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paragraph transition

When revising an essay or report, evaluate the effectiveness of your paragraph transitions.

Definition:

A word, phrase, or sentence that marks a shift in thought from one paragraph to the next. A paragraph transition may appear at the end of the first paragraph or at the beginning of the second paragraph--or in both places.

Paragraph transitions contribute to a sense of coherence and cohesion in a text.

For different types of paragraph transitions, see Examples and Observations (below).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Readers know that when a new paragraph begins they should expect a somewhat new thought, but they also expect it to relate in some way to the thoughts just expressed. If there is no immediate connection, either create an entirely new section, not just a new paragraph, or write a transition sentence to begin the new paragraph. This transition sentence performs basically the same function as a comedian's transition, 'So speaking of kangaroos, I was talking to an Australian guy the other day. . . .' It allows the audience to follow a logical train and not lose sight of the path the performer is taking. You can still allow your reader to make some deductions, but don't force him to guess how things fit."
    (Marcia Lerner, Writing Smart, 2nd ed. Princeton Review, 2001)


  • "Transitions from one paragraph to the next enhance the inner coherence of the paper and guide the reader when advancing through your arguments. Ideally, the end of a paragraph should connect with the next paragraph, and a transitional phrase at the beginning of a paragraph should somehow point back to the previous one. The easiest way to achieve this is to incorporate such a connector in the topic sentence at the beginning of each new paragraph. Thereby, the topic statement fulfills two functions: first, it points back to the previous paragraph or argument; second, it introduces the current paragraph together with its new idea or line of argumentation."
    (Mario Klarer, An Introduction to Literary Studies, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2004)


  • Repetition Transitions, Contrast Transitions, and Question & Answer Transitions
    "Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden and her colleagues put dung beetles inside a planetarium at Wits University in South Africa with a pile of dung, and with or without little caps over their eyes. The results of the beetles' peregrinations clearly showed that being able to see the stars keeps the beetles relatively straight, even if just the Milky Way is projected overhead without other stars. . . .

    "Far more spectacular than the short distance scrambles of dung beetles are the migrations of monarch butterflies, which home in on one small region of Mexico for the winter then return as far north as Canada in a flight of thousands of miles that takes more than one generation. Clearly the insects have an inherited "map" of where to go, but what compass do they use?

    "It seems they have at least two compasses. One is a "time-compensated sun compass," located in their antennae, which calculates bearings from the angle of the sun corrected for the time of day. Steven M. Reppert of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues found that removing one antenna does not disrupt navigation, but painting one black does, because it messes up the clock mechanism in the animal's brain.

    But butterflies can also use the Earth's magnetic field to navigate. . . ."
    (Matt Ridley, "Insects That Put Google Maps to Shame." The Wall Street Joural, February 2-3, 2013)


  • Time and Order Transitions
    " . . . And then as the evening changed the hour, at house after house on the twilight streets, under the immense oaks and elms, on shady porches, people would begin to appear, like those figures who tell good or bad weather in rain-or-shine clocks.

    "Uncle Bert, perhaps Grandfather, then Father, and some of the cousins; the men all coming out first into the syrupy evening, blowing smoke, leaving the women’s voices behind in the cooling-warm kitchen to set their universe aright. Then the first male voices under the porch brim, the feet up, the boys fringed on the worn steps or wooden rails where sometime during the evening something, a boy or a geranium pot, would fall off.

    "At last, like ghosts hovering momentarily behind the door screen, Grandma, Great-grandma, and Mother would appear, and the men would shift, move, and offer seats. The women carried varieties of fans with them, folded newspapers, bamboo whisks, or perfumed kerchiefs, to start the air moving about their faces as they talked. . . ."
    (Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, 1957; rpt. by William Morrow, 1999)


  • Pronoun and Qualification Transitions
    " . . . In the fanatical routines of boot camp, a man leaves behind his former identity and is reborn as a creature of the military--an automaton and also, ideally, a willing killer of other men.

    "This is not to suggest that killing is foreign to human nature or, more narrowly, to the male personality. . . ."
    (Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War. Henry Holt and Company, 1997)


  • Using Logical Connectives
    "Paragraphs can also be linked by words showing logical relationship: therefore, however, but, consequently, thus, even so, conversely, nevertheless, moreover, in addition, and many more. Usually, though, logical connectives are used to move from one sentence to the next within paragraphs, that is, as internal paragraph transitions.

    "To illustrate, say a writer has just completed a paragraph summarizing an author's analysis of a documented riot and now wants to move the discussion along. Here are three different logical connectives:
    Last sentence of a paragraph:
    Brown's analysis provides useful insights into the existing power relations between the army and the government at that time.

    Possible first sentences of the next paragraph:
    (a) However, the power relations embedded in the social structure may be more important in explaining the causes of the riot.
    (b) Even so, there is no real attempt to grapple with the issue of the government's role in the army's attack on unarmed men, women and children
    (c) Consequently, Smith's much quoted analysis of this same event needs to be reconsidered in view of Brown's findings.
    "Whatever its form, an inter-paragraph transition should be unobtrusive, shifting readers easily from one topic to the next."
    (Gail Craswell and Megan Poore, Writing for Academic Success, 2nd ed. Sage, 2005)
Also Known As: paragraph-to-paragraph transition, inter-paragraph transition
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