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5.6: Identifying Relationships between Ideas

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    - “Under Fremont Bridge in Portland” By Robert Ashworth is licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

    So you can identify a main idea and the related supporting ideas, but how can you be sure that you understand the relationships between them? Can you determine how the ideas are tied to each other? One to identify these relationships is through the use of transitions between ideas. Transitions form logical connections between the ideas presented in an essay or paragraph, and they give readers clues that reveal how an author wants you to think about (process, organize, or use) the topics presented. Transitions are important because they signal the order of ideas, highlight relationships, unify concepts, and let readers know what’s coming next or remind them about what’s already been covered.

    Sentence-Level Transitions

    Transitions between sentences often use “connecting words” to emphasize relationships between one sentence and another. A friend and coworker suggests the “something old something new” approach, meaning that the idea behind a transition is to introduce something new while connecting it to something old from an earlier point in the essay or paragraph. Here are some examples of ways that writers use connecting words (highlighted with red text and italicized) to show connections between ideas in adjacent sentences:

    To Show Similarity

    When I was growing up, my mother taught me to say “please” and “thank you” as one small way that I could show appreciation and respect for others. In the same way, I have tried to impress the importance of manners on my own children.

    Other connecting words that show similarity include also, similarly, just as, and likewise.

    To Show Contrast

    Some scientists take the existence of black holes for granted; however, in 2014, a physicist at the University of North Carolina claimed to have mathematically proven that they do not exist.

    Other connecting words that show contrast include in spite of, on the other hand, but, in contrast, and yet.

    To Exemplify or Illustrate

    The cost of college tuition is higher than ever, so students are becoming increasingly motivated to keep costs as low as possible. For example, a rising number of students are signing up to spend their first two years at a less costly community college before transferring to a more expensive four-year school to finish their degrees.

    Other connecting words that show example include for instance, specifically, and to illustrate.

    To Show Cause and Effect

    Where previously painters had to grind and mix their own dry pigments with linseed oil inside their studios, in the 1840s, new innovations in pigments allowed paints to be premixed in tubes. Consequently, this new technology facilitated the practice of painting outdoors and was a crucial tool for impressionist painters, such as Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, and Cassatt.

    Other connecting words that show cause and effect include therefore, since, so, as a result, and thus.

    To Show Additional Support

    When choosing a good trail bike, experts recommend 120–140 millimeters of suspension travel; that’s the amount that the frame or fork is able to flex or compress. Additionally, they recommend a 67–69 degree head-tube angle, as a steeper head-tube angle allows for faster turning and climbing.

    Other connecting words that show additional support include also, besides, furthermore, equally important, and in addition.

    Identifying Transitions between Paragraphs and Sections

    It’s important to consider how to identify the relationships not just between sentences but also between paragraphs in a piece of writing. Here are a few strategies to help you see how the main ideas of your paragraphs relate to each other and also to the thesis.

    Look for Signposts

    Signposts are words or phrases that indicate where an author is in the process of organizing an idea; for example, signposts might indicate that that an author is introducing a new concept, that they are summarizing an idea, or that they are concluding their thoughts. Some of the most common signposts include words and phrases such as first, then, next, finally, in sum, and in conclusion.

    Look for Forward-Looking Sentences at the End of Paragraphs

    Sometimes, as an author concludes a paragraph, they might want to give their readers a hint about what’s coming next. For example, imagine that you’re reading an essay about the benefits of trees to the environment and the author has just wrapped up a paragraph about how trees absorb pollutants and provide oxygen. They might conclude with a forward-looking sentence like this: “Trees benefits to local air quality are important, but surely they have more to offer our communities than clean air.” This might conclude a paragraph (or series of paragraphs) and then prepare their readers for additional paragraphs to come that cover the topics of trees’ shade value and ability to slow water evaporation on hot summer days.

    Look for Backward-Looking Sentences at the Beginning of Paragraphs

    Rather than concluding a paragraph by looking forward, authors might instead begin a paragraph by looking back. Continuing with the example above of an essay about the value of trees, let’s think about how an author might begin a new paragraph or section by first taking a moment to look back. Maybe the author just concluded a paragraph on the topic of trees’ ability to decrease soil erosion and they’re getting ready to talk about how they provide habitats for urban wildlife. Beginning the opening of a new paragraph or section of the essay with a backward-looking transition might look something like this: “While their benefits to soil and water conservation are great, the value that trees provide to our urban wildlife also cannot be overlooked.”

    License and Attributions:

    CC licensed content, Previously shared:

    The Word on College Reading and Writing. Authored by: Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear. Located at: 
    License: CC BY: Attribution.

    Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience.

    5.6: Identifying Relationships between Ideas is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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