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Webinar Transcripts

Cohesion and Flow: Bringing Your Paper Together

Presented July 18, 2018

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Last updated 9/4/2018

 

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

The slide says “Housekeeping” and the following:

  • Recording
    • Webinar is being recorded and will be available online a day or two from now.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Use the Q&A box to ask questions.
    • Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu
  • Help
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: Kacy: Hi, everyone and thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Kacy and I'm a writing instructor joining in from St. Louis, Missouri. Thank you all for joining us for this webinar about writing with cohesion and flow. Before we get started, I just wanna mention a few things. This webinar is being recorded, and in a day or two you'll be able to access it through your website, so if you have to leave early or want to go over portions of this webinar again later, you'll able to check out that recording. Along with it, you'll find many other recorded webinars on various writing‑related topics.

There will be several chances to interact with colleagues and our presenter Michael, so please be sure to participate during the chat sections in the large chat box just like you did before the webinar started today. Also, all of the links in the slideshow are active so you can click directly on them for access to more information now or later if you watch the recording. We also have a few helpful files in our Files Pod and download them by clicking on the Download Files button at the bottom of the pod.

There’s going to be a lot of information in this webinar if and if you have any questions you can use the Q&A box. I’ll be watching the Q&A box and will answer your questions as quickly as I can. If we run out of time, or if you have question later on, please send them to writingsupport@waldenu.edu and you will get a response through the email.

Finally, if you encounter any technical difficulties, there’s a help button in the upper right-hand corner of the webinar screen. You can also reach out to me in the Q&A Box, but that Help Button is a very helpful tool for you.

So, thank you again to joining us and now I'm going to hand things over to our presenter, Michael Dusek.

 

Visual: Slide changes to show the title of the webinar, “Cohesion and Flow:
Bringing Your Paper Together
” and the speaker’s name and information: Michael Dusek, MA, Writing Instructor, Walden Writing Center

[Slide includes a picture of Michael.]

Audio: Michael: Hi. Hello everyone and welcome. My name is Michael Dusek, I am also writing instructor here in the Walden Writing Center. You can see the picture on the slide looking very flannel-clad and midwestern. But yeah, today’s webinar is really about cohesion and flow. As a writing instructor and working with student papers daily, this is something that I comment a lot on and I think something that can really build your authority with the reader, having a tightly organized piece that kind of flows from one idea to another really, I think, is one of the major things that we're trying to achieve with academic writing. So yeah, we're gonna talk about that today. That's the focus of our webinar.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Session Overview

  • Understand how cohesion and flow affect your readers
  • Identify the elements of writing that create cohesion and flow at the global and paragraph/sentence level
  • Identify revision techniques for cohesion and flow

Audio: As kind of a broad overview, we're gonna look at understanding cohesion and flow and how this affects your reader. Keeping your reader in mind and thinking about how your message is coming across to your reader or tailoring your message for a specific audience is really important in academic writing. So, that's gonna be something that we discuss here in this webinar.

We're gonna identify elements of writing that create cohesion and flow at a global level, so on an entire-piece level, and at a paragraph and sentence level. So, that's an important idea here that we're gonna unpack a little further. The idea that your paper should stay on topic as a whole and it should also stay on topic within each paragraph, right? And these should flow together as your paper broadly should flow.

And lastly, we're gonna identify some revision techniques for cohesion and flow. How can you bring this to your piece, right? How can I… if this is something I'm struggling with, how can I craft my piece or change my piece to bring these ideas in?

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: What are cohesion and flow?

From Merriam-Webster’s (2013a, 2013b):

  • Cohesion: “the act or state of sticking together tightly” (para. 1).
  • Flow: “a smooth uninterrupted movement or progress” (para. 3).

In academic writing, this means writing a focused work (“sticking together”) that progresses naturally from idea to idea (“smooth movement”).

Audio: So first let's get on with some…

Kacy: Sorry, can you pause for a second?

Michael: Yeah

Kacy: I'm getting some comments in the Q&A Box that people are having a hard time hearing you. Can you turn up your microphone a little bit?

Michael: Yeah. Absolutely.

Kacy: Thanks. And please do continue and let me know if you're still having trouble. You might try signing out of the webinar and signing back in if your volume is all the way up, but if there is still a lot of issues, just let me know in the Q&A box.

Michael: How does this sound, Kacy? Better? Much better, okay great.

Kacy: I think it sounds good. Oh, it looks like we're getting some comments. Thanks, Michael.

Michael: Okay, okay, cool. That was a pretty good time to pause here before we get into these definitions.

So, cohesion is defined as “the act or state of sticking together tightly.” Yeah, so I mean when you're crafting an academic essay, you wanna stay on topic, right. You wanna be discussing only the topic that you are, you know, meant to discuss here. One way that I think this is helpful to think about is on a paragraph level, right. Every paragraph should cover one central idea. So, if you are discussing more than one idea it's a good indication that you probably need to start a new body paragraph. But again, the definition of cohesion is this tight organization and sticking things together tightly, right?

Flow, “a smooth, uninterrupted movement or progress.” Yeah, this is also something that we want to try it achieve with our academic writing. You wanna go smoothly from one idea to another as you craft a piece and as your reader reads the piece.

So, and in the context of academic writing, this means writing a focused work--so sticking together--that progresses naturally from idea to idea. And that's kind of what I mentioned there. We want to stick to the ideas that we're talking about, and then when we do change to a new idea, we want there to be some sort of connection between these two that makes it smoothly transition.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: What are cohesion and flow?

It’s all about your readers.

As an academic writer, you want to create a paper that is

  • easy to understand,
  • logically ordered, and
  • enjoyable to read.

This means writing a focused paper that progresses naturally from one idea to the next.

