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Webinar Transcripts

Cohesion and Flow: Bringing Your Paper Together

Presented October 26, 2017

View webinar recording

Last updated 11/22/2017

 

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
    • 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: All right. Well, hello, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Beth, and I'm going to go over a couple quick housekeeping notes here before I hand the session over today to our presenter today, Michael. So, a couple of quick things, and I’ll make sure to go through these things quickly, I promise, and then we will get to the presentation. The first thing is that you might have noticed that I’ve started the recording, so we record all of our webinars here at the Writing Center and I'll be posting that recording in our webinar, probably by this evening. So, if you have any reason to leave the webinar, and you’d like to come back and review this session, you're more than welcome to find that webinar archive and access the recording. If you are ever looking for any other webinar maybe you see a webinar being presented live, and you can't attend live, or maybe you’re just looking for help on a particular writing topic, please take a look at that webinar archive. We have over 50 recordings that live there, and they're available any time so do make sure to take a look at that if you haven't already.

Today… throughout the session today, they’ll be lots of ways for you to interact, and I encourage you to do that. I know Michael has some polls and some chats put together so make sure that you respond to those throughout the session and that will help you engage with the content that Michael is going to be taking you through. But also note that we have links to other resources, so we have the slides that Michael is using here in the files pod, so feel free to download those slides if you'd like to keep access to those and refer to them later, you’re more than welcome to do so. And you can do that throughout the session. But, also note that the links to outside resources that we have throughout these slides are also clickable, so as Michael is going through those slides and you see a hyperlink, one of those, sort of, blue underlined words, you can go ahead and click on that link and it will open up in a new tab on your browser and then you can take a look at it later or take a look at it during the webinar, either way, but that's a great way to see those extra resources if you’re looking for more information on a topic.

Additionally, note that my colleague Claire and I will be monitoring the Q & A box, so if you have any questions or comments in that Q & A box, please do let us know, we want to help make sure that you get as much out of this webinar as possible, that you get your questions answered, all those sort of things.  So, do let us know in that Q & A box if we can help and we'd be happy to. Although I always like to note that at the very end of the webinar sometimes students don't get all their questions answered just because we have to end for time or maybe you think of a question after we end the webinar. In both of those cases please do e-mail us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu. We're happy to respond there via e-mail as well and I'll make sure to display that e-mail address at the very end too.

Alright, so then finally if you have any questions about technical issues or if you have any technical issues, do let me know in that Q & A box. I have a couple tips and tricks I can give you but there is also the help button at the top right-hand corner of the screen and that's really the best place to go if you’re having significant technical issues. Alright. So, with that Michael, I will hand it over to you.

 

Visual: Slide changes to 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: Great, thanks, Beth. Thanks for that great introduction. My name is Michael I'm a writing instructor here in the Walden Writing Center. And, yeah, before we get going I'd like to echo Beth's urge to download the slides if you want to refer back to this presentation after the fact, it's a great idea to have those slides downloaded. But yeah, this presentation is about cohesion and flow. I think especially flow can be kind of this aloof concept or this almost mystical thing like you either kind of have it or you don't in writing, and part of this presentation is to show you that it isn't that way. That there are some tips and tricks and techniques in writing that can help you bring flow, especially, and cohesion to your writing and maybe demystify this a little bit is perhaps my goal here today.

 

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: Yeah, in this session we're going to look at how cohesion and flow affect your reader. We're going to kind of examine this. As everything with writing, especially with academic writing, you need to have your audience in mind. Right? This is for the reader, expressing these ideas to the reader, so having the reader in mind as you do this is going to help you craft a more effective paper. We're going to identify some elements of writing that create cohesion and flow at a global level and at a paragraph/sentence level. So that’s the global level being the essay as a whole and the paragraph and sentence level being more of, you know, as you're writing in the body of the piece in specific places. Lastly, we're going to talk about some revision techniques to bring cohesion and flow to your writing. Yeah, yeah, we're going to do that.

 

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: Some definitions then, cohesion is “the act or state of sticking together tightly.” You may have heard a writing instructor in your past say this paragraph needs to be tightened or this one is a very tight paragraph. That's referring to the ideas of cohesion and having a central focus that you stick to throughout your essay or throughout your paragraph. Flow is defined as “a smooth uninterrupted movement or progress.” Yes, this fluid, smooth characteristic.

Bringing these two things together in an academic writing sense then this means writing a focused paper that progresses naturally from one idea to another. So, having a central focus and ideas that progress again in a fluid way. Or build off of one another, yeah. We're going to unpack a little bit more of what I mean there as we go along in this presentation.

