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Capstone Multilingual Writing Tip of the Month Blog: Blog

March 2019: Cohesion

by Paul Lai on 2019-03-01T00:00:00-06:00 | Comments

When revising your capstone document, be sure to take the time to check for cohesion. Clear writing is cohesive, and one idea flows to the next. Too much repetition can become cumbersome to the reader; however, word choice and sentence structure can be used purposefully to create an overall cohesive text. Here are some tips to improve cohesion in a capstone document:

  1. Remember that American academic writing tends to be linear in structure, and the relationships between the ideas are explicitly stated. See the Capstone Multilingual Writer’s Kit and the section on Following the Expected Rhetorical Structure (Organization) of American Academic Writing for more information.
  2. Refer back to the main idea/the research questions throughout the manuscript. Remind the reader periodically how what you are explaining relates back to the main idea/research questions.
  3. Follow the MEAL plan for paragraph organization, ensuring that each of your paragraphs has a clear topic sentence and that there is only one main idea per paragraph.
  4. Use transitional expressions both between and within paragraphs to show how one idea relates to another. Here are some examples of transitions:
    • To show addition: and, also, besides, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, next, too, first, second
    • To give examples: for example, for instance, to illustrate, in fact, specifically
    • To compare: also, in the same manner, similarly, likewise
    • To contrast: but, however, on the other hand, in contrast, nevertheless, still, even though, on the contrary, yet, although
    • To summarize or conclude: in other words, in short, in summary, in conclusion, to sum up, that is, therefore
    • To show time: after, as, before, next, during, later, finally, meanwhile, since, then, when, while, immediately
    • To show place or direction: above, below, beyond, farther on, nearby, opposite, close, to the left
    • To indicate logical relationship: if, so, therefore, consequently, thus, as a result, for this reason, because, since
  5. Use parallel sentence structures. In a parallel sentence, the ideas have a similar grammatical structure. For example,
    • In this chapter, I explain the research design, the rationale, and the variables.
    • The medium effect size allowed for analysis that was neither too strict nor too lenient in assessing relationships between the variables.
  6. Use verb tenses with purpose. APA calls for consistency and accuracy in verb tense usage (see APA 7 Section 4.12 and Table 4.1). In other words, avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense within a paragraph or in adjacent paragraphs to help ensure smooth expression and cohesion. In addition, to preview what is coming in the document or to explain what is happening at that moment, use the present or future tense. To refer back to information already covered, such as summaries of discussions that have already taken place or conclusions to chapters/sections, use the past tense.
  7. Repeat key words. Sometimes repeating a key word helps to create cohesion within the text. For example,
    • A case study allows the researcher to analyze an individual or a small group of individuals. Such studies often result in a narrative description of the behavior or experience.
  8. Use synonyms. When repeating key words would create too much repetition, try a synonym instead. Use the thesaurus in Microsoft Word (under the Review tab) or an online dictionary to search for synonyms. Be cautious, however, of accepting a new word without fully understanding the meaning. Not all the options may be true synonyms.
  9. Use pronouns and demonstrative adjectives when they clearly refer back to the antecedent. Their use can increase cohesion but be sure to avoid ambiguity in attribution (see APA 7, Section 4.16). In other words, the reader should not have to guess what the pronoun or demonstrative adjective refers back to. For example,
    • Researchers established an interview protocol. That process has now been tested.
    • Cooley and Lewkowicz (2003) commented on the importance of the abstract. They asserted that the abstract is generally the first thing readers will notice (Cooley & Lewkowicz, 2003).

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