Signposting

Much as road signs show you where you are going on a street or highway, you can use certain words or phrases to create 'signposts' to guide your reader through your writing. Signposts show your reader the route your writing will take, remind them of key points along the way, and point out changes in direction.

Signposts also help the reader understand the connections between the points you make, and how they contribute to the overarching aim of the assignment.

Activity

Read these paragraphs from an essay on urban renewal and gentrification

The current urban development paradigm, in which low-income populations are continually displaced, is both unsustainable and unethical. I aim to investigate more effective ways of approaching urban renewal to create sustainable and socially equitable communities. I will explore the character and progression of gentrification through a case study of the south London suburb of Brixton, one of the most demographically diverse areas of London, with a long history of gentrification and resistance (Mavrommatis, 2013). Using Brixton as a focal point, I will propose a greater consideration of integrated sustainable urban development principles is needed to mitigate the negative impacts of gentrification in the area.

A significant proportion of the literature examines gentrification almost exclusively in terms of class (Butler & Robson, 2001; Butler & Robson, 2003; Glass, 1964). Much of the work of Tim Butler concerns the interactions of middle-class, gentrifying populations, and the building of what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1986) terms economic, social, and cultural capital into physical urban environments (Butler, 2002; Butler & Robson, 2003; Jackson & Butler, 2015). Scholars have attempted an intersectional perspective, combining an analysis of class with one of gender, race, or ethnicity (Lees, 2000). Such analyses remain too static to encompass the complexity of gentrification issues, particularly in a diverse contemporary setting such as London, or the highly multicultural district of Brixton (Mavrommatis, 2013).

Now read the version below. Which is easier to read?

The current urban development paradigm, in which low-income populations are continually displaced, is both unsustainable and unethical. Therefore, I aim to investigate more effective ways of approaching urban renewal to create sustainable and socially equitable communities. I will first explore the character and progression of gentrification through a case study of the south London suburb of Brixton, one of the most demographically diverse areas of London, with a long history of gentrification and resistance (Mavrommatis, 2013). Subsequently, using Brixton as a focal point, I propose a greater consideration of integrated sustainable urban development principles is needed to mitigate the negative impacts of gentrification in the area.

Notably, a significant proportion of the literature examines gentrification almost exclusively in terms of class ((Butler & Robson, 2001; Butler & Robson, 2003; Glass, 1964). For example, much of the work of Tim Butler concerns the interactions of middle-class, gentrifying populations, and the building of what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1986) terms economic, social, and cultural capital into physical urban environments (Butler, 2002; Butler & Robson, 2003; Jackson & Butler, 2015). More recently, scholars have attempted an intersectional perspective, combining an analysis of class with one of gender, race, or ethnicity (Lees, 2000). However, such analyses remain too static to encompass the complexity of gentrification issues, particularly in a diverse contemporary setting such as London, or the highly multicultural district of Brixton (Marommatis, 2013).

References

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G, Richardon (Ed.), Handbook of theory & research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258), New York: Greenwood Press.

Butler, T. (2002). Thinking global but acting local: The middle classes in the city. Sociological Research Online 7(3), 1-19.

Butler, T. and Robson, G. (2001). Social capital, gentrification and neighbourhood change in London: A comparison of three South London neighbourhoods. Urban Studies 38(12), 2145-2162.

Butler, T. and Robson, G. (2003). Negotiating their way in: The middle-classes, gentrification and the deployment of capital in a globalising metropolis”, Urban Studies 40(9), 1791-1809.

Glass, R. L. (1964). Introduction: Aspects of change. In Centre for Urban Studies (Ed.), London: Aspects of change. (pp. xiii-xlii). London: Macgibbon and Kee.

Jackson, E. and Butler, T. (2015). Revisiting ‘social tectonics’: The middle classes and social mix in gentrifying neighbourhoods. Urban Studies 52(13), 2349-2365.

Lees, L. (2000). A reappraisal of gentrification: Towards a ‘Geography of Gentrification’. Progress in Human Geography 24(3), 389-408.

Mavrommatis, G. (2011). Stories from Brixton: Gentrification and different differences. Sociological Research Online 16(2), 3-9.

Most readers find the second text easier to read because signposts make the connections between the ideas presented. For example,‘Therefore’ shows the relationship between the points made in the first and second sentences, and ‘first’ and ‘subsequently’ tell us that the following sentences explain how the essay will develop. However, it is not enough to simply outline the intended structure in the introduction – you need signposts throughout to remind the reader where they have come from and tell them where you plan to take them next.

Signposts can also tell us how to interpret information presented in the assignment. For example, ‘Notably’ at the beginning of the second paragraph above tells us that the writer considers the content of the sentence to be significant.

Signposts can be simple words or phrases (e.g. however, in summary), or complete sentences (e.g. to explain the transition from one section of your writing to another).


Tip

Overusing signposts can affect your writing negatively. You are not expected to start each and every sentence in a paragraph with a signpost. Rather, you should use them only when you think they add value to your text and make it easy to follow for the reader.

Major signposts

Major signposts are used to indicate important elements of your writing, such as your purpose, your position, your main points, and your conclusions.

Examples:

  • This paper argues that…
  • This essay critically examines…
  • I will focus on...
  • This thesis begins by… It goes on to… Finally...
  • In conclusion,…

Transition sentences

Transition sentences are used to explain how and why you are moving from one idea to another.

Examples:

  • Having examined… it is now necessary to…
  • It is clear that... I will therefore now consider…
  • In the above discussion… It is also important, however, to examine…
  • One of the most significant factors in… is...
  • Another key implication of… is...

Linking words

Linking words are used to identify the connections between ideas. They tell the reader what to expect next, or how to interpret what they read. You can use them to connect ideas within sentences, between sentences or between paragraphs.

Examples:

Types of linking words Examples
Addition Also,... In addition,... Furthermore,… Moreover,... 
Cause and effect As a result,… Consequently,… Due to,... Because of this,...
The effect of this is…
Comparison and contrast Similarly,… Likewise,... In the same way,... Correspondingly,...
On one hand,...; on the other hand,… However,... In contrast,...
Alternatively,...
Examples For instance,... To illustrate this,... As a case in point,...
We can see this in the case of...
Exception and qualification However,... Nevertheless,... Although... Despite this,...
While,... Whereas….
Time and sequence First,… Initially,... To begin,... After that,... Subsequently,...
Meanwhile,... At the same time,... Previously,... Before…
After… Finally,...

Reminders

Reminders help the reader remember the content that you have already covered. This is particularly useful in longer essays.

Examples:

  • In summary…
  • So far…
  • As we have seen above…
  • We saw in Section 2 that…

Summing up is another kind of reminder. This is useful to help the reader consolidate the content of one section or chapter before moving on to the next.

Examples:

  • In conclusion,... In other words,... In brief,... Thus,...

Activity

Summary

We have seen that signposts help the reader make sense of a piece of writing in a variety of ways. Use:

  • major signposts to indicate important elements such as your purpose, position, main points, and conclusions
  • transition sentences to explain how and why you are moving between ideas
  • linking words to identify the connections between ideas
  • reminders to remind the reader of content already covered.


Tip

When writing, it is easy to assume the connections between points are clear when in fact they may not be. It can be useful to have someone else read your work. If they can follow your argument or reasoning without help, you have signposted clearly.