One of the more popular academic writing assignments that a student may be assigned is that of a comparison paper. Also known as a comparison/contrast essay, this form of writing seeks to do exactly what the name implies: compare two or more ideas. By analyzing the ways in which two items are similar, the student is comparing them. Often the other half of the equation is to describe the ways in which they are different, the contrast phase.
Papers may not always ask for the contrast, preferring only the comparison. For example, a professor might require the student to look at two historical figures or events, and describe their similarities. For example, comparing the First and Second World Wars, discovering the causes and outcomes. Students may be asked to compare the leadership styles of two diverse leaders, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, or the generalship of Grant versus Lee.
The key to writing a good comparison paper is to create a frame of reference for both subjects. It may be a single idea or a question one has regarding the subject. Following this, the grounds for comparison need to be laid out: exactly how are apples and oranges the same? The writer of a comparison paper must demonstrate why these two different subjects are being compared, and that the pairing is not random. Finally, any good academic paper must have a clear thesis.