This resource outlines strategies to help you draft a compelling comparative thesis, whether you’re writing a classic “compare and contrast” essay or looking to strengthen an argument.
Identify a significant difference or similarity
If you’re comparing (or contrasting) two or more texts, images, or examples, ask yourself: Are the things you’re comparing mostly alike? Or mostly unalike? Do they have more in common, or more differences?
Focus on the less obvious option to develop a significant and supportable thesis.
The strongest arguments introduce something potentially surprising about their topics, taking a position other readers/writers/critics might not have noticed at first.
If differences are easy to identify, emphasize an important similarity.
If similarities are easy to identify, emphasize an important difference.
Avoid stating the obvious
This may feel counterintuitive at first. If you’re comparing two poems, for example, and you notice they have the same structure, a similar tone, and shared vocabulary, you may be tempted to focus your argument on what they have in common. But those are also comparisons all readers are likely to notice! A strong thesis makes a significant claim that needs supporting evidence to be persuasive.
Brainstorm your comparison
If you need help determining whether to emphasize a similarity or difference, brainstorm first by completing the following Venn diagram.
If you find yourself mostly filling out the middle, focus on an important difference! If you find yourself mostly filling out the sides, focus on a similarity instead.
Significant comparisons: templates and examples
Now that you’ve chosen a significant difference or similarity to emphasize, your next step is to draft a thesis statement that identifies and explains the comparison.
Read the following templates and examples to get started. In each, the writer starts by introducing what seems obviously true—a clear difference or similarity—and then complicates that by focusing on a significant departure.
Emphasizing an important similarity:
- While it may seem that A and B have little in common apart from ________________, they actually share ________________.
- Despite many clear differences, both A and B ______________________________.
- While it may seem that Democrats and Republicans disagree fundamentally on how the U.S. should be run, the fact that both parties supported the Defense Authorization Act—permitting the indefinite detention of American citizens on U.S. soil—suggests they share a core set of beliefs about government power.
- Despite the schools’ different curricula, both serve the same overarching mission…
Emphasizing an important difference:
- Although A and B share ________________, they significantly differ in that ______________________________.
- A and B appear to have many commonalities, but depart from one another when ______________________________.
- While T-Mobile and Verizon may appear to have similar marketing strategies, they target their audiences differently: T-Mobile caters to a niche audience of young people who live in cities, while Verizon emphasizes their nationwide coverage.
- Although Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” are both ekphrastic poems about ancient Greek artifacts, they offer very different perspectives on antiquity…
Draft your own comparative thesis
Finally, draft your own comparative thesis, emphasizing a significant difference or similarity. If you’re looking for more templates to study, consult our Useful Language for Thesis Statements resource.
This resource from the Baruch College Writing Center is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to share, adapt, transform, or otherwise use this material in any medium, with attribution.