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12.3: Showing How a New Idea Fits in (Transitions)

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    As we develop our own arguments in longer papers in college, we get more choices about what to put in and in what order.  Adding length and complexity poses a risk.  How do we make sure readers don't lose the thread of what we're saying? How do we start a new paragraph so that readers will know why it comes next and how it fits into the overall argument?  For that matter, how do we move from sentence to sentence so that the reader sees the connection between one supporting idea and the next?   

    A caution about transition words

    Some writing teachers focus on encouraging students to use transition words like “however,” and “therefore.”  As we have seen in the templates above, such words can definitely help show a connection.  They are only useful, though, if they really reflect the relationship between the previous idea and the next.  As writers, we may be tempted to rely too much on a transition word without thinking through the connection fully. The final test is whether the reader understands the connection between new and old ideas.  

    Some transition words do not tell us anything about how the previous idea relates to the next one.  Be wary of “in addition,” “moreover,” “also,” etc. , They tell us that a new idea is coming, but not much else. We can use them if we also highlight the connection to the previous idea through a repeated key concept. Similarly, the phrases “in conclusion” and “to conclude” don’t help the reader see how the previous paragraphs have been building up to the final point.  We can still use them if we make sure that the rest of the words show how your final thoughts grow out of the paragraphs that come before (see the section on conclusions for more on how to do that).

    The benefits of clarifying the connections

    Providing a clear sense of the connection between one idea and the next can be one of the most challenging parts of the writing process.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally; for most people it requires mental sweat and revision. Even if we have already done an outline, there will be more to figure out as we face the start of a new paragraph. Ultimately, though, hitting upon the right way to link our ideas can be one of the most satisfying moments in the writing process. Everything falls into place. When we do manage to clarify that connection, we can relax and readers can relax as they follow the argument’s flow from one point to the next.    

    What role does the next idea play in the argument?

    If we map out an argument, as we did in Chapter 2 of this book, arrows show when a reason supports a claim. Labels like “counterargument” or “limit” show how one idea modifies or responds to another. When we write our own arguments, though, we need words to stand in for these visual cues. Phrases can signal to readers how a new paragraph or sentence fits into the overall structure. In Chapters 2 and 3 when we talked about reading and summarizing, we looked for typical phrases that signal a reason, a counterargument, a limit, or a rebuttal.  Now we can use many of these same phrases to guide our readers through our own arguments.

    Paradoxically, the first step toward writing a good transition sentence can be to remind ourselves of the point we have just made. If we can formulate that point in a simple phrase, we can focus better on the nature of the connection. How does the new idea relate to that previous claim? Below are some possible ways it might connect along with accompanying phrases.

    A reason for the previous claim

    • _________ because _________.
    • _________ is a result of _________. 
    • The reason for _________ lies in _________. 
    • _________ causes this _________.
    • _________ happens because _________. 
    • We see the cause of _________ in _________.
    • Why does _________ happen?  One factor seems to be _________.
    • _________ occurs as a consequence of _________.
    • _________ explains this _________.
    • _________ causes _________.
    • _________ stems from _________.
    • One possible explanation of _________ is that _________.

    A result of the previous claim

    • _________ leads to _________.
    • On the basis of _________, we can conclude that _________.
    • As a result of _________, it follows that_________. 
    • As we have seen, _________. For this reason, _________.
    • As_________, _________.
    • _________ gives rise to _________.
    • _________, hence _________.
    • _________, thus _________.
    • _________; therefore, _________,
    • _________, so _________.
    • _________; consequently, _________.
    • _________, thereby _________.
    • _________ can cause _________.
    • _________ may result in _________.
    • As a consequence of _________, we often see _________.
    • Owing to _________, _________.

    An elaboration on the previous claim

    • To understand _________, we can compare it to _________.
    • By _________, we mean not just _________, but also _________.
    • Let’s look at what _________ means in greater detail.
    • What does _________ mean more specifically? It implies that _________.
    • _________ involves _________.
    • We should pause to define what we mean by _________ in this context.

    An example of the previous claim

    • To illustrate__________, we can take the example of __________.
    • One instance of __________ is __________.
    • Let us take the case of _________, for example.
    • _________ serves as a good example.
    • A classic example of _________ is _________.

    A limitation on the previous claim

    • However, _________ is not the case if_________.
    • We should clarify that _________ only applies if_________.
    • Of course, _________ does not apply if__________.
    • We can exclude cases where__________.
    • An exception must be made for__________.
    • We should note that _________ holds only if _________.
    • The only exception to _________ is _________.

    A counterargument to the previous claim  

    If we think the counterargument is completely wrong

    • It is a popular misconception that_____________.
    • Some have fallen for the idea that_____________.
    • Many people mistakenly believe that_____________.

    If we want to describe the counterargument without giving our opinion yet

    • Many people think _____________.
    • Some, on the other hand, will argue that _____________.
    • Some might disagree, claiming that _____________.
    • Of course, many have claimed that _____________.
    • Some will take issue with _____________, arguing that _____________.
    • Some will object that _____________.
    • Some will dispute the idea that _____________, claiming that _____________.
    • One criticism of this way of thinking is that _____________.

    If we see some merit in the counterargument

    • It is true that ___________.
    • I do concede_____________.
    • We should grant that_____________.
    • We must admit that_____________.
    • I acknowledge that _____________.
    • X has a point that _____________.
    • Admittedly, _____________.
    • Of course, _____________.
    • To be sure, _____________.
    • There may be something to the idea that _____________.

    A rebuttal to a counterargument described previously

    If we completely disagreed with the counterargument

    • This idea misses the fact that _____________.
    • I disagree because _____________.
    • This depends on the assumption that _____________, which is incorrect because _____________.
    • This argument overlooks _____________.
    • This argument contradicts itself _____________.
    • This is mistaken because _____________.

    If we partly agreed with the counterargument

    • It is true that ___________, but___________.
    • I do concede_____________, and yet___________.
    • We should grant that_____________, but we must still acknowledge that ___________.
    • We can admit that____________ and still believe that ___________..
    • I acknowledge that _____________, and yet we should nevertheless recognize that _____________.
    • Critics have a point that _____________; however it is more important that we focus on _____________.
    • Admittedly, _____________. However, ___________.
    • Of course, _____________, but I still insist that__________..
    • To be sure, _____________; but _____________.
    • There may be something to the idea that _____________, and yet _____________.

    Practice Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Choose one of the sample annotated essays contained in this textbook. 

    1. Label the paragraphs according to the categories in this section: reason, result, elaboration, example, limitation, counterargument, and rebuttal.
    2. Highlight the phrases that signal the paragraph's role in the larger argument. You may see phrases listed as templates in this section, but you may see other phrases as well. 

    Practice Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\)

    Choose an essay you wrote previously and review the topic sentences.  Are there any places where you could make it clearer what role the paragraph plays in the overall argument, perhaps using a phrase listed above?

    1. Label the paragraphs according to the categories in this section: reason, result, elaboration, example, limitation, counterargument, and rebuttal.
    2. Revise the topic sentences to make it clearer what role the paragraph plays.  Consider using one of the template phrases listed in this section. 

    This page titled 12.3: Showing How a New Idea Fits in (Transitions) is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .