Effective Transitions in Research Manuscripts

  • A transition is a word or phrase that connects consecutive sentences or paragraphs
  • Transitions can strengthen your argument by joining ideas and clarifying parts of your manuscript

A transition is a word or phrase that connects consecutive sentences or paragraphs. Effective transitions can clarify the logical flow of your ideas and thus strengthen your argument or explanation. Here, two main transitional tools are discussed: demonstrative pronouns and introductory terms.

Demonstrative pronouns

The demonstrative pronouns this, that, these, and those can be used to emphasize the relationship between adjacent sentences. For example, “Western blotting is a widely used method. This [technique] is favored by protein biochemists.” The use of This or This technique rather than The technique helps to connect the two sentences, indicating that Western blotting is still being discussed in the second sentence. Note that the inclusion of a noun (technique) after the pronoun (this) decreases ambiguity.

Introductory words or phrases

These transitions are placed at the beginning of the second sentence and are often followed by a comma to improve readability. Introductory words and phrases are distinct from coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet), which are used to bridge two independent clauses within a single sentence rather than two separate sentences. These conjunctions should not be placed at the beginning of a sentence in formal writing. Below are several examples of transitional words and phrases that are frequently used in academic writing, including potential replacements for common informal terms:

I want to...Informal transitionFormal transition
AddAnd, besides, alsoIn addition, additionally, moreover, furthermore
CompareIn comparison, similarly
ContrastBut, yetIn contrast, conversely, however, nevertheless, on the one hand/on the other hand
Provide an alternativeOrAlternatively, on the one hand/on the other hand
Provide an exampleFor example, for instance
SpecifyEspeciallyIn particular, more specifically
EmphasizeIn fact, indeed, in other words
ConcludeSoIn sum, in summary, in conclusion, thus, therefore, consequently, taken together

To learn more about the special usage of the italicized terms in the table, please see our post on introductory phrases.

Keep in mind that transitions that are similar in meaning are not necessarily interchangeable (such as in conclusion and thus). A few other transitional words may be particularly helpful when writing lists or describing sequential processes, such as in the methods section of a research paper: next, then, meanwhile, first, second, third, and finally.

In sum, transitions are small additions that can substantially improve the flow of your ideas. However, if your manuscript is not well organized, transitions will not be sufficient to ensure your reader’s understanding, so be sure to outline the progression of your ideas before writing.

We hope that this editing tip will help you to integrate effective transitions into your writing. As always, please email us at [email protected] with any questions.

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