Audio: So, what are cohesion and flow? Yeah, again, this is really all about your reader, right? This is about getting your message across in a way that is, again, tightly organized so that you're staying on topic and that's also a smoothly transitioning.

When readers encounter pieces that are both strongly, cohesively organized and flow smoothly from one idea to another, this gives your message to them in an easy way, that is very manageable for them to understand. As always with academic writing, we want to get our message across as easily and as effectively as we can.

As an academic writer, you want to create a paper that is, one, easy to understand. As I mentioned, you want to get your idea successfully across to the reader, that's the whole goal here, right? You want it to be logically ordered. So, you… as you're writing a piece, think about does it make sense to have this idea before this one, or should this come after this one? You shouldn't just throw ideas in any random order. You want them to be organized in a logical pattern so that one idea can easily transition into another. Lastly, it should be somewhat enjoyable to read. Now, I know some of you are rolling your eyes at this because academic writing can be kind of dry and difficult to read but crafting a piece that gets a message across in an effective way and that flows naturally from one idea to another, I would argue is enjoyable to read, right?

This means writing a focused paper that progresses naturally from one idea to the next, and again that's kind of what I mentioned before. Your writing should have a strong central focus and it should then smoothly go from one idea to another.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Cohesion and flow: Harder than it may seem…

Global Paper Cohesion

  • Organization
  • Thesis statement

Paragraph & Local Cohesion

  • Structure
  • Transitions
  • Word choice

Revising for Cohesion

  • Adding cohesion!

“Five Ways to Create Flow in Your Writing”

Audio: So, looking at this kind of… to break this down into three kind of different parts here, first let's take a look at… we're gonna take a look at global paper cohesion. So, we're going to talk about organizing a paper, a complete paper, a complete piece. We're donna talk about how a thesis statement can guide the organization.

Then we're donna, kind of, break and go down to paragraph and local cohesion. So, within a paragraph, how can I write a paragraph that both transitions between the ideas that are within that paragraph, all relating to a central idea And then, how does this stay on topic? How can we craft a very strong paragraph in terms of cohesion?

And lastly, how you can bring in cohesion in terms of revision. So, if my ideas are a little bit scattered, how can I bring those back together to make a piece that is strongly focused?

Another resource that we have over here on the left would be five ways to create flow within your writing. Again, if this is something that you struggle with, I would encourage you to take a look at some of these interactive links on this… during this webinar. These link off to a number of great resources that we provide here at Walden, that can really be a great help to you if this is something that you would like to learn more about.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Before You Write:

 

 

  • Focus your thoughts
  • Determine your thesis
  • Outline your paper

Global Paper Cohesion

Paragraph and Local Cohesion

Revising for Cohesion

 

Audio: So yeah, first: global cohesion. This is the idea that your paper, as a whole, as a complete piece, should have a strong central focus, right. So, you should focus your thoughts. You should determine your thesis statement. And, you should outline your paper. These are three kind of key strategies that we're gonna talk about in this portion of the webinar.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Focus Your Thoughts

Read carefully

èTake notes

èFind your purpose

èCheck your assignment

èIdentify and use your strongest ideas

Audio: To kind of focus your thoughts, this is… pre‑writing would be another way to say this. Really, what you're doing is you’re putting in the intellectual leg work, so that when you do sit down to articulate your thoughts on paper in an essay, that you're prepared to do so.

So, first, you need to read carefully, right? You need to gather your sources and really know what these sources are saying, so that you can represent the source ideas, or the ideas around this main idea of the paper, in a logical way and represent them fairly.

One way to help with this is by taking notes. Snnotate your sources would be another way to say that. This is a, again, just kind of a great scholarly strategy to understand and catalog the sources you're dealing with in your writing.

Next, you're going to find your purpose. So, what do you want to write about? What is the point that you wanna make? Having read some research on this topic, what is the point that you're trying to make in this essay?

Next, it's always a good idea to check that assignment prompt to make sure that you're addressing what the assignment prompt is asking. This is another thing that I often put comments on student essays about, is that, “hey you're getting a little bit off the prompt here, you're not exactly answering the prompt or the question that the prompt is answering.” So, that's something that you want to keep in mind, keep, you know, as a quick reference as you're writing.

And then lastly, identify and use your strongest ideas. So, if you're making an argument, right, you want to use the strongest points to support that argument. Being able to identify those and then incorporate those into your essay is really about… is really what cohesion is all about, right? You're laying this out in a logical order that supports your point the most strong… the most strongly—supports your point in the strongest way. Excuse me.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Poll:

What is a thesis statement?

  • The first sentence in a paragraph.
  • A sentence that tells what the paper is about.
  • A sentence that tells the reader the paper’s argument.
  • The introduction of a paper.

[The webinar layout changes to open up a poll box for students to use to respond to the poll question.]

Audio: Okay. So, then we have our first poll here, discussing “what a thesis statement?” So, go ahead and vote in on this, and at this point in the webinar, I'll mention that the next three slides are really gonna be about a thesis statement. So, for those of you who are doing doctoral capstone work, if you're at that point in your dissertation process or in your education, this is gonna be less relevant to you. In a doctoral capstone, you're really focusing on research questions to set up kind of this study that you're trying to implement, to, you know, give life to. So, a thesis statement is gonna be less relevant to you. But as we… after these three slides we're gonna kind of transition back into more discussion of cohesion and flow, that would be relevant there. So yeah, take another minute and go ahead, vote in here. What is a thesis statement?

[Pause as students respond to the poll.]

Okay. I'm seeing a lot of answers coming in here. Let's take a look at this. I'm donna pause for maybe the count of 10 if you want to throw your last‑minute vote in for what a thesis statement is, now would be the time.

[Pause as students respond to the poll.]

