Transitions in Essays
We all know that writing an academic essay may be tricky. There are quite a few things to bear in mind: using appropriate and relevant sources, keeping the tone formal, organizing the ideas into coherent paragraphs and so on. One of the most often overlooked elements of this mix is the use of transitions to keep your writing together and make your message clear for the readers.
The importance of transitions
As mentioned above, the main purpose of transitions in your paper is to show the relationship between the facts, arguments, and ideas presented in the writing. In other words, they tell the reader why you have chosen to present the issues you have actually included in your paper. Moreover, they guide the reader in following your thought process while processing the things you have written.
It means that while people may have different views on the relationships between facts and ideas, your task while writing a paper is to make your take on the issue clear. Understanding your thought process expressed through proper use of transitions. Equipped with the knowledge of the way you have construed your argumentation, the reader will have the opportunity to either agree with your take on the matter or challenge it.
The point made above is applicable to research as well as argumentative writing. If effective transitions are not applied, the readers will be left on their own in interpreting the information presented in your writing. Suh creative freedom offered to the audience may be appropriate in fiction, but not in academic writing. After all, professors want to grade their students based on the students’ analyses of the assigned topics rather than their own interpretations. In other words, when working on an assignment, you must show your ability to arrange and structure information in addition to the knowledge of it.
When do you need to improve your transitions?
There are several instances which clearly indicate that you need to pay special attention to transitions and/or revise them thoroughly. The list below presents most obvious examples of such situations:
- You have submitted a draft to your instructor and received it back with several comments such as “where does this argument come from?” “How are these issues related?” “What makes you think so?” Such feedback usually means that you have assumed that the logical relationships between the issues you are bringing up are self-evident. It is a typical error to believe that if you have thought about something in a particular manner, everyone else will approach the matter similarly.
- People reading you draft (not necessarily your instructor) ask you to explain the meaning of particular claims or passages. The reasons for such misunderstandings are the same as explained above: you should not assume that the relationships between ideas are clear without explaining.
- You make a deliberate choice to write as you think about the topic at hand so that ideas come to you naturally. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. However, you must realize that the initial piece of writing you will obtain from such an exercise will require several drafts to structure it properly and provide necessary transitions.
- You are tasked with compiling a group project into a single final paper. In this situation, it is important to consult with your teammates about the ideas they wanted to deliver in their respective sections and create an overarching structure for the project rendered through your choice of transitions. Another challenge arising in such a case is to bring the individual writing styles of several people to a common core.
Types of transitions
As you have already noticed, in the previous section we have mentioned the need to work on transition in the context of a single paper and compiling the works of several authors. The reason why both situations are relevant to the discussion is that there are several types of transitions you need to use in your writing:
- Transitions within paragraphs that help you guide the reader through your discussion of a single point. They are usually words or short phrases that glue together your topic statement and the evidence you use to support it.
- Transitions between paragraphs are extended phrases o even whole sentences that explain to the reader why the point you are about to address in the paragraph to follow is relevant to the discussion as a whole and how it relates to the previous paragraph.
- Transitions between sections may take a whole paragraph in a long research paper or a term paper with the purpose of summarizing the previous section and establishing clear connection between the already discussed information and the section to follow.
The length of the transitions described above is approximate. Sometimes it is necessary to provide a detailed transition within a paragraph to ensure the clarity of your arguments. There are also instances when a single word works well as a transition between two short paragraphs.
Another important thing to notice is that the list above does not mention transitions between sentences! This is because you may spend several sentences on explaining a single point before transitioning to the next one. Shoveling a transitional word in the beginning of every sentence makes your writing tiresome to read.
How to write effective transitions?
Bearing in mind all the points about creating transitions discussed above, the task of getting your transitions right may seem daunting to say the least. However, the process is not as difficult as it appears when approached properly. Thus, to ensure that you have used proper transitions within your paper follow two simple steps:
- Create an outline of your future paper. The idea behind this advice is simple: in order to ensure the proper transition between the ideas, you must know what those ideas are. Having a detailed outline helps with virtually any aspect of writing a paper, so you would want to create one anyway.
- Establish the relationships between the ideas mentioned in the outline. In other words, you should clarify to yourself the meaning you would like to convey with your transitions. Take a close look at your outline, and make brief notes between each section/subsection to make it easier for you to proceed with crafting appropriate transitions.
Again, be aware of the danger of falling into the urge to provide transition between each sentence. To avoid this issue, keep your outline detailed but schematic. Do not attempt to write the whole sentence into your outline.
Here is the list of commonly used transitions to help you find the most appropriate ones
|LOGICAL RELATIONSHIP||TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSION|
|Similarity||also, in the same way, likewise, similarly|
|Exception/Contrast||but, however, in spite of, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, still, yet|
|Sequence/Order||First, … next, then, finally|
|Time||after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, later, meanwhile, now, recently, subsequently, then|
|Example||for example, for instance, namely, specifically,|
|Emphasis||indeed, in fact, of course, truly|
|Cause and Effect||so, consequently, hence,therefore, thus|
|Additional Support or Evidence||additionally, again, also, and, as well, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover,|
|Conclusion/Summary||finally, in conclusion,, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, to sum up, in summary|