 

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: And again, this is all about your reader. This is about getting the message across to your reader. In academic writing you're taking kind of complicated argumentative points and you're trying to relay them to the reader in a way that they understand fully. So, you want your writing to be easy to understand. You want it to be accessible to the reader. When a reader is done reading your paper they should be able to take something away and what they take away from that piece should be what you wanted them to take away, right? Should be the points that you are trying to express.

Academic writing should be logically ordered so your points should be -- should have a logical organization to them. Points should build off of one another providing what we often talk about in the composition field as this line of thought that runs through your work.

And lastly it should be enjoyable to read. Maybe if not like overjoyed to read it should be at least palatable. The point here is that the reader shouldn't struggle at any time to get through your work.

Again, this brings us back to our kind of definition from the previous slide, writing in a paper in a focused way where your ideas progress naturally from one to the next.

 

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, to outline this presentation a little bit we're going to be going from large to small. We're going to be going from prewriting through actually drafting into the revision process here, and I don't think this slide was meant to show this but here we have kind of a logical progression of ideas, right. But to begin we're going to talk about this global paper cohesion so having a paper that is cohesive on an entire essay level. We're going to talk about essay organization and talk about how a thesis statement can inform this and can kind of provide a foundation for the cohesive organization of your essay.

Then we're going to look at paragraph and local cohesion, so looking at paragraph structuring. Looking at how transitions can link ideas together and provide flow of ideas or this line of thought, as I mentioned before, to your writing. And lastly word choice. How we can use specific words to show relationships between ideas. It might seem obvious, right, to say that words have specific meanings, but in academic context, in building flow and cohesion in your writing, it's really important to know how your ideas are interacting with each other and using words that specifically highlight this interaction. And we're going to get into more about that in a bit.

Lastly, we're going to talk a bit about revising for cohesion. Taking a piece that is perhaps less cohesive or doesn't have flow in it and bringing that to your writing. Yeah. On the left we have a hyperlink to a blog post about some techniques, some tips to bring flow to your writing. I would definitely recommend that you check this out. Probably not right now. But, maybe do it on your own time, but yeah, this is a good resource that I would recommend you using, taking advantage of.

 

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

  • Global Paper Cohesion
    • Focus your thoughts
    • Determine your thesis
    • Outline your paper
  • Paragraph and Local Cohesion
  • Revising for Cohesion

Audio: So yeah, first on a global level before you write, so we're talking kind of about prewriting here, about organizing your ideas together before you even sit down to compose your piece. So first here we're going to talk about focusing your thoughts, right, on gathering some of the ideas that you want to write about and kind of compiling them so that they're accessible to you. Determine your thesis statement. So think about a central idea that connects all of these other thoughts that you have and potentially even a central argument that you're trying to push forward in that thesis statement. And lastly, we're going to talk a bit about outlining your paper. Outlining is a great strategy that allows you to step back and look at your paper on a larger level and it's also kind of a low stakes way to make big changes to your writing. You can move around whole sections easily without having to rewrite a ton. So, I would recommend outlining and we're going to talk about it more in a minute.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Focus Your Thoughts

Read carefully è

Take notes è

Find your purpose è

Check your assignment è

Identify and use your strongest ideas

Audio: All right. Focusing your thoughts. This has to do again with the very first part of writing. The first, once you gather your sources or take the sources that you've been given in the class, you really want to read them carefully. This is another element of writing that kind of gets overlooked but really fully understanding the sources that you're dealing with is elementally important in writing. You need to represent the source ideas accurately and to work with them in an effective way. You need to first read carefully and understand what the author is saying.

 To do this, one thing that helps is to take notes. To annotate your sources, would be another way to say this. You know, highlighting a passage that you find that may be useful to you. Marking a text, an area in a text where you might need to look up a definition of a word. These are all things that can help you understand a text more fully. Yeah, and in thinking of yourself as a scholar practitioner, you're not just reading for fun anymore. You’re reading as a professional reader. So, annotating and working, engaging in the text, perhaps in a physical way is a really good idea and something you should be doing.

From this then, from your source material you're going to find your purpose. You know, maybe a working thesis statement that you have, a direction that you want to go in with this paper. At this point it would be a good idea to check your assignment, to check the assignment prompt that you've been given. It's a real bummer when you've composed a complete paper or near complete paper and you go to make sure that you're covering the assignment prompt accurately and you find that you're off base and now you have to do all this work over again. So, an important part of prewriting is making sure that you're addressing the assignment prompt.

Then lastly from there you can identify and use your strongest ideas. Yeah.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Poll:

What is a thesis statement?

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

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

Audio: All right. So, let's take a little poll here, a quick poll. What is a thesis statement? When I say thesis statement, let's get a definition for that. Go ahead and vote in. We'll take maybe about a minute to do that, yeah. Go ahead.