Okay then, so let's take a look at these. “What is a thesis statement?” Is it A, “the first sentence of a paragraph?” Nobody thought it was that so that's great, you guys are on the right track.

B, “a sentence that tells what the paper is about.” A lot of you thought it was that.

C, “a sentence that tells the reader the paper's argument.” Okay. Yep.

And D, “the introduction of a paper.” None of you thought it was that either so really, we're between B and C here.

Now, a thesis statement in the definition of the word, right, a thesis is going to put an argument forward in a piece. It needs to be arguable. A purpose statement which is very much like a thesis statement is gonna tell the reader what the paper is about. The purpose statement is going to be more informative than argumentative. So, a thesis statement, by definition, is going to put forth a argument, it's going to be arguable. So, the correct answer here is C.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Constructing Your Thesis

Thesis: “the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose” (Walden Writing Center, 2015, para. 1)

  • Examine your ideas and notes to discover what they collectively suggest to inform your thesis

The SAT test’s cultural insensitivity contributes to low scores among male minority students.

Audio: To pick this apart, then, to use the definition that I kind of just articulated to you guys, a thesis is a brief articulation of the paper's central argument or purpose. Those two are pretty similar, right, but the argumentation portion is really important here.

At the level of education that you guys are at, you really want to put forth strong arguments. You want to make arguments in your writing. Informing the reader, though good, though it displays your knowledge and perhaps the research process that you've done, it is really favored at a master's and a doctoral level that you're putting forth an argument. You're taking a stand on the topic that can be argue the against.

You're gonna examine your ideas and notes to discover what they collectively suggest to inform your thesis. Aand so this is an important point that I think might get buried here a little bit and it's more of a research point. When you are crafting a paper, you don't want to say I'm gonna write a paper that argues this and then go off to collect sources that inform that. Okay? You don't wanna let a thesis statement determine the resources that you're gonna be drawing upon. You instead want to let your research inform your thesis statement, right? So, saying I've collected all of this research and from this the most logical argument that I can see is this one.

So, this is an important point because if you're letting your thesis dictate your research, you're doing biased research, right? You're not being fair to the breadth of what's out there on your topic. So really, I wanna get this point across to you, that you should let your research and the resources that you're collecting dictate your thesis statement. Yeah, I can talk more about that later but that's an important point. Let your research dictate your thesis, not the other way around.

An example thesis statement would be what we have here on this slide. “The SAT test’s cultural insensitive tees contributes to low scores among male, minority students.” So, what this is saying is that the cultural insensitivity that is present in the SAT test, it contributes to low scores among male, minority students. That is an arguable point.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Constructing Your Thesis

  • Use this thesis to focus your paper and guide organization
  • Use your research and sources to support and prove your thesis          

Anything that doesn’t work toward the thesis doesn’t belong in the paper.

“Practical Skills: Writing Strong Thesis Statements”

Audio: Yeah, and you… in constructing a thesis, think about this as kind of the bedrock of your paper. This thesis statement is gonna focus your paper and guide your organization. A good thesis will even preview the body of the piece. So, by that I mean mention some of the main ideas and we're gonna take a look at what that could possibly sound like.

Again, you want to use your research and sources to support and prove your thesis. So, your resources, your research is going to be a support for your thesis statement. But this thesis is, again, this main argument of the piece. Everything that it says in the essay should relate in some way back to this one sentence, to this thesis statement. Okay? Again, this is really the foundation of your piece.

For more help on this, you can take a look at this link at the bottom of the slide, Practical Skills Writing Strong Thesis Statements. Again, this can be another resource if thesis statement are something if you kind of struggle or would like more help on.

Again, as I mention anything that doesn't work toward a thesis doesn't belong in your paper. So, we're talking… this is about cohesion, right, staying on topic. So, if this… if something doesn't relate to your thesis statement, it really shouldn't be included in your paper, you're getting off topic.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Outlining Your Paper

  • Visual representation of your paper
  • Map the progression of your argument for your reader and yourself!
  • Order by major elements: Introduction, main points/body, conclusion
  • Use headings

Audio: Now let's talk a little bit about outlining. Outlining is a great, great technique that I’ve found I used more as I took on higher academic writing challenges.

What an outline is, is it’s a visual representation of your paper. And there are many different ways to do this, right? There are many different kinds of outlines. We're gonna take a look the at an example of one, but as with many things in writing, an outline is a tool, right? It's a tool that you can use to help you organize your ideas. So, if this is something that you find helpful, by all means use it. Personally, this is something that I’ve found to be very helpful. What it does is, it allows you to map the progression of your argument from your… for your reader and for yourself. You're gonna be ordering the major elements, the introduction, the main body points or the main body paragraphs, and the conclusion. And it can inform your use of headings. And there is a link there if that is something you're more interested in.

What I really like about outlines is that it allows you to see how your paper is organized from a broad point of view. And so, yeah, you're organizing your ideas and your main body points, and you can see how these are working together or not. So, maybe you find an opportunity to revise this. What I really like about this is that it's low stakes, right? You haven't written your whole essay yet. So, if you've written this whole 12‑page piece and you find that, you know, some of the content on Page 6 should be on Page 3… now I have to rewrite a lot of my essay, so that this is integrated and flows smoothly in its new place in this essay. Doing this in an outline allows you to just, you know, easily move that up and then you can write your paper in a way that flows with your new organization from the beginning. So, I think that this is a really good strategy and I would recommend it to all of you.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following:

 

  • Introduction
    • Background and Definitions
    • Thesis: The SAT test’s cultural insensitivity contributes to low scores among male minority students
  • SAT’s Cultural Insensitivity
    • Subtopic A
    • Subtopic B
  • Impact on Student Achievement
    • Subtopic C
    • Subtopic D
  • Counterarguments
    • Subtopic E
    • Subtopic F
  • Conclusion
    • Restatement of thesis
    • Interesting thought, next steps
 

 

  • Provide context and establish argument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Subtopics expand on the general topic of the heading

 

 

 

 

  • Provide closure, ensure cohesion

 

Audio: Here’s an example of an outline. As I said, you're laying out these major topics. We start with an introduction, and as always with an introduction—I mean, this could be a webinar of its own—but you really want to lead the reader in with some background information that they need to fully understand your piece.

