With any type of essay, the writer’s job is to help guide the reader from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph. Effective transitions in an essay act as a bridge for the reader along their reading path, helping the reader to connect sections of texts and relationships between ideas.
When to Use Transitions
A good transition will turn disconnected thinking into a more unified thought. You might use transitions to signal a comparison (similarly, likewise) or contrast (however, nevertheless), to signal an example or a quote (to illustrate, for instance), to signal cause and effect (therefore, accordingly, as a result), and to signal opposition or rebuttal (however, despite, on the contrary, regardless). The chart below shows some commonly used transitional expressions:
(chart from Writingcenter.unc.edu)
Transitions in Research Papers
Certain signal words and phrases are used to connect sentences and paragraphs. “Even though” is often used to introduce a contrast. “For example” is a common transitional phrase that often proceeds a direct quote or paraphrase in a research essay, as in the example below:
Even though there has been a small but steady decrease in the estimated number of smokers globally since 2000, it’s a different matter when it comes to vaping. For example, the number of vapers has been increasing rapidly – from about seven million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016 (LaVito, 2018).
Without the transition phrase “for example,” the sentence flow would sound abrupt and choppy.
Another instance when transitions are especially beneficial in research papers is when introducing the argument’s opposition and rebuttal:
While the military continues to see the number of reported incidents of sexual assault steadily increase each year, they say that surveys they’ve carried out indicate the number of victims is declining. However, many disagree with how the military is analyzing the data. According to Navy Capt. Lory Manning, the military must not rely on an increase in reporting as a sign of progress. Despite the data showing the number of sexual assault victims is declining, it could also mean that more assaults are occurring (Cohen, 2018).
In the previous example, without the transition words to bridge the flow of ideas, the paragraph would be uneven and confusing. Try reading the paragraph without the transitional words in bold. How does it sound?
Let’s take a look at the following paragraph, which incorporates transitional expressions therefore, such as, and however to bridge the sentences and clarify the ideas:
Deciding on a college is often a difficult decision for students. Therefore, most school counselors try to provide students with different resources, such as assessments and college brochures. However, counselors need to provide students with more resources in order to help them make a more informed decision about what college to attend.
In this example, the transitional expressions aid the reader to understand relationships between sentences and their ideas. While the sentences wouldn’t technically be incorrect without transitional words, the flow would be abrupt, and the reader would have to work harder to make connections.
To summarize (transitioning to conclusion!), by incorporating transitional words and phrases into your writing, you’ll create a smooth reading experience for your audience and turn disconnected ideas into a cohesive whole.
For more practice with transitions, visit
Cohen, Z., & Browne, R. (2018, April 30). US military sees spike in sexual assault reports. Retrieved March 16, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/30/politics/dod-sexual-assault-report-2017/index.html.
LaVito, A. (2018, October 23). As vaping surges, teen cigarette smoking ticks up after decades of decline. Retrieved March 18, 2019, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/22/ teen-cigarette-smoking-ticks-up-as-vaping-surges.html.
Transitions. (2019). Retrieved March 16, 2019, from https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/.