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How to Write a Compare-and-Contrast Paper in MLA Format


When writing a compare-and-contrast paper in MLA format, note that MLA has specific guidelines for writing numbers and abbreviations as well as referencing sources. Following these guidelines will provide a unified style for your paper and make it easy for your reader to see where you found your information. MLA papers should be written in a legible, 12-point font, such as Times New Roman, and be printed on 8.5-by-11-inch paper with 1-inch margins.

Titling and Introduction

On the top of your first page, formatted to the left margin, type your name, the name of your professor, the name of your class and the date of the paper. The entirety of your paper, including this information, must be double-spaced. The next line should be the title of your paper, centered.

Once you've provided this information, begin your paper with an introduction paragraph, which should include a thesis statement, outlining the basic argument you are making using your sources. For a compare-and-contrast paper, your introductory paragraph should also include one sentence that briefly describes each of the sources of items you're addressing.

Section Writing

In MLA format, you can split your essay into multiple numbered and titled sections. This provides a convenient format for organizing a compare-and-contrast paper. The first two sections of your paper after your introduction can cover the two items that you are comparing and contrasting separately. Once you have these defined and described, spend one or two sections comparing and contrasting. Each section, apart from the introduction, is titled with a roman numeral and the section name, for example:

1. Douglas's "Primitive Pollution"

2. Markus's "Ritual as Rationale"

3. Contrasting Form and Function

4. Theoretical Intersections

5. Conclusion

MLA In-Text Citations

A compare-and contrast-paper will likely draw on information from at least two sources. When you quote, paraphrase or reference the information from these sources in your paper's text, include an in-text citation to note where that information comes from. The in-text citation is placed in parentheses after the sentence and contains the name of the source's author and the page number the information is taken from, for example:

"Pollution" is, by this definition, a danger that occurs only when "lines of structure, cosmic or social, are clearly defined" (Douglas 140). However, this can be troubled by the fact that "pollution itself represents the terms of defining social institutions" (Markus 7).

If you mention the author by name in the sentence, you do not need to include their name in the citation:

Douglas notes that "primitive" peoples "justify their ritual actions in terms of aches and pains" (40), but Markus counters that "physical sensation is a psychosomatic result of ritual" (12).

Works Cited List

After the final page of your paper, and any endnotes, create a separate page to collect all the sources you reference in your paper. Type "Works Cited" -- without bolding, quotes or italics -- centered at the top of this page. List all the sources used in alphabetical order by the author's last name. For each source, list the author's name, title of the source, publisher's information, year and medium of publication. For example, a book could be cited as follows:

Sacks, Oliver. A leg to stand on. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.

Depending on the type of work you are citing, you may have to include additional information. Each citation is double-spaced, and each line past the first of a citation should be indented. Do not skip spaces between citations.

About the Author

Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.

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