Signposting An Essay

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What is signposting?

It’s the way you signal the path you have taken though an assignment. 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.

There are two types of signposting:

1. 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). 

2. 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.

Signposting Essay Conclusions

Try some of these:

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, …

More information about writing introductions.

The Academic Phrasebank is a very useful source of help, giving numerous suggestions for opening sentences and phrases.

Signposting is a really useful tool to help you structure your essay and provide clarity for your reader.

Signposting can be divided into two broad categories:

Major signposts

These highlight key aspects of the work, such as purpose, structure, author’s opinion, main points, direction of the argument, conclusions.

Examples of major signposts:

  • The aim of this study is to…
  • The purpose of this essay is to…
  • This essay argues that…
  • There is a lot of academic literature about this issue…
  • This essay begins by… It will then go on to… Finally…
  • This paragraph will focus upon…
  • In conclusion…

Linking words and phrases or connectives

These show connections between sentences and paragraphs.

Examples of linking words and phrases:

  • Listing: firstly, secondly, finally
  • Indicating addition or similarity: also, in addition, furthermore, similarly
  • Indicating contrast: however, nevertheless, on the other hand
  • Giving a reason: for this reason, because, due to…
  • Indicating result or consequence: therefore, as a result, consequently
  • Reformulating an idea: in other words, to put it simply, that is…
  • Using examples: for example, for instance


Depending on your essay question and/or length, subtitles may be another useful signposting tool. They are a clear indication to the reader about what the following paragraphs will be focusing upon. It is worth checking that your subject discipline encourages the use of subtitles.

Be careful that you use signposting and subtitles correctly as having too many and using them incorrectly can be  confusing to the reader and may lose you marks.


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