New paragraphs typically introduce new topics; however, the new topic shouldn't be entirely separate from the information you've included so far in your paper. Including transitions between your paragraphs will help you maintain coherence and unity in your writing.
Depending on your writing situation, you may have two opportunities to transition: the first and last sentence of the paragraph. The first sentence in your paragraph is often the most important sentence in the paragraph. It sets the limitations or boundaries for the paragraph and states or implies the relationship between the ideas in the previous paragraphs (s). The last sentence in your paragraph may be important also, depending upon the length of the paragraph. In that final sentence, if you have a lengthy paragraph, you may need to sum up what you've said and suggest what's to come.
Your goal in transitioning from paragraph to paragraph is to maintain coherence; you can accomplish this through transitional words and phrases or key words and phrases.
Transitional Words and Phrases
You've learned already about transitional phrases in the first part of this handout. The list of transitional phrases is a list you can use also to transition between paragraphs. Let's consider this example of a paragraph and the first sentence of the next paragraph:
Chocolate does more than just taste good—it has psychological effects. Chocolate contains caffeine, which provides spurts of energy. It releases endorphins, which create a sense of relaxation and comfort. Chocolate also contains a cannaboid which, when consumed in very large quantities, can lead to altered states of consciousness.
Consequently, the FDA should regulate chocolate. . .
In this case, the writer wants to show a relationship between the last sentence of the first paragraph (altered states of consciousness) and the next paragraph (relating to FDA regulation of chocolate), so she uses the phrase "consequently."
Key Words and Phrases
You also can use key words and phrases to make transitions between or among paragraphs. With this technique you repeat key words or phrases from the last sentence in one paragraph in the first sentence of the next paragraph. Let's look at an example:
Women and men vary in the way they interpret each other's nonverbal communications. To a woman, a sigh represents an indication of melancholy, frustration, or anger--depending on the "tone" of the sigh. Women will often ask men what is bothering them based on the enunciation of a specific word, a particular sideways glance, or a specific body stance. Men, on the other hand,
tend to be oblivious to nonverbal cues, both the ones they are exhibiting and the ones women are giving.
This "obliviousness" of men extends from nonverbal communication into verbal communication. Women's conversations often discuss problems they are experiencing in their lives. Women also expect a sympathetic ear when discussing these problems with their male counterparts. Men interpret this discussion as a complaint and, in turn, offer solution scenarios. Women often become alienated by these suggestions, believing that the men in their lives just do not grasp the significance of their problems.
In the example above, the writer uses the words "oblivious" and "nonverbal" to link the ideas between the two paragraphs.