Signposting

In academic writing, the author is responsible for making the text as clear as possible for the reader. To achieve clarity, the author has to ensure that the writing is explicit: in other words, it should anticipate and address the reader’s questions. An active reader will want to know what the author’s aims are and how they will be achieved; what the author’s position is about key issues; how the argument is constructed; how ideas relate to each other. Good writers use signposting language to signal to the reader where these answers can be found.

It is useful to divide signposting language into two broad categories:

  • major signposts that signal key aspects of the work, such as purpose, structure, author’s stance, main points, direction of the argument, conclusions.
  • linking words and phrases that show connections between sentences and paragraphs.

Examples of major signposts:

  • 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, ….

Examples of linking words and phrases:

  • Listing:         
    first(ly), … / second(ly), … / finally, … /
  • Indicating addition or similarity:
    also, … / besides, … / in addition, … / furthermore, … / as well / similarly, …
  • Indicating contrast:
    however, … / nevertheless, … / on the other hand, … /
  • Giving a reason:
    for this reason, … / because … / because of …/ due to …
  • Indicating result or consequence:
    therefore, … / thus, … / as a result, … / consequently, …
  • Reformulating an idea:
    in other words, … / to put it simply, … / that is ...       
  • Exemplifying:
    for example, … / for instance, … / to exemplify, …