[Pause as students type.]

All right. Yeah, great. I don't know if that was quite a minute, but I think we've got most of the people -- most people have participated here. So, the most popular answer was answer C, “a sentence that tells the reader the paper's argument.” This is really, really close. The actual answer is B, “the sentence that tells what the paper is about.” This is because not every paper is argumentative, right. Sometimes you're going to be asked to inform your reader, so a thesis statement in an informative piece would then inform the reader. It wouldn't be putting forth an argument. In most academic writing though you're going to be advancing an argument, you’re going to be taking a stand, so it makes sense that you would connect a thesis statement with a specific argument, but this isn't always the case.

 

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: A thesis then for our definition is “a brief articulation of a paper's central argument or purpose.” Yeah, so even if the purpose is not argumentation it still shows the purpose. You want to examine your ideas and notes and discover what they collectively suggest to inform your thesis. So, there’s a couple of… the big idea here is that you're letting your research guide your argument or your thesis statement rather than taking -- saying I want to make this argument and then going to try to find sources that support that specific argument, you want to do it exactly the opposite way around. You want to take research and use what you found in your research to then inform what you're arguing. And this gets at a couple bigger ideas about research being about discovery and about, you know, doing unbiased research, probably beyond the scope of this presentation but the idea I really want to impart on you is you want to let your research and the ideas that you're discovering inform your thesis. You don't want your thesis to then inform the research that you're doing.

A couple of good attributes of a thesis. A thesis should be direct. It should be concise. It shouldn't have any extra language. If you can cut out a part of your thesis without changing the meaning, absolutely do so. And again it should preview your argument, is another good attribute of your thesis. It should preview the body of your piece giving the reader some sense of the points that you're going to make.

A strong thesis statement would be this example here. “The SAT test’s cultural insensitivity contributes to low scores among male minority students.” Yeah. So, this gives a pretty good framework for where this paper is going to go. We have the SAT test. That’s the overarching thing we’re going to be talking about. And we're going to be talking about some culturally insensitive attributes of these tests and how this contributes to low scores in one population, yeah. You can see how an argumentative piece would stem from this, is what I mean.

 

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: Use a thesis to focus your paper and guide your organization. Yeah, yeah, so you're providing a kind of a foundation for your writing. I think it is useful to think of a thesis statement as kind of the foundation of your piece. And from there in the body of your essay you can go on to elaborate and to expand on what you meant in your thesis statement.

Use your research and sources to support and prove your thesis. Yeah, this is really essential in academic writing, right. You need to have research and sources that then support the points that you're making regarding your thesis. You’ll have a thesis and subpoints. All this needs to be supported by scholarly research and research that is peer reviewed and accurate.

This is an interesting point. Anything in your paper, any paragraph, any sentence even that doesn't work toward the thesis doesn't belong in your paper. So, everything that follows from the thesis the main idea of every paragraph that follows should relate directly back to one part of your thesis statement. If it doesn't, then as a writer this is a kind of, should throw up a red flag that, hey, this probably shouldn't be in my piece. O maybe I need to craft this or express this in a different way to relate it to my thesis statement and to make this a relevant paragraph.

 

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: Outlining, oh, man, I love outlining. When I was a younger student, I would write in an linear way, where you kind of start with the introduction and I write the body of the piece and then I write my conclusion and then I'm done. As I kind of reached a higher level academic writing, I found that I couldn't do this anymore. That without outlining, my view would become… my argument would become very scattered. It wouldn’t have a lot of cohesion to it. I was jumping around from idea to idea. There wasn't this flow or relationship between ideas that you really want. So, from a personal experience standpoint I would absolute recommend making an outline.

But what a outline is, is a visual representation of your paper. So, you're not summarizing. You're using kind of bullet points about the points that you want to make and putting them on a page that you can work with them and see how they fit together easily before you write. You're going to map -- this allows you to map the progression of your argument for your reader and for yourself, so you can see how these ideas are laid out. You can order it by major elements. You should order it by major elements, starting with an introduction, following into your main points that are expressed in body paragraphs and lastly in a conclusion, and these main parts as you see them laid out in front of you can inform some headings that you want to bring in. If you're going to use headings for the reader to kind of guide them through as headings do. Your outline can inform where a heading is appropriate.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following

  • Introduction ç Provide context and establish argument
    • Background and Definitions
    • Thesis: The SAT test’s cultural insensitivity contributes to low scores among male minority students
  • SAT’s Cultural Insensitivity
    • Subtopic A ç Subtopics expand on the general topic of the heading
    • Subtopic B
  • Impact on Student Achievement
    • Subtopic C
    • Subtopic D
  • Counterarguments
    • Subtopic E
    • Subtopic F
  • Conclusion ç Provide closure, ensure cohesion
    • Restatement of thesis
    • Interesting thought, next steps

Audio: Here's an example outline. You have an introduction and part of an introduction is providing background information and definitions to kind of lead your reader into this piece, give them the information that they need to know in order to fully understand the discussion that you lay out in your piece. It provides context and then lastly you establish an argument in your introduction. You provide a thesis statement. So here we have our example thesis statement from a couple slides ago. “The SAT test’s cultural insensitivity contributes to low scores among male minority students.”

