Students often come in to the writing center asking for help with the “flow” of their paper.  When questioned further about what exactly they mean by flow, they often can’t articulate what it is they feel they need help with.

Sometimes they mean grammar, but they don’t want to say grammar.

Sometimes they mean organization,

and sometimes they mean transitions.

Let’s focus on organization and transitions.

ORGANIZATION:

A key to creating logical organization in your paper is to create an outline.  This can be done before or after your paper is written.  Creating an outline prior to writing can serve as a brainstorming strategy for some writers.  If free-writing is more your style, an outline after writing a draft can help you look for information that needs to be moved from one section of your paper to another.

Start by writing a few key words next to each of your body paragraphs that summarize the topic of that particular paragraph.  Consider moving any information that does not fit the main idea or topic of your paragraphs.

Next, look at the logical order of your paragraphs.  Do you move chronologically through your topic? Do you move from a question or problem to a solution?  Do you want to begin with your strongest point or your weakest?

TRANSITIONS:

Finally, look for transitions between paragraphs.  Do you have sign posts for your readers that signify how your current paragraph is related to your previous paragraph, and how it fits in to the grand scheme of your thesis? Using transition words can help your reader understand the relationships between evidence and ideas.