Transitions are the bridges between parts of your paper. They help to create both coherence and cohesion in a paper (aka “flow”), and they enable the reader to make the logical connections between the writer’s ideas in the way that the writer intends. Transitions help carry a thought from sentence to sentence, one idea to another, and one paragraph to the next.
There are several different types of transitional words and phrases, and each type helps create a different connection between ideas. Some transitions indicate that two ideas are similar; others show that two ideas are in contrast; others show a cause and effect relationship.
When choosing a transitional word or phrase, ask yourself:
How does this idea relate to the one that came before it? Is it supporting the same argument? Is it presenting another viewpoint? Are the two ideas dependent on one another?
What effect do you want to create for the reader? Do you want the same emphasis on two ideas, or do you want one to dominate the other?
Apart from thinking of the function of transitions, you also need to consider how they can fit into a sentence grammatically. Some transitions can be followed by a subject and verb (a clause), while others only by a noun (or a noun phrase).
There are four main grammatical categories of transitions:
The transitions displayed on the next page are grouped according to their meaning and grammatical function.
|Coordinating Conjunctions||Subordinating Conjunctions||Conjunctive Adverbs||Prepositions|
|Addition or Similarity||and||
|in addition to|
|Cause or Effect||
as a result
|Contrast or Exceptions||
on the other hand
on the contrary
in spite of
in the event
in this case
|Sequence or Order||
as soon as
by the time
every time (that)
first, second, third
|Summary or Conclusion||
on the whole
|He finished his paper, but he did not submit it.||
• Although he finished his paper, he did not submit it.
• He did not submit his paper, although he finished it.
• However, he did not submit his paper.
• He did not, however, submit his paper.
• He did not submit his paper, however.
|Despite finishing his paper, he did not submit it.|
1 For more information about independent and dependent clauses as well as related punctuation rules, see the quick guides “Avoiding Fragments with Dependent Clauses” and “Combining Clauses to Avoid Comma Splices, Run-ons, and Fragments”.