How to Use Transitions in an Essay

Published by at August 18th, 2021 , Revised On September 21, 2021

Not sure how to use transition words for essays? Unable to figure out where you can place transition words within an essay? Here is all you need to know about transitions in an essay.

We overlook the importance of transitions in an essay. While the essayists themselves can see all the connections between the topic, paragraphs, topic sentencesintroductionmain body, and conclusion, it’s usually not the case for the readers who generally struggle to figure out how it all fits together, particularly if no transition words or sentences are used.

So if you are worried about your readers being unable to see the relationships and connections that may seem obvious to you, then you might want to learn to use transitions in academic writing.

Remember that it is vitally important to see your writing from the readers’ perspective to achieve the grade you have worked so hard for.

A clear understanding of the connection in an essay is of utmost importance, but to do so, you will need to relate what you are saying to what you have already said previously.

Here are some techniques to enable you to get your readers to follow your design of writing.

The Known-new Contract Technique

One common way to help your readers establish connections is to make use of the known-new contract technique. This method takes into consideration both cohesion between sentences and agreement of topic matter.

With the known-new contract, you will need to think through the sequence of information in a sentence, which you can achieve by following the below three rules;

  • Start each new sentence by mentioning the information that the preceding sentence ended with.
  • Each sentence should end by reflecting on a new piece of information.
  • Avoid starting sentences with new information.

If you can expertly incorporate this technique in your writing, your readers will undoubtedly understand any new piece of information with familiarity with the context.

With this writing style, you will link new information with old information without additional effort.

Can you see the use of a known-new contract in the below paragraph?

Each sentence in your essay should begin with information that the previous sentence ended by reflecting on a new piece of information.

If you can expertly and consistently integrate new information with the old information, your readers will undoubtedly understand any new piece of information with familiarity with the context.

As you can see in the above example, the second sentence starts concerning the first sentence’s information. So the readers can easily understand the relationship between the two sentences.

However, if the two sentences do not have the same topic matter, the cohesion between them will break, which will result in the two sentences appearing detached and unrelated.

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Use of Transition Words and Phrases 

The known-new contract ensures the most natural and effective transitions in an essay. However, if the known-new contract doesn’t seem to work for you, there are other ways to achieve an effective transition between sentences and paragraphs, such as the use of transition words and phrases.

There are four significant types of transitions words and phrases;

  • Signposting phrases such as first of all, for instance, in this example, etc.
  • Conjunctive adverbs such as moreover, instead, thus, however, furthermore, etc.
  • Relative pronouns such as that, who, who, whomever, whoever, when, what, etc.
  • Subordinating conjunctions such as since, unless, when, until, so that, and so, how, if, because, therefore, after, although, etc.

All transition words and phrases indicate the connection between what you are saying and what’s already been said previously.

As a writer, you will need to make appropriate use of these words and phrases to establish the relationship between sentences, particularly when the relationship between sentences doesn’t seem to be clear in the first place.

Combine Similar Information 

Another way to ensure the readers find your writing easy to understand is to combine similar information within the essay. By now, you might have noticed that the use of transition words and the known-new contract technique adds to the document’s word count (because both these methods repeat known information at the beginning of sentences).

So a natural way to limit the use of new words is to eliminate the need for transition words, which you can typically achieve through combining similar information into one segment in the essay.

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Paragraph Transitions

Transitioning between paragraphs will require you to place the transitions at the beginnings of the new paragraph.

Avoid using transitions at the end of the preceding paragraphs because, in ideal circumstances, you want each paragraph of your essay to focus on one aspect of your essay topic. This will also allow you to combine similar information together (as we just learned above).

Transitions are forward-looking in nature, which means they give an insight into what is to follow or the topic matter that new paragraphs and sentences will incorporate. Using a transition at the start of new paragraph signals focus on the content matter of the new paragraph.

Unlike transitions between sentences that establish a connection between sentences, transitions in paragraphs focus on developing the relationship between the old and the new paragraph.

For this very reason, transitioning between paragraphs will require you to shed light on the central argument in the previous paragraph and relate it to the information provided in the present paragraph.

Here are a few things for you to consider when writing a paragraph transition;

  • Is the new paragraph continuation of a related point discussed in the previous paragraph?
  • Does the new paragraph extract or deduce some information from the preceding paragraph?
  • Does it second the argument presented in the previous paragraph or offer a counter perspective?

How Long is an Essay in Academic Writing?

Final Thoughts!

In this article, we have learned to use transition words and phrases, but occasionally you may need to write full transition sentences. This is especially true for longer academic writing pieces, such as a dissertation where you might not express the transitions clearly with the help of transition words and phrases.

While you want to be as concise as possible, you cannot compromise the clarity of transitions.

So if you are unable to transition using words and phrases with clarity, it will make sense to write a full transition sentence. Similarly, if a transition sentence doesn’t do the job, you can consider writing a transition paragraph.

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About Alaxendra Bets

Bets completed her degree in English Literature in 2014. She has been working as a professional editor and writer with Research Prospect since then. Bets loves to help students improve their learning.