Clear relationships between paragraphs are important aspects of a well written paper that must not be overlooked. When you write your paper, you will have main ideas that are directly related to your thesis statement. You must show your reader how all of these ideas are connected through the use of transitions. These transitions are links between paragraphs that also make your paper easier to read and demonstrate that you have well thought out ideas in your paper. Without these links, your paper will be choppy, disjointed, and difficult to read. Clear relationships between paragraphs may be as simple as a few words, but they can make a big difference in creating a solid and well written paper.
You have drafted your thesis statement and main ideas, and therefore, you know the connection you envision between each of these ideas. One of the purposes of having clear relationships between paragraphs is to show your reader how each idea is connected. Without clear transitions, the main ideas may seem unconnected to the thesis and to each other, and the paper will be more difficult to read as the reader tries to fill in the information. By establishing the relationship between ideas for your reader, the paper becomes easier to read.
When your reader knows the connection you are making between your main ideas, it demonstrates that you have given thought to the paper. While your reader does not have to agree with your ideas, your thoughts and ideas will be clear. If the ideas in your paper seem unconnected, it will appear that you have not really thought through the paper and the research that you have done. Disjointed paragraphs indicate a disjointed thought process. The addition of a single sentence or even a phrase can easily connect your paragraphs and thus, your ideas.
Transitional expressions are words or phrases that connect the ideas of two paragraphs. They may be used at the end of one paragraph to give the reader a hint of what the next paragraph will be about, or they may come at the beginning of the paragraph to show the reader how this one connects to the previous one. Transitional expressions may indicate cause and effect, time, place, sequence, or compare and contrast ideas. They may indicate that you have further examples to support your idea. The following is a list of some transitional phrases that may wish to incorporate into your paper, but it is by no means an exhaustive list.
To show cause and effect – because of, the cause of… was, as a result,
To show time – in the days/months/years following, before, after, over time
To show place – to the north/south/east/west, nearby, phrases to indicate distance such as 10 miles away
To show sequence – First, second, third, next, finally
To compare or contrast ideas – like in the previous example, unlike the previous example, similarly, contrary to,
To give examples – an example of this is…, to demonstrate, for example
When using these or any other transitional phrase, you draw a clear connection between the two paragraphs. Look back at the second, third, and fourth paragraphs of this lesson. In the main idea of the second paragraph is that you must show your reader the connection between paragraphs. This paragraph ends with a sentence about how the connections will make the paper easier to read. The next paragraph opens with a statement about how the reader understanding your connections will indicate that you have given a good deal of thought to the paragraph. This is the topic of the third paragraph, but it is elaborating on an idea introduced in the previous paragraph. The paragraph ends by stating that a word or phrase is enough to connect the paragraphs. The next paragraph opens by giving a name to these words and phrases, namely transitional expressions. These transitions are not complex, but they should help you, the reader, better follow the ideas presented here.
During your editing phase of writing the paper, pay attention to the way your paragraphs are connected. Ask yourself if there is clear relationship between a given paragraph and those that directly precede and follow it. If there is not a clear connection, look to see if the addition of a transitional phrase will make it clearer. If not, look to see if the paragraph would better suited to another location within your paper. Remember that the ultimate goal of having clear connections between paragraphs is to give you a paper that is both easy to read and that shows a thorough thought process.