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.