Yeah. In crafting an outline like this, this is how my outline would look. I would have some background information there and then I would list... I would articulate my thesis statement, so that I had it. Like a working thesis. Yeah. Then as you can see in the body of the piece we have our sub topics that expand on this general topic, that we’re talking in our thesis statement. The SAT's cultural insensitivity could be one point contributing to our argument. Impact on student achievement is another thing we want to include. There's always a place within academic writing, especially argumentative writing, for a counter argument. Absolutely. And lastly, we want to conclude. We want to paraphrase our thesis and leave the reader with some interesting thought or something they can take with them that sums up the piece.

Yeah, but again my point here with this sample outline is to show you what this looks like, one, but also to give me another opportunity to say how important these are and how useful these can be in your writing. I would highly recommend using them.

 

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 a. (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).

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

Audio: Okay. Let's take a poll. Which -- from using this thesis statement below, which gives the best supporting idea for the given thesis statement and the thesis statement below again is “smoking is unhealthy for people of any socioeconomic status or age.” What is the best supporting idea for this given thesis statement? I'll give you -- we'll say about a minute, minute and a half to read these over and to make your vote.

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. Great it appears that the votes are in, a lot of them, and the answer is B, yeah. “Ramkin and Donald 2015 found that smoking negatively affects users of all ages.” So, we’re picking apart part of this thesis statement, right. This thesis statement is looking at how smoking is unhealthy for people of any socioeconomic status or age, so this would be one subpoint, we're specifically focusing on age here. This is how that idea, that source material relates to our thesis statement. The “according to Jones et al.,” the choice A, this is really more background information. This is kind of contextual information that would lead the reader into the piece. “It is important to note that 30 million people worldwide have smoked tobacco,” however this is less building an argument and more informing the reader of current information. It's background information. C is about chewing tobacco. This thesis statement is about smoking so that as you can see gets a little off track there as well.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Audio: Questions, questions about global cohesion?

Beth: Thanks so much Michael. Can you hear me okay?

Michael: Yep, I can hear you.

Beth: Yeah, I wondered if you could talk a little bit about sort of the importance of cohesion and how it fits in a discussion post versus a paper so… and as students are writing papers but they are also writing discussion posts which are shorter. Could you kind of talk about your approach to cohesion flow and how it might look different or the same in those two kind of situations?

Michael: Sure, sure. So, yeah when looking at cohesion on a global level thinking about a longer essay, say, you know, something around 20 pages or so. It might seem there's not a lot of relationship there between that and, say, a discussion post of three to four pages. But essentially you can think of a discussion post kind of as a mini essay. It should have these same elements. It should have an introduction of sorts that leads the reader in, it should have a thesis statement displaying the main points of the, you know, discussion post. It should have some supporting points. So, similarly to a larger essay, cohesion is important in a discussion post and it does work in very much the same way, only in a shorter space. Does that answer the question?

Beth: Yeah, definitely, for sure. We had another question that was a follow-up I think to this one too and the student was asking whether what you're talking about here would also be applicable and be useful for students writing a dissertation or a doctoral study. Would you say that the same applies there, that it applies in that sort of even larger scope as well?

Michael: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. Writing a dissertation or a doctoral study is going to be a larger document, much larger than say 20 pages, but cohesion is still a very important part of this as well. When you think about the sections of your dissertation they're all focused around this one main argument that you're making, so cohesion is still important in that context as well. The difference being that it's going to be a bit more complicated of a document, so in essence I think you're going to have to even pay more attention to cohesion in a larger document like that.

Beth: Yeah, certainly. And I was just going to add too, Michael, thinking about it in terms of like different levels of cohesion. You know, you're providing the global and then we're going to look at the local but I think even in any sort of longer document the longer you get the more you need to think about the cohesion within each section or each chapter or each, you know, whatever the units are for that paper, that split it up. But then also across those sections and across those units and chapters and things like that as well. And that's what it makes it so difficult.

Michael: That’s a great point. Yeah. We’re gonna go on and talk about paragraph cohesion after this, But, if you think in sections of a dissertation as representative in paragraphs here it works the same way. You need to have cohesion within sections and then cohesion on a global level. So, although the sections are bigger in the dissertation, yeah, they still need to have that same cohesion.

