Signposting in Essay

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It’s the way you signal the path you have taken though an essay or writing. In other words, it’s the information you give about what topics are going to be covered, the order in which they come and the angle or focus of the discussion or argument.

Signposts can take the form of words signalling the order in which ideas are presented or sentences explaining the transition from one section of your writing to another.

There are two types of signposting:

Major signposts

These are the words and phrases that tell your reader the purpose, structure, your position, main points, direction of the argument and signal your conclusion.

Write a strong clear introduction in which you identify the key themes of your discussion, your main argument and focus. You can also indicate something about the order of the subject matter.

In your introduction. you also:

  • Show that you are going to answer the question.
  • Show that you understand the issues and their implications.
  • Indicate the structure of your answer and make clear the main areas that you are going to write about.
  • Show evidence that you have carried out some research by making a reference to one of your sources.
  • Are concise: 5% of the total number of words is usually recommended (e.g. 100 words in a 2000 word assignment).

Linking words and phrases

Use these to connect your sentences and paragraphs, showing the ‘route’ through your work.

Showing cause and effect: accordingly, as a result, consequently, for that reason, for this purpose, hence, therefore, etc.

Placing ideas in time: again, at first, at least, at length, at once, at that time, at the same time, concurrently, during this time, earlier, eventually, finally, first, second, third, etc.

Summarising ideas: all in all, altogether, as has been noted, finally, in brief, in conclusion, in other words, in short, in simpler terms, in summary, etc.

Some Examples

  • The aim of this study is to…
  • The purpose of this thesis is to…
  • This essay argues that…
  • The main questions addressed in this paper are…
  • This essay critically examines…
  • The above discussion raises some interesting questions…
  • This paper begins by … It will then go on to … Finally,…
  • This chapter reviews the literature…
  • In conclusion, …
  • Firstly,…Secondly,…Thirdly,…