And then you present your thesis statement. In this case, it would be, again, the SAT test’s cultural insensitivity contributes to low scores among minority, male… male, minority students. Excuse me.

So, then, after this, we're going to lay out kind of our main body points. These are the main points that support our thesis statement. One, that the SAT contains cultural insensitivity. You can see that this relates back directly back to the thesis statement, right? We're making the claim that there is cultural insensitivity in the SAT. So, this would be directly related.

Our second body point, here, is that it can have an impact on achievement. So, we're expanding from this. Not only are we talking about the insensitivity that is apparent there or contained within the SAT, but now we're talking about how the specific insensitivity can affect student achievement.

So, then, this is also an opportunity to present counter arguments.

Lastly, we'll conclude, which often includes a paraphrase of your thesis statement. And then, kind of a touching on the main ideas of this piece.

But again, as I mentioned on the previous slide, this is low stakes. If I wanted to put say an impact on student achievement as my third paragraph instead of my second, then I could easily move that and without having to rewrite a large portion of my essay. It's easy to make these changes without having to do a lot of work. That's what I like about the outline. As always, we want to be efficient, right. As scholars, our time is valuable, so finding ways to do things efficiently and ways to save time is, you know, that's kind of what it's all about.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following:

Poll:

Which gives the best supporting idea for the given thesis statement?

Thesis: Smoking is unhealthy for people of any socioeconomic status or age.

  1. According to Jones et al. (2014), over 30 million people worldwide have smoked tobacco at some point in their lives.
  2. Ramkin and Donalds (2015) found that smoking negatively affects users of all ages.
  3. Chewing tobacco seems to be less intrusive to the body than smoking tobacco, according to James (2013).

Audio: Okay. Let's take another poll here. Below here we have a thesis statement. So, I'm looking for which gives the best supporting idea for the given thesis statement. So, the thesis statement given here is “smoking is unhealthy for people of any socioeconomic status or age.” In the poll we have three different possible bits of evidence. Which of these three best supports our thesis statement? That's what I'm asking.

Okay. I'm gonna let you guys read through this, I'm gonna go on mute, and we can reconvene in, say, two minutes.

[Pause as students respond to the poll question.]

Okay. For those of you who have not voiced yourself through this poll thus far, I'm gonna give you about one more minute to do so and then we're going to talk through it. So, feel free to, yeah, chime in with your vote. Which of these three would best support the argument of thesis… of the thesis here. “Smoking is unhealthy for people of any socioeconomic status or age.”

[Pause as students respond to the poll question.]

All right. Cool. Thanks for voting in and being very participatory here. So, to take a look at this sample thesis statement, this example, again “smoking is unhealthy for people of any socioeconomic status or age.” As a writing instructor, as someone who has dealt with writing, I see how this argument is going to kind of play out. Right? One, this person is going to talk about how smoking is unhealthy. They're going to make the point that this is negative… has a negative effect on health. Two, they're gonna talk about how socioeconomic status does not protect someone from the health effects of smoking. Snd lastly, they're going to talk about how the age doesn't have an effect on someone's… on how smoking is unhealthy.

So, looking at these three options within our poll then: A, “according to Jones et all, of 2014, over 30 million people worldwide have smoked tobacco at some point in their lives.” So, this, to me, would be good information for a, like, background paragraph or for your introduction, bringing the reader up to speed. Yes, a lot of people have smoked, but it doesn't talk about how it's unhealthy, doesn’t say anything about socioeconomic status, or about age. So, this isn't really gonna be a strong support for this argument. Again, it could be useful in giving someone background information.

Looking at choice C then, “chewing tobacco seems to be less intrusive to the body than smoking tobacco according to James, 2013,” So, here we have we're talking about how smokeless tobacco is less intrusive to the body than cigarettes. This is pretty off topic, right? Our thesis statement doesn't mention anything about chewing tobacco. So. this is gonna be irrelevant information to us.

Then to turn our attention to choice B, “Ramkin and Donalds, 2015, found smoking negatively affects users of all ages.” This is gonna be our answer. This is gonna support the idea that smoking is unhealthy for people at any age, right? Which is directly connected to our thesis statement. So good job for those of you who choose B, this is the correct answer here. That supports our thesis statement and ties directly back to it. Good.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Audio: Okay. Kacy, this... we're going to break for questions here. If there are any questions that you feel the group could benefit from an answer?

Kacy: Yeah, we had some great questions come in and thank you guys so much for submitting those. One question a student brought up was, can you have more than one thesis sentence in a paper?

Michael: That's a great question. The answer—the short answer is, yes. But the longer, more drawn out answer is that it really depends on the length of the piece and the complexity of what you're arguing. Now, if we're talking about like a five- to six‑page essay, one sentence should be very much sufficient to cover your main argument. So, one sentence there would be just fine.

If we're talking about something maybe that's 20 pages, 30 pages in length? Then yeah, multiple sentences would be appropriate there. I guess what I'm getting at is the idea that you wanna be concise and direct within your writing. If you can say something more simply, more directly, it's to your advantage as a scholarly writer to do so. So, you don't want to, for a short essay, have this long drawn out thesis that's multiple sentences. You only wanna use as much is as needed.

Okay. I'm going to leave it there. You only want to use as much as is needed, but yes, it's okay to have multiple sentences.

