One of your main tasks in writing an essay is to help the reader make connections and understand your writing well. Transitions allow you to do that. They help ensure that the reading process flows smoothly.
I’m Tutor Phil, and in this tutorial I’ll show you how to use transitions effectively in your essays and research papers.
Four Rules of Using Transitions in Academic Writing
Rule 1. Structure your essay well
If your essay has a clear structure, this will minimize the need for transitions. Remember – you shouldn’t really need a lot of transitional words and phrases in your essay.
Use transitions in places where they are most likely to help the reader make the necessary connection and move along. And if your flow of ideas in the essay is clear, that alone is the single most important quality of your writing.
So, if you’re new to essay writing, I highly recommend my tutorial on essay writing for beginners.
Rule 2. Trust the reader
If you trust yourself to write a well-structured essay, then you should trust the reader to understand what you have written.
Don’t use transitions to summarize what you just wrote.
When you pause to remind the reader what you just stated – whether in a section or a paragraph – this makes them feel that you’re wasting their time. Nobody likes stuff repeated to them over and over.
Besides, this signals a lack of trust both in the writer and the reader. Instead, use transitions only to move the reader forward in your essay. I’ll show you exactly how.
Rule 3. Proceed from general to specific
Going from general to specific is a mode in which you should be writing your essay. And transitions should help you accomplish this.
Let’s leave it at that for now because the examples in this tutorial will illustrate this perfectly. But for now just keep in mind that transitions are a great way to help you move from general to specific in your essay.
Rule 4. Use transitions on multiple levels
Transitions can be used to move into a section, a paragraph, or a sentence. When transitioning into a section or a paragraph, use the transition within the lead sentence.
If you’re not familiar with lead sentences or need to brush them up, here is my short and sweet tutorial on lead sentences.
Transitions also come in handy when introducing or leading into a smaller bit of writing, such as a sentence or part of a paragraph.
10 Categories of Transitions with Examples
1. Transitions that Indicate Similarity
These are transitions that allow you to introduce material that is similar to what came before. You can use these transitions to add material to your essay.
These are such words and phrases as:
- By the same token
- Just like
“Mozart and Haydn wrote music primarily for the emerging upper middle class. Similarly, Beethoven adhered to the musical tastes of this sliver of the society early in his career.”
2. Contrary Transitions
These are important and powerful transitions that tell the reader that something opposite to what they just read is coming. These include such words and phrases as:
- Despite (or “In spite of”)
- On the other hand
“Mozart and Haydn wrote music primarily for the upper middle class and nobility. Beethoven did the same because his sustenance depended on it. However, his creative spirit yearned to write highly evolved and complex music aimed at the connoisseur.”
Another Version (with a different transition)
“Mozart and Haydn wrote music primarily for the upper middle class and nobility. Conversely, Beethoven yearned to write highly evolved and complex music aimed at the connoisseur.”
One of the ways transitions in this category can be used is to expand your essay while adding validity to your argument.
Let’s say you’re making an argument that Beethoven was an amazingly innovative composer. And you have provided some evidence to support this claim.
Here is how you can use a counterargument to add content and make your point even stronger. You can suggest that others may disagree with your point. But they miss the mark for one or more important reasons.
“Some contemporary critics of Beethoven argued that his music was needlessly complex and failed to please much of the public. However, they were quite shortsighted. Beethoven’s music continues to please audiences hundreds of years later while the names of his critics are lost in the shuffle of history.”
You can use the counterargument technique to add a couple of juicy paragraphs to your essay. Here’s a video I created which will show you how:
3. Transitions of Order and Sequence
These are very useful when enumerating or listing items. These are such words as:
A great place to use these transitions is in the thesis statement.
“Going to college presents great advantages. First, college graduates earn more than those without a degree. Second, higher education enriches a person’s inner world. Finally, college is a great way to start friendships that will last a lifetime.”
4. Time Transitions
These words and phrases specify or change the time in which the reader finds herself. Here are some of them:
- In the meantime
“Two of the men were on the lookout. Meanwhile, the third and fourth were busy cleaning out the store.”
5. Place Transitions
These transitions indicate location or change of location:
- In front of
“In front of the school stood a hot dog stand, students’ favorite food spot.”
6. Transitions into Examples/Specificity
These very important transitions indicate that a specific piece of information is about to support a more general statement that just came before. These are such words and phrases as:
- For example
- For instance
- To illustrate
- To be more specific
“Some kids love school. For example, my son is always excited to go to school because he loves to socialize and to learn.”
“Some subjects are crucial to students’ intellectual development. To be more specific, they cultivate such skills and abilities as critical thinking, decision making, and argumentation.”
7. Transitions of Emphasis or Focus
Use these transitions sparingly because they are often unnecessary. These are such words and phrases as:
- In fact
- Of course
“Indeed, Beethoven was an innovative composer.”
“Naturally, Beethoven’s patrons adored him.”
8. Transitions of Cause and Effect
These are very important transitions that I often call Power Words. (Here is my article on Power Words where you can learn more about them.)
These are such words and phrases as:
- In effect
“Mozart wrote some of the most original music with catchy melodies. In effect, he quickly gained the favor of the Viennese.”
9. Transitions Indicating Additional Material
Use these transitions when you want to add a new category or kind of material to support an argument. These words and phrases include:
- In addition
“The nobles of Vienna adored Mozart for his musical genius and wit. Besides, he knew how to please them by writing music for soirees and social events that were all the rage at the time.”
10. Concluding Transitions
These transitions allow you to signal the coming of the final section, paragraph, or sentence. Definitely use them in the beginning of a conclusion paragraph. These are such words and phrases as:
- To conclude
- In conclusion
- To sum up
- In the final analysis
“In the final analysis, both Mozart and Beethoven enjoyed great success and formidable challenges as composers in their lifetimes.”
Hope this was helpful (source). Now go ahead and make these transitions a working part of your writing skills.