Transition sentences in essays
Clear transitions are crucial to clear writing: They show the reader how different parts of your essay, paper, or thesis are connected. Transition sentences can be used to structure your text and link together paragraphs or sections.
Transitioning between paragraphs
When you start a new paragraph, the first sentence should clearly express:
- What this paragraph will discuss
- How it relates to the previous paragraph
The examples below show some examples of transition sentences between paragraphs and what they express.
|Transition sentence||This paragraph…|
|Further evidence in support of this hypothesis is provided by Smith (2019).||…complements the previous one, providing more support for the same idea.|
|However, Patel’s arguments are not the final word on the matter.||…contradicts the previous one by presenting new evidence related to the previous discussion.|
|Having established the relationship between these factors, we are in a position to draw conclusions about the broader process.||…treats the preceding point as a base on which to build up more general arguments.|
Placement of transition sentences
The beginning of a new paragraph is generally the right place for a transition sentence. Each paragraph should focus on one topic, so avoid spending time at the end of a paragraph explaining the theme of the next one.
Transitioning to a new section
While transitions between paragraphs are generally a single sentence, when you start a new section in a longer text, you may need an entire transition paragraph. Transitioning to a new section involves summarizing the content of the previous section and expressing how the new one will build upon or depart from it.
For example, the following sentences might be an effective transition for a new section in a literary analysis essay.
Transitions within a paragraph
It’s also important to use effective transitions within each paragraph you write, leading the reader through your arguments efficiently and avoiding ambiguity.
The known-new contract
The order of information within each of your sentences is important to the cohesion of your text. The known-new contract, a useful writing concept, states that a new sentence should generally begin with some reference to information from the previous sentence, and then go on to connect it to new information.
In the following example, the second sentence doesn’t follow very clearly from the first. The connection only becomes clear when we reach the end.
By reordering the information in the second sentence so that it begins with a reference to the first, we can help the reader follow our argument more smoothly.
Note that the known-new contract is just a general guideline. Not every sentence needs to be structured this way, but it’s a useful technique if you’re struggling to make your sentences cohere.
Transition words and phrases
Using appropriate transition words helps show your reader connections within and between sentences. Transition words and phrases come in four main types:
- Additive transitions, which introduce new information or examples
- Adversative transitions, which signal a contrast or departure from the previous text
- Causal transitions, which are used to describe cause and effect
- Sequential transitions, which indicate a sequence
The table below gives a few examples for each type:
|Type||Example sentence||Transition words and phrases|
|Additive||We found that the mixture was effective. Moreover, it appeared to have additional effects we had not predicted.||furthermore, moreover, for example, in regard to x, similarly, in other words|
|Adversative||The novel does deal with the theme of family. However, its central theme is more broadly political …||however, although, nevertheless, regardless, above all, (or) at least|
|Causal||Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany.||because, therefore, consequently, if, provided that, so that, to|
|Sequential||This has historically had several consequences: First, the conflict is not given the weight of other conflicts in historical narratives. Second, its causes are inadequately understood. Third, …||first, second, third, initially, subsequently, finally, lastly, to return/returning to x, as previously mentioned, in conclusion|
Grouping similar information
While transition words and phrases are essential, and every essay will contain at least some of them, it’s also important to avoid overusing them. One way to do this is by grouping similar information together so that fewer transitions are needed.
For example, the following text uses three transition words and jumps back and forth between ideas. This makes it repetitive and difficult to follow.
Rewriting it to group similar information allows us to use just one transition, making the text more concise and readable.