Help With Essay Transitions Paragraphs

Transitions

Transitions help readers understand the connection from one idea to the next as they read. This page has information about two types of transitions: transitions between the sentences within a single paragraph and transitions between one paragraph and another. Click on the links below to learn about each type of transition.

Sentence Transitions

Transitions between sentences help readers see the connection between one sentence and the next one. Not every sentence should have a transition; rather, transitions tend to appear in every few sentences, such as when the paragraph is changing directions or bringing up a new idea. One of the most common ways to make transitions is by using transition words, also known as conjunctive adverbs. The chart below lists some common transition words you might use to connect the sentences within a paragraph.

Transition Words

  • therefore
  • however
  • then
  • first
  • consequently
  • on the other hand
  • next
  • second
  • thus
  • conversely
  • afterwards
  • third
  • additionally
  • rather
  • later
  • finally
  • similarly
  • for example
  • meanwhile
  • in other words

Transition words are usually followed by a comma. When you use a transition word to connect the ideas in two sentences, you can punctuate your sentences with either a period or a semicolon.

Punctuation with Transition Words

Without a transition word

Frank needed a composition course to graduate from Las Positas College. He enrolled in English 1A.

With a transition word, a period and a comma

Frank needed a composition course to graduate from Las Positas College. Therefore, he enrolled in English 1A.

With a transition word, a semicolon and a comma

Frank needed a composition course to graduate from Las Positas College; therefore, he enrolled in English 1A.

Example

Notice the differences in the following paragraph with and without the transitions:

Without Transitions

One of my favorite hobbies is traveling. I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I led bicycle trips. It was a really hard job. I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. I went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible. The job was too much work and not enough play. While it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

With Transitions

One of my favorite hobbies is traveling. Therefore, I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I led bicycle trips. It was a really hard job. I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. In addition, I went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible; however, the job was too much work and not enough play. Thus, while it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

Transitions make the paragraph much clearer, helping readers see the connections between the sentences. Notice that transitions do not appear in every sentence, just when the connection betwee ideas would not be clear without them.

Paragraph Transitions

Paragraph transitions help the reader understand the connections between the paragraphs' ideas. They also help to clarify for the reader how ideas relate to the thesis.

Paragraph Transition Dos and Don'ts

Do put the transition at the beginning of the new paragraph that it introduces.

This will show readers how your new topic connects to what came before it.

Don't put the transition at the end of the previous paragraph.

This sounds like you're bringing up a new point and then dropping it, which can confuse your reader. Paragraphs should almost always end with the main point of that paragraph, not some new point. Learn more about body paragraph structure.

Do show how the new paragraph relates to what came before it.

example: "Maintaining their spirituality gave Africans the strength and focus to revolt against their slave masters."

This paragraph reminds us what came before it (that African slaves maintained their spirituality), and connects it to the new topic (that this spirituality helped the slaves revolt against their masters).

Don't rely on single transition words to make the connections between paragraphs.

example: "Additionally, Africans also revolted against their slave masters."

While this does have a transitional word, "additionally," it doesn't really tell readers how this information relates to what came before it.

Do use subordinators to create transitions between paragraphs.

example: "Although medical studies do not usually confirm the effectivenss of acupuncture, many patients claim it has helped them with pain management and recovery from injuries."

Subordinators such as although, since, when, while, because, and asare all useful in transitioning between paragraphs.

Essay Example

Notice the differences in the following example with and without the transitions:

Without Transitions

Traveling is my life. I work every day to fund my next trip. When I was 22, I went on my first trip by myself. I went to the Netherlands, Scotland, and Ireland. After that trip, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life traveling. I am so addicted to traveling that if I am not traveling, I am planning my next trip.

            I receive many emails a day from different traveling web sites. Sherman’s Travel and Travel Zoo are two of my favorites. When I open my email, the first thing I see is “Sale. $500 all inclusive 5 nights in Hawaii.” In my mind, I am already there. I am imagining myself lying on the beach, far away from my daily responsibilities.

            I recently paid to receive a monthly magazine called Budget Travel. I knew that this would help feed my addiction while I am saving for my next trip. This is one of the best traveling magazines I have ever found. It gives random tips about traveling like, “keep a $100 bill folded up inside my luggage tag for emergencies” (14).  The pictures entice me even further. My current issue showed the views of Sicily, and now I must travel there.

            I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I lead bicycle trips. It was a really hard job, but I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. I also went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible, but the job was too much work and not enough play, so although it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

            I have still managed to travel on my limited budget; I am currently planning a trip to Vancouver, BC next month. I love to travel so much that I subscribe to both magazine and online sources to feed my addiction. Every time I take a trip, it makes me want to see more of the world and enjoy all it has to offer.

This short essay feels choppy. All of the sentences start with "I", and the 
reader is not often clear about how the paragraphs relate to each other nor 
how they relate to the thesis. These have been left to the reader's interpretation.

With Transitions

Traveling is my life. I work every day to fund my next trip. When I was 22, I went on my first trip by myself. I went to the Netherlands, Scotland, and Ireland. After that trip, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life traveling. I am so addicted to traveling that if I am not traveling, I am planning my next trip.