Kacy: Yeah. That's a great point, Michael. And I'm sorry, I think I worded the sentence or the question a little bit incorrectly, but that is another great question to answer. So actually, rather than the thesis sentence, should you have more than one thesis in general in a paper? Like more than one major argument?

Michael: Yeah, yeah. That's a good question. No, you shouldn't. Your paper should argue one major point. You can have supporting arguments that contribute to your major point, but in terms of cohesion on a broad full‑paper level, you should have one central argument that guides everything and that everything ties back to.

Kacy: Perfect. Thanks so much. And that was a great point about how we sometimes say thesis sentence, but we actually generally mean thesis statement, as they can sometimes be more than one sentence. And then just one more question for you, Michael. Where and when do you include the research question along with your thesis sentence‑‑ or statement? Excuse me.

Michael: Okay. Yeah. Good question there. If we're talking about a doctoral capstone, that would be… you're going to want to lay out your research question early on in the process. It's gonna be part of your prospect and your premise documents that lead up to your doctoral capstone or to your dissertation. In terms of a coursework piece or more of like a traditional essay format that isn't of a dissertation variety, your research question should be laid out in the introduction, I would say. That you're kind of discussing what you sought to find out and then leading up to your thesis statement, which tells the reader what you did find.

Kacy: Awesome. Thank you so much, Michael.

Michael: Great.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: As You Write:

 

  • Paragraph structure and organization
  • Use of transition
  • Language choices
 

Global Paper Cohesion

Paragraph and Local Cohesion

Revising for Cohesion

 

Audio: So, then let's move on here to paragraph and local cohesion. So, just as a larger paper can… you know, should have a central focus, each paragraph within your document should have a central focus here, right. And this should be a logical thing. You know, there should be a rhyme and a reason to why the third body paragraph is third and the fourth one is fourth. There should be some sort of overarching logic there that dictates this order.

But again, each paragraph should have a cohesion of its own. It should stay on one topic. [Pause.] Excuse me. Paragraph structure and organization, we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about the use of transitions. So now we’re getting into the idea of flowing smoothly from one reader to another. And lastly, we're gonna talk about linguistic choices within transitions. This idea that specific words can be used to highlight a specific relationship between ideas, right? Words have meaning, and this is one place where the words that you choose to use is going to highlight one relationship or another.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraphing

  • A paper is a collection of paragraphs
  • Be strategic:
    • Categorize information
    • Support with evidence
    • Use the MEAL plan
      • Main idea
      • Evidence
      • Analysis
      • Lead out

Audio: So yeah, paragraphing. A paper is a collection of paragraphs. Absolutely. So again, these paragraphs should work together to inform your overall argument, but they are in some ways in and of themselves their own thing, right? So, you wanna be strategic. Categorize information. What's the most important point that I have? What's my strongest argument that is gonna support my thesis in the strongest way? You wanna support your points with evidence, right?

Sometimes I'll encounter students who continuously just put one paraphrase on top of another or one quote on top of another within a paragraph. It's important to remember that source material within your writing is meant to support the points that you are making, right? Don't let your sources make points for you. You really want to work with sources to use them to support your own points.

And when we think about paragraphing, one kind of really useful format that we discuss a lot in Walden, in the Walden writing center is the MEAL plan paragraph format. This was developed at Duke University, I believe in the mid… was it the med‑90s, I guess I'm not positive about that, but it came out of Duke. And really what this is, is a way of organizing a paragraph that makes sure that you have all of the necessary elements of a strong body paragraph.

So, one, you wanna start with a main idea. You wanna then provide some evidence to support that main idea. You wanna give the reader some analysis to show them how they should interpret that evidence or to tell them why that evidence is important. And lastly, you wanna lead the reader out and give them a sense of completion, that you've talked about this idea fully, and I can now move on to a new idea in a new body paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Paragraph Structure

Main idea:

  • Introduce the focus of the paragraph, like a mini thesis

Evidence

  • Support the main idea with source information

Analysis

  • Explain and analyze the source information

Lead out

  • Conclude the topic, like a conclusion paragraph

Check out this Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs webinar for more!

Audio: So yeah, we're gonna break this down a little bit more, but the MEAL plan paragraph… construction paragraph format is something that we talk about a lot and something that I personally find to be really useful.

So, here, let's break this down a little bit more. The main idea of the paragraph should be, you know, you're gonna introduce the focus of the paragraph in your topic sentence. You're gonna tell the reader, “this is what this paragraph is about.” You can think of it like a mini thesis statement. It's like a thesis statement for a body paragraph. After you've established the main idea of the paragraph, then you can go on to, you know, expand upon this and provide evidence and this sort of thing. But first, in a strong topic sentence, you want to show the reader the main idea.

Next, again you wanna provide evidence. You wanna support this main idea with source information. Give the reader some source material that supports your point to make your point stronger. This is how I know this, right? Or this is why I argue this.

One of the big elements that students often, in my experience, miss here is the analysis piece. Once you provide evidence, you wanna explain or analyze the source information. You wanna tell the reader, you know, why is this source information important to consider in this argument, in this discussion? You want to tell the reader kind of how they should be interpreting this source material in the context of your discussion. What does this mean? Why is this evidence supporting our main idea?

You know, I often encounter student writing where they'll provide evidence and they'll just assume that the reader gets how this evidence connects to the main idea of the paragraph, and that's not… that's not really effective because we want to tell the reader how this connects in, right? We wanna guide the reader through our ideas and tell them how this evidence is supporting our main idea. So, don't assume that the reader knows how these two things, the evidence and the main idea, are related. Tell them explicitly how they're related.

And lastly, you want to lead out. It's like your conclusion for the paragraph. It's one… you know, generally one to two sentences that give the reader this feeling of completion or conclusion within that paragraph. One great way to do this would be to kind of refer back to your main idea, only have this kind of wrap‑up tone to it. But this again is another element of the MEAL plan to make an effective paragraph.