Beth: Perfect. Thank you so much. I think that's it for now.

Michael: Okay, cool. Then I will move on.

 

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

  • Global Paper Cohesion
  • Paragraph and Local Cohesion
    • Paragraph structure and organization
    • Use of transitions
    • Language choices
  • Revising for Cohesion

Audio: Yeah, as I mentioned a second ago, we're going to move on from this global cohesion from talking about how to make an entire paper cohesive, an entire project would be better said, cohesive. We're now going to look at more of a paragraph or a local level. We're going to talk about paragraph structure and organization, organizing these body paragraphs in a cohesive way, using transitions to link… to show relationships between body paragraphs or sections of a document. And lastly language choices or word choice, so we're getting even down to a sentence level showing how ideas within a paragraph can build on one another using these kind of linguistic cues, right, showing the relationship between sentences and between ideas using language.

 

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: Yeah, so talk a bit about paragraphing, excuse me, a paragraph -- a paper is really a collection of paragraphs, right, each doing their own thing, each accomplishing one thing and that thing being laying out a certain point of your argument or of your main idea. But, paragraphs should really be strategic. You want to categorize information. When you're looking at an argumentative paper you have subpoints and some of them are going to be stronger argumentative points than others. Think about where these fit within your paper. As always you need to support your evidence. This is so, so elementally important to academic writing. Backing up and supporting your points with scholarly peer-reviewed research is really just the name of the game here, yeah.

One thing that we use a lot in the Writing Center and for body paragraph organization is the MEAL plan and we have a link here for it, it's something there are a number of blog posts on and it's something if you get a Writing Center review that will probably at least be mentioned. But essentially it brakes a body paragraph down into four main parts. You have your main idea. You have your evidence in the form of source material. You have your analysis or your intellectual property, you working with the sources and connecting that source to the main idea. And lastly you have a lead out which gives the reader this sense of conclusion and it kind of tips them off that I'm done discussing this idea, I'm ready to move onto the next one.

 

 

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: Break these down a little bit then, the main idea is just that. It's the… you’re expressing the main idea of the paragraph in a topic sentence. If you can -- it's easy to think of it as kind of a mini thesis or as a thesis statement for the paragraph. In working with students in the Writing Center I feel like I run into students sometimes who think that they need to kind of craft these really detailed and complicated topic sentences. As a general rule, I would say that, you know, something simple as with a thesis statement is more effective. Just plain old stating the main idea is what the topic sentence is meant to do.

Evidence then, you know, bring in some source material, some source usage, a paraphrase, a summary, a quotation, probably more a paraphrase or summary at the level you guys are at, but you're providing some evidence that supports the main idea of the paragraph.

In analysis you're then explaining and analyzing the source information. You're showing the reader explicitly how the source material that you're using connects to the main idea of the paragraph. Yeah, and this is a big part of your writing. This is your own intellectual property. This is your own analysis, your own commentary on what's happening in the essay and how this source material fits within the context of my discussion.

And then lastly in the lead out conclude, like a conclusion only in a paragraph. Leave the reader with a sense of completion, a sense of wholeness and tip them off that you’re… I’m done talking about this idea and I'm going to move onto the next one. Again at the bottom right here we have another resource, a couple resources. You should check out if you're struggling with body paragraph organization or if you want to incorporate MEAL plan organization in your work.

 

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 a chat box for students to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: Then let's chat a little bit about this. Now that you've been introduced to the MEAL plan paragraph structure, take a look at this body paragraph, this sample body paragraph here and I want you to think does this employ the MEAL plan structure. Is this using the MEAL plan or not? What do you think? Feel free to answer in the chat box.

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. I'm seeing some great answers coming into the chat box here.

[Pause as students type.]

Let's take about one more minute and get some other opinions here. What do you guys think? I mean it's pretty -- the opinions that are in the chat box currently don't think this paragraph is doing a very good job with MEAL plan paragraph organization. No M and A, only E and L. I like the way you put that, James.

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. Okay. Yeah, we're going to move on a little bit here, but the consensus is that no, this is not employing the MEAL plan paragraph structure and I would agree. There are a couple missing elements here.

 

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: One, it is missing kind of this topic sentence, this main idea. It jumps right in with this first sentence certain programs allow patients to view their medical records and so on. I'm not going to read the whole thing, but this is source material, right? We're starting with the E, we're starting with evidence. So, what needs to be added here right off the bat is this main idea, is this thesis statement for the paragraph, if that's helpful for you to think of it that way. So, one possible topic sentence that could be employed effectively here is as follows. “Electronic medical records promote patient satisfaction in their ease of access.” So, this is the central idea that's going through all of this -- this whole paragraph, right?

