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Coherence and Cohesion in Academic Writing

by Lilian Farag Allah | 23 Aug 2013
Resource Description: This lesson focuses on teaching university students or adults studying academic writing about the concepts of coherence and cohesion in academic writing. This lesson is better conducted after students have written their first draft of an essay. They usually have problems with coherence and, mostly, with cohesion. This should give them some practical ideas for what to look for and what to fix for their second drafts. Problem: Students may not be able to detect the problems in the sample texts. Solution: Ask them some questions to draw their attention to the problematic part(s). After eliciting their answers, the teacher explains what this means and why it is a problem.
Audience: Adult, University
Audience Language Proficiency: Advanced, Intermediate
Duration: 35 minutes
Language Skill: Writing
Content Area: University academic writing
Materials and Technology: handouts with sample texts
1. Content
By the end of this session students will be able to:
  • Understand the meaning and importance of coherence and cohesion
  • Identify problems of coherence and cohesion in written texts
  • Revise their own papers and fix problems of coherence and cohesion
2. Cognitive/Attitudinal
By the end of this session students will be able to:
  • Know different kinds of cohesive devices, namely reference, conjunctions, and repetition
  • Change their ideas about the extensive use of conjunctions
  • Learn different ways to make their writing more cohesive
Procedure: Introduction to coherence- 3 mins
  1. Explain simply what coherence means; the connection and organization of ideas in a text to create unity.
  2. Ask students what they think can make a text coherent based on this simple definition. Elicit and lead them to think of the link between ideas. Thesis statement and topic sentences create this sense of unity in a piece of writing. I can show them a graph illustrating how thesis statement and topic sentence can link the essay (Fig. 1 in the handout)
Activity One (Unity of ideas & Organization of ideas)- 4 mins
  1. Ask students to read through texts 1 & 2 one at a time and decide what problems they have (if they can't come up with the problem, You can draw their attention to the problematic sentences and ask them to think of the relation between them and the rest of each paragraph).
  2. Summarize about coherence, listing the main ideas on the board.
Introduction to cohesion-3 mins
  1. Explain that while coherence focuses on the overall (macro) structure of the essay, cohesion is more specific. It pays attention to links between words and sentences.
  2. Ask and elicit their ideas on what links sentences together.
Activity Two (Reference and pronouns)- 5 mins
  1. Ask students to underline all pronouns in texts 3 & 4 and see if their reference is clear to them. If not, then what seems to be the problem and how they can make the texts better.
  2. Stress the clarity of reference.
Activity Three (Conjunctions)- 5 mins
  1. Ask students to underline conjunctions in texts 5 & 6 and read the sentence before and after each one. They decide on the relation between the two sentences. Then, they think of the conjunction used and whether it serves this relation. If not, then which other conjunction(s) should be used to deliver the intended meaning.
  2. Draw students' attention (if no one mentioned this) that linking sentences does not have to be done by using extra words (pronouns and conjunctions)
Activity Four (Repetition)- 3 mins
  1. Ask them to identify the topic of the paragraph in text 7. Then ask them how the writer connects sentences together. Help, if necessary, with pointing out repeated words (mummify, mummification, mummified).
  2. Explain that repeating key words, in relation to the main topic, helps add unity to the text.
Wrap-Up 1-2 mins
  1. List the elements of cohesion that have been discussed on the board with a quick reminder of  what has been said.
Application- 10 mins
  1. Ask students to review their drafts of the essay they had written
  2. and see how coherent they are, checking on their use of cohesive ties before they write their 2nd drafts. Students will work individually.
Assessment: Students will review their first draft of the essay for coherence and cohesion.
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