Topic sentences are mini summaries of the paragraph to follow and, at the same time, relate to your thesis to help focus your paper. The first or second sentence of each paragraph is typically the paragraph's topic sentence.
Transitions are words and/or phrases used to indicate movement or show change throughout a piece of writing. Transitions generally come at the beginning or end of a paragraph and can do the following:
Transitions sentences often indicate or signal:
Transitions show connections between ideas. You must create these connections for the reader to move them along with your argument. Without transitions, you are building a house without nails. Things do not hold together.
Transitions can signal change or relationship in these ways:
Examples: while, immediately, never, after, later, earlier, always, soon, meanwhile, during, until now, next, following, once, then, simultaneously, so far
Examples: yet, nevertheless, after all, but, however, though, otherwise, on the contrary, in contrast, on the other hand, at the same time
Examples: in the same way, in like manner, similarly, likewise
Examples: here, there, nearby, beyond, wherever, opposite to, above, below
Examples: because, since, for that reason, therefore, consequently, accordingly, thus, as a result
Examples: in conclusion, to conclude, finally, in summary
Writing strong transitions often takes more than simply plugging in a transition word or phrase here and there. In a piece of academic writing, writers often need to use signposts, or transition sentences that also function as topic sentences, signaling the reader of connections to the thesis. To form a signpost, combine transition words, key terms from the thesis, and a mention of the previous topic and new topic.
Transition/signpost sentence structure:
[Transition word/phrase]+[previous topic]+[brief restatement of or reference to thesis/argument]+[new topic] = Signpost
Sample signpost using complimentary transition phrase:
According to [transition phrase] the same overall plan for first defeating Confederate forces in the field and then capturing major cities and rail hubs [overall thesis restated] that Grant followed by marching the Army of the Potomac into Virginia [previous topic], Sherman likewise [transition word] advanced into Georgia to drive a dagger into the heart of the Confederacy [new topic].
Contrasting ideas have the same essential format as complimentary but may use different transition words and phrases:
In contrast to [transition phrase] F.D.R., who maintained an ever-vigilant watchfulness over the Manhattan project [previous topic + reference to overall thesis], Truman took over the presidency without any knowledge of the atomic bomb or its potential power [new topic].
The overall structure of an essay with transitions may look something like this:
*Note how transitions may come at beginning or end of paragraphs, but either way they signal movement and change.
You can learn more about essay structure HERE.