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What Are the Best Tips for Writing a Comparative Analysis?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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A comparative analysis is a very common type of academic paper, though it may also be written in the professional, business world as well. Most commonly, comparative analysis papers are written during a high school and/or college education. In such a paper, students will be asked to compare and contrast two different things. It can happen in any academic subject; for instance, it might simply be two different works of literature, two contrasting political views, two approaches to solving a business problem, and so on. The topic opportunities for a comparative paper such as this are virtually limitless. A comparative analysis generally also requires a thesis statement, which the writer must attempt to prove.

In writing a comparative analysis, an individual will first need to determine the frame of reference for the paper, or the context in which the comparisons are made. Rarely will two things be compared broadly, in every possible way; instead, a specific focus will be chosen that seeks to inform another important part of the analysis, the thesis. The thesis explains the point of the paper and what the individual is trying to prove by writing it. It also helps to justify the reasons behind the comparison; why were these two particular things chosen for comparison, and in this particular context?

Once the thesis statement is chosen, it is helpful to outline the paper. Each individual may have a different way that he or she prefers to create an outline, but it helps to at least make notes on the topic for each paragraph, and supporting quotes or sources that will be used in those paragraphs. A solid outline will make it much easier to write the actual paper when it comes time to do so. There are two common ways to organize a comparative analysis, neither of which is necessarily better than the other, but which some instructors might prefer.

The first is to write a number of paragraphs on the first item being compared, then a number of paragraphs on the second item; i.e., discuss them separately throughout the paper. This might be referred to as side-by-side analysis. In the second way, known as point-by-point analysis, each of the different points of comparison will be considered for each item simultaneously throughout the paper. One style or another might be easier for the reader to follow depending on the topic; unless the instructor specifies otherwise, it might be best to just see what style fits most naturally.

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Discussion Comments
By Ivan83 — On Mar 09, 2012

One important thing to consider is to make sure that you are comparing two things on equal terms. You need to define your framework for analysis at the beginning of your paper and maintain it throughout.

For instance, it would not do to compare the characters in one novel with the setting in another. There might be a paper to be written here, but it cannot be called a fair comparison because it draws on such disparate sources.

By nextcorrea — On Mar 08, 2012

The most important thing to keep in mind when writing any kind of comparative analysis is to give equal treatment to both sides. If there is any kind of bias in your analysis it will invalidate any conclusions you come to.

I have seen so many comparative analysis papers where a person's agenda is clear just from the way they have organized their paper. One side gets ample discussion and analysis while the other side is discussed in a cursory and cherry picking way. If you do not give equal attention and focus to both sides you cannot honestly call it a comparison.

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