As it was before, I'll go back, you have kind of two pieces of source material stacked upon each other and then just kind of a lead out, an ending. Yeah. Many of  you noticed that there was a lead out there. That the reader is kind of presenting this concluding remark before they move on but other than that it's just two pieces of source material. It's just two paraphrases. It's just evidence. So, we also need that A portion, that analysis, we need to work with the source materials that we have. It's not enough -- and this is something I say to students a lot. It's not enough to just present the source material to the reader. You need to make the connection explicit there is how this source material relates to the main idea of the topic.

Yeah, the analysis added in this case was “the convenience of immediacy spans also to health care professionals who may need to transfer records to other medical situations for a patient's procedure.” So again, we're working with this scholarship. We're adding our own analysis. We're showing the reader how this source material connects to the main idea of the topic and we present them more source material there to support our point and then we lead out. So, it doesn't always have to follow the absolute M-E-A-L. You can you add more evidence and analysis. But this does now fit this general formatting. Again, main idea expressed in a topic sentence, evidence in the way of source material, analysis working with that source material, contextualizing it in the scope of the discussion in this paragraph and then leading the reader out, yeah.

 

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. Transition. I love transitions. This is something that I think is really, really important within writing because this is how you get that line of thought, that flow, that easy transfer from one idea to another that we mentioned -- that I mentioned earlier on in this presentation. Again, they're about showing a relationship between the paragraphs, and you do this I think most effectively in your topic sentence. You may have heard previously that you could also put a transition at the end of a body paragraph, instead of at the beginning of the next body paragraph. I personally find this to be ineffective and here's why:

In a paragraph for it to be cohesive you have one main idea as we just discussed, right? So, you're developing this one idea all the way through your paragraph. When you put a transition at the end of a paragraph you have this main idea going through the whole paragraph and in the end, you mention this other idea. “Oh and this also works in this way for this thing.” What you're doing is you're taking away from the cohesion of that paragraph. You're making that paragraph looser in focus. You're taking something that had one main idea and you're kind of slipping in another idea at the end. Instead of doing this I think a better way to do it is to include a transition in the topic sentence of the next paragraph.

To do this you will refer something from the content of the previous paragraph and then present the main idea. An example of this can be found on the screen currently. So, here’s the end of our hypothetical paragraph, our first paragraph. “Jones (2009) confirmed that the many CEOs have no future plans to offer healthcare benefits to their part-time employees.” Then we have this topic sentence for the next paragraph which includes the transition in full. “Although part-time employees may have difficulty getting benefits, government officials are tackling the issue of health care in other ways.” So, what this does this is a content based transition. You're referring to the content of the previous paragraph and then moving on to the content of this paragraph, of the paragraph you're about to compose and present to the reader. This shows a relationship here, the relationship being these both addressing these difficulties in health care, right? One the government officials are doing it in one way and part-time employees are doing it another way. That's the connection. Referring back to this previous paragraph content again shows this relationship. It links these two paragraphs together. They are not autonomously put on top of each other or next to each other. There is something that connects them. There's relationship there and this again build that line of thought that should go through your essay.

 

Visual: Slide change 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: So now from a paragraph level, from a transition from one main idea to the next main idea, you can also and should also transition within paragraphs using the language within your sentences to show a relationship between ideas, even that are talking about the same main idea. So, here's an example of a sentence without a transition. Or two sentences without a transition linking them. “Fillmore 2015 found that social workers are often overworked. Mitchell and Van surveyed social workers to gain insight in their stress levels.” Although they're both talking about social workers, these are pretty distinct ideas without a transition. They appear almost… they appear completely unrelated. One is talking about how they're overworked, and the other is talking about stress levels. Now, clearly there's a connection between the two. How one perhaps builds off the other or one is caused by the other. But without using transition language there, this is not obvious to the reader. The connection here is not explicit and as always you want the reader to gain this explicit message. You want to be specific and explicit about the message you're putting across.

 

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: So, to put these two sentences together you can do this using transitions that reflect the relationship between these two sentences. There can be a chronological relationship between them. “Jones 2009 found that pigeons were dirty animals. Previously Fillmore 2006 stated that pigeons made great pets.” So, the relationship here is these studies are studying pigeons and you're showing that there's a chronological relationship that one came before the other. And I apologize to any of you pigeon owners out there. Pigeons are fine animals.

You can also display using, again, the word choice within the paragraph, you can show a contradictory relationship. A relationship in which these two sentences don't agree. “Jones 2009 found that pigeons were dirty animals. On the other hand, Fillmore stated that pigeons made great pets.” So, these are contradictory pieces of evidence. One talks about how dirty pigeons are. The other talks about how they make great pets. These two sources don't agree with each other is what I'm saying and you're showing that to the reader with this phrase on the other hand. That's a cue that shows the reader that what's to follow is contradicting what was just read.

