5.3 Signposting sentences
What are signposting sentences?
Signposting sentences explain the logic of your argument. They tell the reader what you are going to do at key points in your assignment. They are most useful when used in the following places:
- In the introduction
- At the beginning of a paragraph which develops a new idea
- At the beginning of a paragraph which expands on a previous idea
- At the beginning of a paragraph which offers a contrasting viewpoint
- At the end of a paragraph to sum up an idea
- In the conclusion
A table of signposting stems: These should be used as a guide and as a way to get you thinking about how you present the thread of your argument. You may need to adapt certain words and phrases for your own purposes. You may also wish to add your own sentence stems to the list below:
Signposting stems for an introduction
|To understand the role of ... (your topic*) this essay aims to provide a discussion of ... (the ideas you will develop)|
|This essay seeks to investigate/evaluate/illustrate/discuss the impact of ... (your topic) in relation to ... (the ideas you will develop)|
|Firstly, this assignment examines ... (your topic) and its links with ... (your first idea) Next, it closely examines ... in relation to ... (your next idea) Finally, it focuses on ... and how this affects ...(your next idea)|
|Signposting stems for a paragraph which introduces or develops a new idea|
|One aspect which illustrates ... (your topic) can be identified as ... (the idea you want to develop)|
|The current debate about ... (your topic) identifies an interesting viewpoint on ...(the idea you want to develop)|
|This first/next/ final section provides a general discussion of ...(the idea you want to develop)|
|Signposting stems for a paragraph which expands upon a previous idea|
|Building on from the idea that ... (mention previous idea), this section illustrates that ... (introduce your new idea).|
|To further understand the role of ...(your topic or your previous idea) this section explores the idea that ... (introduce your new idea)|
|Another line of thought on ... (your topic or your previous idea) demonstrates that ... (introduce your new idea)|
|Signposting stems for a paragraph which offers a contrasting view|
|However, another angle on this debate suggests that ... (introduce your contrasting idea)|
|In contrast to evidence which presents the view that ... (mention your previous idea) an alternative perspective illustrates that ... (introduce your contrasting idea)|
|However, not all research shows that ... (mention your previous idea). Some evidence agrees that ... (introduce your contrasting idea)|
|Signposting stems to sum up an idea in a paragraph|
|This evidence highlights that ... (sum up your idea)|
|There is general agreement that ... (sum up your idea)|
|The strength of such an approach is that ...(sum up your idea)|
|Signposting stems for a conclusion|
|Clearly, this essay has shown that the main factors which impact upon ... (your topic) are ...(summarise your main ideas)|
|The evidence presented in this assignment has shown that ... (mention the conclusions you have drawn)|
|To conclude, this assignment has addressed a number of significant issues which show that ... (mention the conclusions you have drawn)|
The word 'topic' refers to the subject area you are being asked to discuss and is usually referred to in an assignment title or brief.
The Five-Paragraph Essay: Linking Paragraphs
The five-paragraph essay is a classic writing assignment. Writing one successfully demonstrates your ability to write a cohesive essay with paragraphs that link together with smooth transitions. This type of essay consists of three main parts:
- Three body paragraphs
The introduction of a five-paragraph essay introduces the main topic and makes your position or the path your essay is to follow clear by ending with a thesis sentence consisting of three main points, or subtopics. Each point translates into one body paragraph. Finally, the conclusion wraps up the essay by revisiting the thesis statement and showing why you choose a particular topic.
Your topic is often provided for five-paragraph essays, and this assignment is often given as a timed, in-class assignment. To tackle this type of essay successfully, you need a solid understanding of how to break down the assignment and build the pieces together to form a coherent essay.
Outlining the five-paragraph essay
Before you begin writing your five-paragraph essay, create an outline that shapes your essay. An outline for this essay looks similar to the below example.
- Main topic introduced
- Subtopics and thesis statement
- Transition to first body paragraph
- Topic sentence (first subtopic)
- Supporting information
- Transition to second body paragraph
- Topic sentence (second subtopic)
- Supporting information
- Transition to third body paragraph
- Topic sentence (third subtopic)
- Supporting information
- Transition to conclusion
- Synthesizing (revisiting) thesis statement
- Restating the overall topic and three subtopics
- Wrapping it up to show why the essay is important
With an outline formed and filled in with the details of your paper, you can write each piece of the five-paragraph essay before putting it together.
The introduction of the five-paragraph essay
As you write the introduction paragraph of your five-paragraph essay, remember a few things about how it is constructed and the purpose it serves.
- Set the tone for your entire essay.
- Stay in the active voice.
- Vary sentence structure and length.
- End with the three-point thesis statement.
The body paragraphs of the five-paragraph essay
Each body paragraph of the five-point essay is constructed in a similar fashion. In addition, each paragraph must flow from one to the next. Transitioning between paragraphs can be done at the end of the previous paragraph or at the start of the new one. Keep the following in mind as you construct body paragraphs.
- Start each body paragraph with a topic sentence introducing the subtopic
- Provide supporting details, and get specific
- Avoid overusing pronouns and lists
- Avoid starting all your sentences the same way
The conclusion of the five-paragraph essay
In writing the conclusion of the five-paragraph essay, you cannot assume your readers make the connection about the overall message you are trying to convey. This makes it important for you to write with authority to state your position or reasoning clearly. Keep the following in mind when writing your conclusion.
- Restate your thesis, but do not use the exact wording
- Provide a summary of your argument, position or logic
- Write powerfully—your last thoughts/words should leave a lasting impression on your readers
The five-paragraph essay is structured with a clear agenda of how to present information. Sometimes a specific topic is provided to you; other times, you must choose a topic. Whatever the topic, you must start with developing three key points or subtopics to address within the essay. Once you have the topic and subtopics, planning your essay and organizing it with an outline makes writing it and linking paragraphs much easier.