When writing a compare and contrast essay, you will need to pick at least two different topics that you will analyse in relation to each other. For example, supposing you were writing a compare and contrast paper for history, then you may wish to consider looking at two different historical leaders. You may then wish to look at any political ideology that both leaders adhered to, and how these ideologies were similar or different. Alternatively, you may examine any other political strategies that they may have used during their time in power.
For shorter essays, you may simply include an introduction, a body section, and a conclusion. For example, with the five paragraph style of essay, the body section will be made up of three paragraphs, whilst the introduction and conclusion will each use one of the remaining paragraphs. As a result, you may not necessarily need a thesis for one of these shorter styles of academic paper; however, if you are writing a dissertation or other major piece of work then you will most likely need to include one, as it can provide the reader with further information about your essay.
Essentially, you will only need to write a few sentences and will aim to provide the reader with an understanding of what to expect from your paper. When it comes to compare and contrast papers, your thesis will introduce the two different topics or themes that you will be comparing.
Furthermore, it should give the reader an idea of how it is that you will approach any comparisons or differences between the two topics that you are discussing. To put it another way, you will be given a brief overview of the rest of the paper.
For example, using the historical example mentioned above, in your thesis statement you would introduce both different historical leaders, before making some reference to any of the similarities and differences that you wish to discuss, such as political ideologies, length of reign, economic activity, or any other relevant issues connected with the two historical leaders that you are discussing.
One thing to be aware of is that you cannot go in to too much detail. In fact, you only need to give the reader an idea of what to expect. When it comes to the rest of the essay, such as the body section, you will then expand on any points that you may have brought up in the thesis, as well as potentially introducing other ideas that were less relevant and, therefore, not included in the thesis.