You can also show a relationship of concession. “Jones 2009 found that pigeons were dirty animals. Nevertheless Fillmore 2006 stated that pigeons were great pets.” Even though they're dirty, that’s okay, they still make great pets, very much like my dog. But again, you're showing relationship and what this slide is meant to illustrate is that these linguistic cues relay a specific relationship. The words that you use highlights the relationship between these sentences, so choose wisely.

 

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 the students to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: Okay, let's chat again. Add a transition to these sentences to improve their flow. I'll read this one. “Fuller 2012 suggested that students typically reticent to participate in a traditional classroom may feel more comfortable participating in an online classroom 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.” So, yeah, let’s add a transition between these two.  This is a little bit of a longer thing so I'm going to give you guys a few minutes to do this, say, yeah, we’ll say two to three. Think about the relationship between these two sentences and what kind of transition would work the best here. What kind of relationship do you want to show between these two sentences.

[Pause as students type.]

And I guess for sake of ease here you don't need to rewrite all of the… both of the sentences. Perhaps just put the signal phrase that you would use in the chat box or the word that you would use. Again, I know I'm harping on this, but you really want to think about the relationship that you want to highlight here or that's appropriate to highlight here and then choose a word that does that, that shows that relationship, that specific relationship.

[Pause as students type.]

Okay. So furthermore, so you're showing that one piece of information build on another, sure. Additionally, again showing this kind of agreement, this building on one another type thing. However, again however is showing a contradictory relationship that one does not agree with the other. Nevertheless, so a -- what is the word from the previous slide? A conciliatory. You’re conceding. A concession. You're conceding that one may be true, but the other is also true. Yeah. So, there's a number of ways to do this. For the sake of time I think I'm going to move on and talk about the relationship that I see here. Again, the point that I really want to hammer home with you is that words especially in a -- the case of transition, the word that you use really has a strong effect in highlighting the relationship between two ideas or two sentences.

 

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: So, the transitions that I put in here that we at the Writing Center thought were appropriate, “Fuller suggested that students typically reticent to participate in a traditional classroom may feel more comfortable participating in an online class discussion boards. Supporting this view, Evans found that students felt they could express their ideas more clearly…” Yeah, so, “supporting this view,” that's showing one idea is building off of another one. Instead of “supporting this view” you could also say “in a related study, Evans found,” yeah. I would also argue that “furthermore” would be a good one. “Additionally,” I saw in chat box, I think would be a good one. The relationship that I see here is that they agree with each other and that this works build one from the other. So, showing that they agree and that they support one another, they have the same findings essentially is the relationship that I think is necessary here and that you want to highlight with your transitional phrase.

 

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: Some more of these, to show addition: you could say also, moreover, furthermore, additionally, first, second, third. These are kind of some stock linguistic phrases like first, second, third transitions but they're great. They show an order. They show an addition. One build from the other.

 Concession: however, in spite of, nevertheless. Yeah, you're conceding one point but also offering another.

Causation: hence, accordingly, consequently, subsequently, because of, therefore. Excuse me. So again, you're showing that that one thing is caused by another thing. Yeah, and you can do this by using specific language.

Summation: although, finally, in conclusion, hence, consequently. Yeah, these are linguistic cues to show the reader that what’s to follow is going to be a summation, you're going to be summing up. Yeah. Personally, I would stay away from “in conclusion” because I think it's overused but again that's a stylistic choice, but you're showing that you’re about to sum up, you’re cueing the reader and showing them that what's to follow is some concluding remarks.

 

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

  • Global Paper Cohesion
  • Paragraph and Local Cohesion
  • Revising for Cohesion
    • How do you know it flows?

Audio: How do you know if it flows, so yeah, let's talk about some revising, some revision strategies for cohesion.

 

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 screen shot of a manuscript.]

Audio: And one really great one is to read things out loud. This allows you to get a bit of an arm's length from your own writing. When you read something out loud where you get tripped up, where you have to pause or reread something. That's a pretty good indication that the reader, your audience is also going to be tripped up there and that some revision is necessary in terms of flow. So, yeah, I recommend this to students all the time. Read your work out loud or have someone else read it out loud to you.

Academic writing on a broad level is about successfully taking the ideas that are in your head and putting them on a page, so that someone can understand them the way that you understand them, the way that you want them to understand them. So, reading that out loud and getting a perspective for how the reader is gaining this message is really important and a great strategy. Again, where you get tripped up, the reader probably does too.

