Finding A Relevant Topic For A College Compare And Contrast Essay

A compare and contrast essay looks at the differences between two different subjects. Or it may look at similarities between two different subjects. An interesting paper will even look at both differences and similarities between two different subjects. This can be challenging but makes for interesting writing and reading!

You may have been given an assignment that explicitly asks you to compare and contrast two texts, or two topics. However, sometimes the question may not be so obvious. You may have simply been asked to look at how a particular subject, for example, marriage, is explored in two different texts. The lecturer is still looking for a compare and contrast essay. It is always a good idea to clarify exactly what your lecturer or tutor is looking for before you begin writing your paper.

Of course, your choice of topic will also depend on the subject for which you have to write your paper. If your subject is English, then perhaps comparing and contrasting two poems or pieces of literature would be relevant. If your topic is history, then looking at two wars, or political leaders would be relevant. If it is sociology, then looking at the social structures of two countries could be interesting.

When it comes to finding a relevant topic for your paper, there are various sources of information:

  • Textbooks
  • The internet – an internet search will even give you various lists of topic ideas. Some of these include:
    • Two decades in history
    • Two poems on the same subject (e.g. death)
    • Two pieces of music by the same composer
    • Being a child to being an adult
    • City living to country living
  • Journals
  • Past essay papers
  • Novels
  • Magazines
  • Videos and CDs


A useful exercise to help you think of ideas is to grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down any idea that comes into your head, no matter how crazy it might sound. Just about any topic can be a subject for a compare and contrast essay. Using the brainstorming method is a great way to come up with your own ideas. Finding a unique angle for your paper will help to make it more interesting for the reader.

Just about any topic is what you could call “relevant” when it comes to a compare and contrast paper. It’s just a matter of looking at a particular subject from two different perspectives and then looking at differences and similarities.