A couple of resources at the bottom right there. Writing effective academic paragraphs, this is a webinar. Again, this is something that by all means you can check out on your own time, if this is something that you’re… that you find you would like more information on.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following:

Chat:

Does this paragraph have all the elements of the MEAL plan?

      Electronic medical records (EMRs) allow patients to view their medical records in a password-protected online environment, print out immunization records, and perform other necessary tasks with an immediacy that paper records do not allow (James, 2011). Also, rather than spending the time and money copying, faxing, or printing records, healthcare professionals can simply transfer information via the EMRs programs (Hunter, 2009). This ease of access for patients and medical personnel creates transparency.

[The webinar layout changes to open up a chat box for students to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: So, let's take a look at an example here. In the chat box, read through this paragraph and let's talk about how well this paragraph adheres to the MEAL plan. The question again is does this paragraph have all the elements of the MEAL plan. Read through this and drop your answer into the chat box. I'm gonna go on mute for a minute and give you guys an opportunity to do this. Talk to you in a bit.

[Pause as students type.]

All right. I'm seeing some great responses here in the chat box. I'm gonna give you a minute or two to read through this. And again, think about, does this paragraph have all the elements of the MEAL plan? Are they all present here?

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. In the interest of time I'm gonna move on here, but let's talk through this, okay? Taking a look at this paragraph, the first sentence, “electronic medical records allow patients to view their medical records in a password protected online environment, print out immunization records, and perform other necessary tasks with the immediacy that paper records do not allow,” and then we have a citation there. The first sentence of this paragraph is a bit of source information, right? This is meant as evidence to support the main idea of the paragraph. As many of you pointed out in the chat box, there is… we have not established the main idea of the paragraph yet. As a reader, from a reader's perspective, I don't know exactly what evidence this source material is meant to support. So, one element that's missing here is a topic sentence to focus the reader on the main idea of the paragraph. Right? So, in that way it does not have all the elements of the MEAL plan.

Looking at the second paragraph, “also rather than spending the time and money, copying, faxing, or printing records, healthcare professionals can transfer via the EMR’s programs.” And then we have another citation here, so this again is source material. This is lacking here a bit of analysis, right? This reader is just kind of presenting one bit of evidence, another bit of evidence without really telling the reader, one, what the main idea of the paragraph is, and two, how they're meant to interpret this evidence, how this evidence is relevant to the main idea of the paragraph. So, I would recommend that there should be some analysis after this James citation and probably some more analysis after this Hunter citation.

At the end then, we have this small sentence, “this ease of access for patients and medical personnel creates transparency.” So, that is a bit of analysis there, right? They're reflecting on how this works together to create a transparent environment, but as a reader this still feels kind of abbreviated to me. I kind of would like to see more how this happens. We have this password-protected online format and we have the ease here. As a reader, I wanna know how these two things add up to transparency and I don't get it from this paragraph, as it is currently.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following:

REVISION with a topic sentence and analysis/explanation

      Electronic medical records promote patient satisfaction in their ease of access. Certain programs allow patients to view their medical records in a password-protected online environment, print out immunization records, and perform other necessary tasks with an immediacy that paper records do not allow (James, 2011). The convenience of immediacy spans also to healthcare professionals who may need to transfer records to other medical institutions for a patient's procedure. Rather than spending the time and money copying, faxing, or printing records, healthcare professionals can simply transfer information via the EMRs programs (Hunter, 2009). This ease of access for patients and medical personnel creates transparency.

Audio: Here’s an example of how this could be amended. One, we start with a topic sentence as I mentioned. “Electronic medical records promote patient satisfaction in their ease of access.” Okay, sure. So, this tells me that this sentence/paragraph is going to be about how these electronic records promote patient satisfaction because they're easy to get at, they're easy to access. Sure. I mean, that's a perfectly strong topic sentence. Cool.

We have that evidence there again but, in this example, we’re adding more analysis or more explanation. “The convenience of immediacy spans across the healthcare professional… spans also to healthcare professionals who may need to transfer records to other medical institutions for a patient's procedure.” Yeah, so this is telling me how this source material, this James source material from 2011 connects to this main idea. So, not only does it help for patients, but this immediacy can be convenient for medical professionals, also.

One thing that I would add to this example is I would go back to that last sentence and before… after that Hunter citation, I would add another sentence or two to discuss how these things fit together. And this brings up an interesting point about the MEAL plan. Okay. This isn't meant to be kind of a 100% identical organization in every paragraph you craft, right. The MEAL plan is meant as kind of an outline to make sure that you're including all the necessary elements of a strong body paragraph, but different MEAL plan paragraphs are gonna look a little bit different, right? Every author has their own kind of voice, and they organize their thoughts a little bit differently just because we're different people, right. So, my MEAL plan paragraph might look different than yours.

But what the MEAL plan is really useful for, is it tells you what elements are needed. Across the board, every strong paragraph is gonna have a topic sentence, every strong paragraph is gonna have evidence, and every strong paragraph is gonna have analysis, and every strong paragraph is gonna lead the read you are out in some way.

Now, again making sure that all of these elements are present is why the MEAL plan paragraph is valuable, but not every MEAL plan paragraph is gonna look identical. That's an important thing, I think, to keep in mind.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Transitions Between Paragraphs

  • Note the relationship between two or more paragraphs at the start of the next paragraph

…Jones (2009) confirmed that the many CEOs have no future plans to offer health benefits to their part-time employees.

