized as water is the basis for most life on earth.
      Thanks!

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    • Question
      But how do you compare the two subjects?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      Make lists of the subjects’ similarities and differences. Discuss them in your essay.
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    • Question
      How do I start my compare and contrast about extrovert vs introvert?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      You could start by defining the terms and talk about how the two different types function in society.
      Thanks!

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    • Question
      How often do I compare?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      In general (but depending on the length and topic of the essay), there should be 3-4 points of comparison. Whenever a point is made about one topic it should be compared with a directly linked point from the other topic.
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    • Question
      How do I write an introductory paragraph comparing three different texts?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      It’s always a good idea to start with an outline. An introduction simply tells the reader what the paper is going to be about. Introduce your topic: which texts are you comparing and why? What point are you trying to make?
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    • Question
      Can I start my introduction with the hook?
      Afriasia A. Bermúdez-Crespín
      Community Answer

      That’s exactly what you should do! When you start your intro with an attention-grabbing sentence, you’re keeping your reader’s attention.
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    • Question
      How do I start my introduction?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      Add some background information about the topic, and how what you are comparing are similar, such as characteristics or behaviors.
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    • Question
      How do I start a comparative essay?
      wikiHow Contributor
      Community Answer

      Begin with something that draws the reader in, and makes them want to read the paper. Then, introduce the topics you are comparing.
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      Quick Summary

      To write a comparative essay, start by writing an introduction that introduces the 2 subjects you’ll be comparing. You should also include your thesis statement in the introduction, which should state what you’ve concluded based on your comparisons. Next, write the body of your essay so that each paragraph focuses on one point of comparison between your subjects. Finally, write a conclusion that summarizes your main points and draws a larger conclusion about the two things you compared.

      Did this summary help you?

      Tips

      • The title and introduction really catch the reader’s attention and make them read the essay. Make sure you know how to write a catchy essay title .
      • The key principle to remember in a comparative paragraph or essay is that you must clarify precisely what you are comparing and keep that comparison alive throughout the essay.
      • Quotes should be used sparingly and must thoroughly complement the point they are being used to exemplify/justify.

      Warnings

      • Avoid, at all costs, the conclusion that the two subjects are “similar, yet different.” This commonly found conclusion weakens any comparative essay, because it essentially says nothing about the comparison. Most things are “similar, yet different” in some way.
      • Beware of the “Frying Pan Conclusion” in which you simply recount everything that was said in the main body of the essay. While your conclusion should include a simple summary of your argument, it should also emphatically state the point in a new and convincing way, one which the reader will remember clearly. If you can see a way forward from a problem or dilemma, include that as well.
      • Avoid vague language such as “people,” “stuff,” “things,” etc.
      • Some believe that an “unbalanced” comparison – that is, when the essay focuses predominantly on one of the two issues, and gives less importance to the other – is weaker, and that writers should strive for 50/50 treatment of the texts or issues being examined. Others, however, value emphasis in the essay that reflects the particular demands of the essay’s purpose or thesis. One text may simply provide context, or historical/artistic/political reference for the main text, and therefore need not occupy half of the essay’s discussion or analysis. A “weak” essay in this context would strive to treat unequal texts equally, rather than strive to appropriately apportion space to the relevant text.

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      Sources and Citations

      1. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/688/01/
      2. http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/comparing-and-contrasting/
      3. http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/comparing-and-contrasting/
      4. http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/comparative-essay
      5. http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
      6. http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/comparative-essay
      7. http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/comparative-essay
      8. http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
      9. http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
      10. http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
      11. http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
      12. http://www.roanestate.edu/owl/introductions-conclusions.html
      13. http://www.roanestate.edu/owl/introductions-conclusions.html
      14. http://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-write-comparative-analysis
      15. http://www.roanestate.edu/owl/introductions-conclusions.html

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      Article Info

      Categories: Comparative Essays

      In other languages:

      Italiano:  Scrivere un Saggio Comparativo , Español:  hacer un ensayo comparativo , Português:  Escrever um Ensaio Comparativo , Русский:  написать сравнительное сочинение , Deutsch:  Einen vergleichenden Essay verfassen , Français:  écrire un essai comparatif , Bahasa Indonesia:  Menulis Esai Komparatif , العربية:  كتابة مقالة مقارنة , Nederlands:  Een vergelijkend essay schrijven , 한국어:  비교하는 글 작성법

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