And another good strategy for this is by visually reviewing for this balance within paragraphs. If you come across a paragraph that has, say it's about a half a page long and it has six citations in it, this is a pretty good indication that you're relying too much on source material. And you don't want to do this because you're essentially allowing others to make your argument for you. I tell my students that for every line of source material that you use, you should probably have at least two to three lines of analysis. This is a good balance. Source material on a broad level are meant to support your points, so you still need to make your points. The majority of the piece should be your own thoughts, your own analysis, so if you come across sections that are all source material, this is, again, a good indication that you need to do some revision and to add some of your own thoughts.

 

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. So, with the last ten minutes we're going to open this up to some more questions from Beth here. But if you don't, if you think of a question later, by all means e-mail this writing support e-mail and they will get back to you and also check out these other recording webinars about other academic writing topics that may be useful to you. But yeah, let her rip. What questions do you have, Beth?

Beth: Thanks so much, Michael. One question we have is about transitions and I wondered if you could talk about drawbacks with using transitions. Or maybe, this is sort of a leading question a little bit, but too many transitions. Could you talk about that a little bit?

Michael: Okay, let me see. So, draw backs to transition and pitfalls in using too many transitions?

Beth: Yeah, potentially. Like is there such a thing as too many transitions. How to kind of think about that a little bit.

Michael: Okay, yeah, yeah. Well in general transitions are important and good to use because they show relationships between your ideas. I would say that if transitions are in any way getting in the way of your main point, then they are -- if they're taking away from the cohesion of your piece or taking away from the reader's understanding of your main point or main argument then you're using too many transitions. Yeah, typically speaking I don't know there's any kind of number, don't use five transitions in a paragraph. You know, there's nothing like that. But if it starts to get away from the main idea, if it starts to take away from your use of evidence or your use of analysis, then yeah, perhaps you're using too many. But I haven't really encountered that very often.

Beth: Good. Good to hear. Cool. I think I'm trying to think of other than that the other questions that we had, you really covered so far. I guess maybe it's just a matter of us wrapping up for the day, Michael, and any other tips or suggestions that you have that you want to leave students with.

Michael: Okay. Sure, sure. Tips about cohesion. Yeah, I think I would really point students to one, outlining because it allows you to kind of see where you're going to go, right? I had a writing instructor once after I wrote -- it was actually my capstone piece about 35 pages long and she said, you know, now that you're written this, take the first sentence of your conclusion, put it above your thesis statement and rewrite the whole thing. She said, you should do this because now that you know where you're going, you can get there easier and in a better way. This made a lot of sense to me and I think outlining can provide some of the same roadmap for students as they're composing a piece, So, organizing your thoughts in an outline can really show you where you're going and allow you to get there in the most effective way. The other tip I would have is to really read your work out loud. This is something that although overlooked and verbally out loud. Not just read it in your head. Reading it out loud does highlight some of these issues with clarity, with cohesion and flow, obviously, but also with some sentence-level stuff, some punctuation things and I think that is overall just a really good strategy as you're moving into revision or editing your paper I think I would recommend all students to do that.

Beth: That's great. And actually, that made me think of something, Michael. I just want to make sure this gets across, too. You're kind of saying too while you can do some of this cohesion and flow stuff while you're writing, it's really in the revision and going back that you can really refine and incorporate a lot of these things to look for. Is that accurate, is that what you would say?

Michael: Yeah, you know, I would. I would. And I think this gets at another idea that, you know, nobody writes a perfect draft right away. You start with a kind of complication of stuff and returning to that in a recursive process, which writing is, and making it better each time does just that. It makes it better, and so keeping ideas of cohesion and flow in mind as you're revising is a good time to do that I think. I think you can -- yeah, I think once you have the main ideas, then stitching them together becomes easier, so to answer your question, yes.

Beth: Wonderful. Good, good. That sounds great. Well, I don't see any other questions coming in, Michael, so I think we're going to go ahead and wrap it up here and I'll just say thank you so much for a fantastic presentation. I'm seeing lots of thank-yous coming in the Q & A box which is good to see. And I’ll say, everyone thank you so much for attending. A couple of reminders here we do have that e-mail address if you think of questions afterwards, feel free to reach out to us. And we also have other webinars that would be useful for you. We have a couple of links here. And actually, Claire had reminded us earlier, and I forgot to grab the link, but there's also the “engaging your reader with sentence structure” webinar, it’s under our grammar section. But if you're looking for more ways to incorporate transitions and cohesion, things like that—Oh, it look like Claire posted it, wonderful. So, you can see that link in the Q & A box as well, so do take a look at those other webinars for further information and learning, and that's it for us today. We hope to see you at another webinar coming up in the next couple of weeks and happy writing, everyone.