      Although part-time employees may have difficulty getting benefits, government officials are tackling the issue of health care in other ways. For example…

Audio: Okay. Transitions. Transitions are awesome! I guess, I mean, I teach writing, so this is something that I would say. But, they're great because they show a relationship between two or more paragraphs. You're showing the connection between these ideas and you're building on your ideas. You're using transitions to build from one paragraph to another. Which we in the writing community often will describe as creating kind of a line of thought that runs through your piece. So, you're going from one paragraph to another, but these aren't autonomous, right. These paragraphs aren't their… completely their own thing. They're functioning as part of a larger whole. So, showing that relationship really helps your overall cohesion. Right?

One thing that's important, I would argue about paragraphs, is that you should use a transition to start a paragraph rather than putting a transition at the end of a paragraph. I think this is effective because you're not getting off topic. When you put a transition at the end of a paragraph, I feel like you're bringing up a new idea which hurts your overall paragraph cohesion. Using a transition at the beginning of a paragraph shows this relationship effectively without, you know, bringing up a new idea at the end.

So, here’s what this could look like. “Jones, 2009, confirmed that many CEOs have no future plans to offer health benefits to their part‑time employees.” Now here we have this transition and is this is a content‑based transition so it's talking about the content of the previous paragraph and then elaborating on how this could be related to the next paragraph. So here it is. “Although part‑time employees may have difficulty getting benefits, government officials are tackling the issue of healthcare in other ways.” So, as a reader, I can see that this coming paragraph is going to be about how the government officials are tackling the issue of healthcare in a number of ways. But these are related in that we're talking about benefits here. Part‑time employees are people who often looking for benefits according to this paper. So, here we're having a transition that refers to the content of the previous paragraph to show a connection between those two.

So, this is an effective content‑based transition. I would recommend doing this. This is how you, again, provide this line of thought through your work and show relationships between these major ideas.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Transitions Within Paragraphs

  • Note relationships between sentences within a paragraph

Without a transition:                  

…Fillmore (2015) found that social workers are often overworked. Mitchell and Van (2016) surveyed social workers to gain insight in their stress levels…

Audio: You can also show transitions within paragraphs. So, you're showing relationships between specific sentences. Here’s an example of two bits of source material put into a paragraph without a transition. “Fillmore, 2015, found that social workers are often overworked.” “Mitchell and Van, 2016, surveyed social workers to gain insight into their stress levels.” So, here are two bits of ideas… two bits of source material that display ideas that… I mean, I know that they're connected, right? People that work in the social work field would… I'm sure would say that these are connected, but the connection isn't shown explicitly to the reader. One talks about how social workers can be overworked and the other talks about how much the stress level is within this community. In and of themselves. these are not connected. Using a transition to show a connection makes them connected, right?

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Transitions Within Paragraphs

Chronological

Jones (2009) found that pigeons were dirty animals. Previously, Fillmore (2006) stated that pigeons made great pets.

Contradictory

Jones (2009) found that pigeons were dirty animals. On the other hand, Fillmore (2006) stated that pigeons made great pets.

Concession

Jones (2009) found that pigeons were dirty animals. Nevertheless, Fillmore (2006) stated that pigeons made great pets.

Audio: Let's see how this is done. If you're doing this chronologically, I mean, you can do transitions in a number of ways, right? You can do them chronologically, so this comes before this. “Jones 2009 found that pigeons were dirty animals.” Previously, “Fillmore stated pigeons made great pets.” So, one came before the other. Fillmore came before Jones.

They can be contradictory. And using a specific phrase here, you can show that one source disagrees with the other. “Jones, 2009, found that pigeons were dirty animal. On the other hand, Fillmore, 2006, stated that pigeons made great pets.” Yeah. This is another relationship that you can show using the specific language.

You can use it to highlight a concession. “Johnson…” “Jones,” excuse me, “2009, found that pigeons were dirty animals. Nevertheless, Fillmore stated that pigeons made great pets.” So, they're conceding one point to another. What they're doing here is illustrating that although pigeons are dirty animals, sure, they still make great pets. And again, this… this claim here, this does not represent my opinion about the loveable pigeon.

But what I'm getting at here, is that the language that you use within transitions, it matters, right? It makes a difference, the language that you use, because it's gonna display a certain type of relationship. Do these two ideas agree with one another? Do these two ideas disagree? Does one come before the other? Does one concede a portion of what one says… the other says but makes a point of its own? Yeah, I think you get what I mean. The idea here is that the language that you choose makes a difference. So, you wanna choose specific language that displays a relationship that you see between certain sentences.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following:

Chat:

Add a transition to these sentences to improve their flow.

….Fuller (2014) suggested that students typically reticent to participate in a traditional classroom may feel more comfortable participating in an online class’s discussion board. Evans (2015) found that students felt they could express their ideas more clearly in an online discussion board than in a face-to-face class discussion…

[The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for students to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: And let's chat. What I want you to do is add a transition to these sentences to improve their flow. I'll read them quickly. “Fuller, 2014, suggested that students typically… that students typically reticent to participate in a traditional classroom may feel more comfortable participating in an online class’s discussion board. Evans, 2015, found that students felt they could express their ideas more clearly in an online discussion board than in a face‑to‑face discussion.” What relationship do you see between the ideas? Take a minute, read these again, and use a transition to highlight a relationship that you see.

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. In the interest of time we're gonna make this a little bit quicker, but I'm gonna give you guys another minute to do this. Remember, the relationship… the language that you use here is gonna display a specific relationship. Okay. Do these sources agree with each other, do they not? Does one concede to another? Take a minute and think about how you want… how you want to display the relationship because the language that you choose makes a difference.

