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Difference Between Five-Paragraph Essay and MLA Paper


In high school, you’ll learn how to write a five-paragraph essay. This skill comes in handy as you learn to develop a thesis statement and organize an essay. Writing a five-paragraph essay is a part of standardized testing, which means it is a useful skill to learn.

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Organizing a Five-Paragraph Essay

When you write a five-paragraph essay, you follow these steps:

  • Introductory paragraph including your thesis statement
  • Three body paragraphs
  • Concluding paragraph

You will follow basic rules for writing the essay. For example, each body statement contains a separate topic that supports your thesis statement. Then, the concluding paragraph will tie your thesis statement and the three body paragraphs together.

Writing College Papers

Students learning about research

However, one problem with writing five-paragraph essays is that when you start college, you are faced with writing five to ten-page papers. Doing research, developing bibliographic sources and organizing an MLA works cited page is harder than writing a short essay.

Maybe you were lucky and had teachers who assigned you longer MLA research papers. It may have not seemed lucky at the time! However, the amount of research writing goes up considerably once you enter college. If you have written short essays during high school, you may not feel prepared to write long academic papers with a works cited page at the end.

Learning Skills

What is the best way to transition from the five-paragraph essay to an MLA ten-page academic paper? The first thing you should do is put forth a big effort to learn this skill when you first start college or even before, if possible. This means a change in the way you think about research papers.

Thinking About Research

First of all, research papers are not meant to be written to please your instructors but rather a way that you contribute to scholarly research. As you develop and read existing research papers, you may come up with a way to see the topic in a new light. In that case, you are presenting new ideas to other researchers.

Reading Critically

Reading and writing critically gives you a big step ahead of your peers as you go through college. Once you gain this skill, you won’t spend your nights frantically trying to prepare your works cited list and format your paper. Your life will be easier and your grades will improve.

Understanding the changes from the writing high school English essays to academic papers is the first step to college success. Secondly, put effort into learning citation styles such as MLA, Chicago and APA. Reading articles, practicing creating citations and organizing sources brings you up to speed.

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