Today's entry will be dedicated to an issue many students have to deal with at some point, especially if they are not regular writers, are simply put, have problems expressing their ideas in words. Whenever you are assigned a paper or an essay, whether you are given a topic or you choose one of your preference, you go through the research process, gathering information and statistics about your topic. You want to be as informed as possible, of course.
However, when you have all the information for your essay or report, and you are ready to start writing the formal document, you are just seeing a bunch of facts and data that clearly does not look like what you have in your head. Why? Well, because it needs to be organized, and you need to give sense to all that information. Make it have an structure. How do you do that? Well, hold to your seats, because that's where we're going!
Sorting out the Data
As for an essay, for example, regardless of the topic being one —let's say, it is "air pollution"—, you will have several subtopics in order for you to organize the whole essay. Imagine this is a cause and effect essay. Any information about why air pollution might be a concern, or why it is important to be dealt with, is not considered nor a cause or an effect. Therefore, that type of information should be mentioned in your introduction. Everything that can be considered a cause or an effect should be separated and grouped between which ones are related.
You need to have a keen eye for what information is related or relevant to the topic you are boarding, and which one isn't. Usually, in this type of texts, you have a limited amount of words or paragraphs you can write. Because of this, you need to select which ones are not as relevant, or which ones least support your main topic or thesis statement. If you have three causes and three effects, you should select only the three that further support you, and leave out the rest.
The more information you are able to gather about a topic, the more likely you are to have the most relevant pieces of information about the topic at hand. Nevertheless, you have to be careful, because you will have more work to do, sorting things out, and selecting. Do a good research, but don't go so deep into the topic that you can't really even start organizing it all.
The Power of Transition Words
Have you ever heard of "transition words"? If you haven't, you should really get to meet them, they're pretty cool! Transition words allow us to connect ideas, topics, sentences, and make your paragraphs look nicer, and also, they can help you connect paragraphs, to make your whole text more integrated and powerful. However, as for this entry, I will focus on transition words for sentences, hence connecting paragraphs are very specific to the type of text you are writing. I will talk about them anyways, soon, so don't worry!
Transition words are very versatile, and can help you provide further ideas, whether that'd be of sequence, logical order, or relative concept between two independent ideas. Usually, they can help you create more complex sentences, which make your prose look a lot more professional.
Transition Words on Action
I want to go to the bank before we buy groceries.
As you can see, this sentence uses the for before to denote an idea of sequence, chronological order. This is what we call a compound sentence out of a dependent clause and an independent clause. 'I want to go to the bank' is an independent clause because it gives a complete idea on its own, with both subject and predicate on its own. 'Before we buy groceries', on the other hand, is a dependent clause, because we cannot grasp a logical, complete idea out of it.
Please note the punctuation when using transition words. Each transition word has its own rules for punctuation, and it will depend on the order of the clauses connected by them.
Before we buy groceries, I want to go to the bank.
There are a lot of different transition words you can use to connect different ideas and sentences. There are typically divided if several groups, accordingly to their function. Here you shall find a very deep list of different transition words. Feel free to save this link for future personal reference —it is a very good thing to keep useful links handy for when you need them.
Let's see them in a whole paragraph
Let's say you have a series of ideas for one of the paragraphs of an argumentative essay for your Academic Writing class. The topic is whether a bachelor degree is relevant or important nowadays. I will provide with a series of ideas, one after the other as separate sentences in a single paragraph. After that, all those ideas together in a paragraph, using transition words to create a logical sequence your readers can follow without feeling a monotonous pace while reading your paper. I will upload the complete to a portfolio, as a reference. Please, focus on the use of transition words in this paragraph —other topics, like paragraphs structures, core ideas, and citations, will be detailed in future entries.
Colleges nowadays are very expensive. The total annual cost of private college averages about $40,000. Some colleges are more expensive than that. Federal loans might take a long time to pay off. Federal loans should not be always considered an option for paying for college. Real state might be a better investment. The payback of this type of investment should be taken into thought. You might get a 10-year to 16-year payback, depending on the type of college you attend to.
Another thing to have in mind is that most colleges nowadays are not very cheap, but rather very expensive. As the “total annual cost of private college averages about $40,000”, and even more expensive in some other universities, a college degree should not be a decision taken lightly (Foster). Furthermore, since federal loans might take a lot of time to pay off, it should not be always considered as an option for this. For many families, such an investment might be better done into real state, such as a house. The payback of this type of investment should also be taken into thought, owing to the fact you might get a 10-year to 16-year payback, depending on the type of college you attend to (Foster).
This example might be a little repetitive in terms of the variety of transition words used, but it is a good example to show off how a series of logical ideas can be worked out to create a paragraph with clean, congruent structure, easy to read, and not monotonous. The sentences, when combined, do not stay the same, since they need to adapt to the logical sense of the new sentence they are creating by using the transition words.
There is a lot you can work on to make your paragraphs and sentences look a lot more structured and professional, and transition words are just one of them. There are a lot of them, so I suggest to try digging on the little by little, until you can really get the grasp of a handful of them. Still, keep references nearby, so you can dig on them when you need them most.
I hope these tips were useful for you. Until the next one!