            Since I am addicted to traveling, I make sure to stay on top of the latest deals. I receive many emails a day from different traveling web sites. Sherman’s Travel and Travel Zoo are two of my favorites. When I open my email, the first thing I see is “Sale. $500 all inclusive 5 nights in Hawaii.” In my mind, I am already there. I am imagining myself lying on the beach, far away from my daily responsibilities.

            As if receiving constant emails about deals wasn’t enough, I recently paid to receive a monthly magazine called Budget Travel. I knew that this would help feed my addiction while I am saving for my next trip. This is one of the best traveling magazines I have ever found. It gives random tips about traveling like, “keep a $100 bill folded up inside my luggage tag for emergencies” (14).  This is something that I have never thought of, but I know that even if I don’t use it, I will definitely start checking luggage tags at the airport! Not only do I appreciate the traveling tips, but the pictures entice me even further. My current issue showed the views of Sicily, and now I must travel there.

            Although looking at magazines and web sites is exciting, it doesn’t compare to actually traveling, so I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I lead bicycle trips. It was a really hard job, but I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. I also went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible, but the job was too much work and not enough play, so although it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

            Although I am no longer working for the traveling company, I have still managed to travel on my limited budget; I am currently planning a trip to Vancouver, BC next month. I love to travel so much that I subscribe to both magazine and online sources to feed my addiction. Every time I take a trip, it makes me want to see more of the world and enjoy all it has to offer.
     
Notice that without the transitions, the essay is understandable, but the author's ideas seem disconnected from one another. However, with the transitions, the author has taken more control over the reader's interpretation of the writer's work. The author's voice is much stronger and clearer in the second example. In addition to the transitions at the beginning of the sentences, the second example has a transition after a quote. Instead of just leaving the quote alone, the author has now told us why he/she used that particular quote, again taking control over the reader's interpretations.

This page was created by Meghan Swanson and Karin Spirn.

Paragraph Transitions

Paragraphs represent the basic unit of composition: one idea, one paragraph. However, to present a clear, unified train of thought to your readers, you must make sure each paragraph follows the one before it and leads to the one after it through clear, logical transitions. Keep in mind that adequate transitions cannot simply be added to the essay without planning.  Without a good reason for the sequence of your paragraphs, no transition will help you.  Transitions can be made with particular words and phrases created for that purpose--conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases--or they can be implied through a conceptual link.

Conjunctive Adverbs and Transitional Phrases

Conjunctive adverbs modify entire sentences in order to relate them to preceding sentences or paragraphs; good academic writers use many of them, but not so many that they overload the page. Here is a list of some of them, courtesy of The Brief Holt Handbook:
 

accordingly 
also
anyway
besides
certainly
consequently
finally
furthermore
hence
however
incidentally 
indeed
instead
likewise
meanwhile
moreover
nevertheless
next 
nonetheless
now
otherwise
similarly
still
then
thereafter
therefore
thus
undoubtedly 

Transitional phrases can perform the same function:
 

in addition
in contrast
for example
for instance
of course
as a result 
in other words
as a result

Use them wisely and sparingly, and never use one without knowing its precise meaning.

Implied or Conceptual Transitions

Not every paragraph transition requires a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase; often, your logic will appear through a word or concept common to the last sentence of the preceding paragraph and the topic sentence of the following paragraph. For example, the end of a paragraph by Bruce Catton uses a demonstrative adjective, "these," to modify the subject of the topic sentence so that it will refer to a noun in the last sentence of the preceding paragraph:

When Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met in the parlor of a modest house at Appomattox Court House, Virginia,...a great chapter in American life came to a close.

    These men were bringing the Civil War to its virtual finish.

In this transition by Kori Quintana in an article about radiation and health problems, the connection between the paragraphs resides in the common term of "my family":
 
What I did not know when I began researching the connection between radioactivity and genetic damage was that I would find the probably cause of my own family's battle with cancer and other health problems.

    Hailing from Utah, the state known for its Mormon population's healthy lifestyle, my family has been plagued with a number of seemingly unrelated health problems.

The first paragraph outlines the origins of Quintana's research into the connection between radiation exposure and disease, and ends with the revelation that her own family had been affected by radiation.  The next paragraph discusses her family's health history.  Each has its own singular purpose and topic, yet the first paragraph leads to the topic of the second through a common term.

Paragraph transitions can expand the range of discussion as well as narrow it with an example, as Quintana's transition does; this selection from an article by Deborah Cramer on the ecological impact of the fishing industry shows how a single instance of overfishing indicates a world-wide problem:

....The large yearly catches, peaking at 130 million pounds from the Gulf of Maine in 1942, wiped out the fishery.  It has yet to recover.

    The propensity to ravage the sea is by no means unique to New England.  The northern cod fishery in Canada is closed indefinitely.  In Newfoundland more than 20,000 fishermen and fish processors were abruptly put out of work in 1992 when the government shut down the Grand Banks...

Here, the transition alludes to the entire preceding section about New England fishing.  Although Cramer managed this transition in a single sentence, transitions between large sections of an essay sometimes require entire paragraphs to explain their logic.

Proofreading Paragraph Transitions

At some point in your editing process, look at the end of each paragraph and see how it connects to the first sentence of the paragraph following it.  If the connection seems missing or strained, improve the transition by clarifying your logic or rearranging the paragraphs.  Often, the best solution is cutting out a paragraph altogether, and replacing it with the right one.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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