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. Great, great job, you guys. As one of you… Let's talk through this, then. This first bit of source material talks about how students who are usually not comfortable in classrooms would be more comfortable in an online environment. This is what Fuller is saying. What Evans is saying is that students felt they could express themselves more clearly in an online discussion board. What these are, is these points agree with each other. Okay. So, transitions like ‘moreover,’ or ‘in addition,’ or ‘additionally’ are great. ‘Furthermore,’… are correct here because, once again, you're trying to say that these two bits of source material agree with one another. Using a transition like, ‘however,’ is not appropriate here because that would be used when two sources disagree, when they are in contradictory terms, right? Saying ‘however’… would… when you use ‘however,’ you're displaying a relationship with the two sources don't agree. In this paragraph, the sources do agree. So, that would be an incorrect transition to use there.

Good job. Thanks for participating.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Revisions with Transitions

….Fuller (2014) suggested that students typically reticent to participate in a traditional classroom may feel more comfortable participating in an online class’s discussion board. Supporting this view, Evans (2015) found that students felt they could express their ideas more clearly in an online discussion board than in a face-to-face class discussion…

….Fuller (2014) suggested that students typically reticent to participate in a traditional classroom may feel more comfortable participating in an online class’s discussion board. In a related study, Evans (2015) found that students felt they could express their ideas more clearly in an online discussion board than in a face-to-face class discussion…

Audio: Yeah, and again here are some examples of how this could be done. Again, we're showing that this relationship is in agreement that these two sources would agree with one another. So, one transition that you could use here would be ‘supporting this view.’ Sure, you're showing that once again they agree. Or ‘in a related study’ as they're studying related things and they agree, that would be another transition that would be appropriate there.

Again, the point that I really wanna hammer home to you, and I apologize if this is getting a bit ad nauseum for you, but the words you use especially within transitions really do matter. So, you want to use words that display accurately the relationship between these two sources. And in this case, they agree so you need to use transitional language or transitional phrases that indicate to the reader that these two sources are in agreement.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Types of Transitions

Relationship

Term/Phrase

Addition

Also, moreover, furthermore, additionally, first/second/third

Concession

However, in spite of, nevertheless

Causation

Hence, accordingly, consequently, because of, therefore

Summation

Altogether, finally, in conclusion, hence, consequently

 

 

Audio: Here’s an example… some more examples of how these could work, right? If your relationship is in addition, so… or like in agreement, also, moreover, furthermore, additionally, first, second, third, so that would be chronological order there. These are great stock transitional phrases.

If one is conceding, however, in spite of, nevertheless. So, yeah, this would be an instance where the sources are not in agreement.

Causation is another relationship that you can show here. Hence, accordingly, consequently, because of, therefore. Yeah. So, what you're doing there is you’re saying that one study has this to say and because of this study, this other study kind of picked up where that left off and made another point. One caused the other. Yeah.

Lastly, in summation. So, stock phrases like altogether, finally, in conclusion—oh, I hate that one—hence, and consequently. In conclusion for me is overused in conclusions, so it is kind of like nails on a chalkboard. But again, you can show the reader that you're in summation and that you're concluding by saying something like finally, or hence, or consequently. I think that would be a little more artfully done than saying in conclusion. But, that's just my opinion.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: After You Write:

 

 

How do you know it flows?

 

Global Paper Cohesion

Paragraph and Local Cohesion

Revising for Cohesion

 

Audio: Okay. Now, after you write, if you're turning back to your document to try to bring cohesion… let's talk a bit about revising for cohesion. How do you know it flows? How can I tell? Right?

Visual: Slide changes to the following: After you write…

  • Reading aloud: Halts/stops, audience reactions
  • Reviewing visually for balance
    • Use of headings
    • Paragraph/section length

[Slide includes a screenshot of two pages of a paper in an MSWord document.]

Audio: One way to be able to tell is to read aloud. Where you are halting or stopping, this is where the audience halts or stops, as well. Where you're getting tripped up or where you feel that your flow is being broken, this is a very good indication that your reader's flow is also being broken or the flow is also being broken when the reader is reading this. So, this is a good way to kinda check yourself.

You can also review visually for balance, use of headings, paragraph sections, is one paragraph way long versus your others are very short? Yeah, you wanna have some sort of ‑‑ some consistency there, some balance there between ideas.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions:

Now: Let us know! · Anytime: writingsupport@waldenu.edu

Continue to develop cohesion in your writing:

Check out the recorded webinars “Practical Skills: Thesis Statements” and “Building and Organizing Academic Arguments

Audio: Okay. I'll turn it back over to Kacy, then. Do we have maybe one or two final questions that I could answer before this webinar wraps up?

Kacy: Sure. So, one question we had, it kind of relates to what you were just talking about, about revising for cohesion, and I mentioned using a reverse outline. Could you talk a little bit about reverse outlines? Have you ever used one or do you recommend them to students when they're revising?

Michael: Yeah. That's a great question. So, this would be another way to check your overall cohesion. Do I use them, do I recommend them? Absolutely. They're great. What a reverse outline is, is you take your piece, your whole piece that you've already written, and you go back and you read your body paragraphs and you pick out the main idea or perhaps you have a colleague read the body paragraph and they pick out this one main idea in the sentence. This is a great way to check yourself. So, if you’re… if a colleague of yours or you have another look and read this paragraph and you say, wok well this, this really isn't always exactly on topic here, I'm changing topic here… Then that's a good indication that some revision is needed in that area, right? So, this is a way to check yourself. I would absolutely recommend reverse outlining and it is something that I've done a lot. Again, it's a good way to return to your piece to make sure that you're organizing things in a cohesive way, right? It's easy when you're writing to kind of get into what you're doing and to kind of get off track there, get off topic. Reverse outlining can kind of bring you back to a strong, singular focus for both your paragraphs and for your document as a whole. Yeah.

Kacy: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Michael. And thank you everybody for joining us today. Again, if you have any questions, please feel free to write to us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu. And we hope to see you at another webinar, soon! Thanks so much.