What Are the Later Things to Add or Perfect in Revision, After the Paper's Implicit "Flow" is Established

Rule #5: Paragraph transition is to paragraphs what  forecasting (divisio) is to the paper, and both grow  naturally from a careful writing plan.

        The large-scale organization of a paper's main logical pieces is one of a writer's greatest creative achievements.  If explained to the readers when they expect and need it, this pattern of big steps will help them follow all the smaller ones within them.  Look at any paper from your readers' point of view as a journey through unfamiliar territory for reasons that are not immediately clear to them.  That gives you three obvious questions to answer in your introduction: where are we going?; why are we going there?; and how are we getting there?  The thesis is your "destination," but until readers are convinced of a need to travel there and of a logical path that will take them there, you ask them to follow you blindly. 

        Sadly, even the best-designed pre-writing outline usually fails to predict for the writer how the paper, itself, will eventually turn out.  For that reason, you should pay attention to your own writing plan as a clue to how the paper's big logical pieces were discovered.  You found them in the only order you could discover, but that is not necessarily the best order in which to present them.  Do not be afraid to take apart the coherent pieces of the paper and to experiment with re-ordering them to make it easier for readers to follow you. 

        Once you have found the best order for your major paragraph-sized units of thought, look at the transition connecting them and write something substantive every time you see no transition or "additive" transition ("another reason X is important is...").  Even if you leaped from one to another while writing, do not expect your reader to jump with you.  Remember the logic of least-important-to-most-important and effect-cause or cause-effect reasoning.  Give your reader reasons to move.  Great new ideas grow at the boundaries between paragraphs, and between even bigger units of papers' structure (shifting from one form of evidence to another; shifting from one process, like comparison, to another, like contrast). 

        When you have developed your paragraph order and transition as clearly as you can, it's time to revise the introduction.  How could you write a good, accurate, helpful introduction before you knew entirely what you were introducing?  You were writing your way toward it all along.  Once you have introduced your topic and the readers' need to know your thesis, make plain the main steps by which you will support it before you launch the body of the paper.  That often (though not always) takes the form of a "forecast" of the basic order in which you will present your evidence, and the logic which guides your thesis as an interpretation of that evidence.  Don't worry about "giving away the ending"--that's a writing convention from mystery and horror fiction.  In academic prose, introductions more often help readers anticipate the path you will ask them to follow through difficult intellectual terrain.  Readers will reward your care for them.

Click here for a sample set of paragraph transition sentences from an article I published in 2011.  The full article is available on GoucherLearn.