Writing: Cohesion in Arguments
Now that you have an outline or idea of what you want to write, you can begin writing your draft. Your writing should be organized, developed, accurate, and original. It is always important to develop your ideas with accurate details, but in an argumentative essay, it is especially important that your development and ideas are organized in a logical way. You will need good cohesion for your reader to best understand your argument.
Cohesion is when the ideas in writing logically flow from one idea to the next idea. Writing paragraphs that have good sequencing will help your readers understand your ideas more clearly. Sometimes you will have a clear order that relates to time. Sometimes you will have an order from least important or impactful to most important or impactful. Sometimes the order is more flexible and there is not one perfect way to sequence the sentences.
Cohesion may happen at the sentence, paragraph, or essay level. You will need cohesion between parts of a sentence, between sentences in a paragraph, and between paragraphs in an essay. Compare the examples of paragraph-level cohesion below. The first paragraph has poor cohesion. Some details may seem to suddenly appear or the ideas may seem to jump around.
Example: Body Paragraph (Poor Cohesion)
Music should be a required subject at all schools because it helps students' brains. The process of learning and practicing music may provide mental exercise for students. "[Music] [i]s based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but your brain has to do a log of computing to make sense of it" (John Hopkins Medicine, 2022, para. 6). One proven effect is improved syllable distinguishing. Scientists from Standford used fMRI research to show that musicians recognized syllables faster than non-musicians (Devlin, 2005). Their brains work better than others. There are possible ways that require more research such as the effect of music on how the brain processes math. Therefore, they should be provided opportunities to study music in school.
Example: Body Paragraph (Revised for Cohesion)
Music should be a required subject at all schools because it helps students' brains. The process of learning and practicing music may provide mental exercise for students. As John Hopkins Medicine explains, "[Music] [i]s based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but your brain has to do a log of computing to make sense of it" (2022, para. 6). How exactly music may benefit the brain is still being studied. One proven effect is improved syllable distinguishing. Scientists from Standford used fMRI research to show that musicians recognized syllables faster than non-musicians (Devlin, 2005). This is just one way music helps musicians' brains work better than non-musicians'. There are other possible ways that require more research such as the effect of music on how the brain processes math. Therefore, for students to exercise their brains, they should be provided opportunities to study music in school.
Cohesion throughout Your Essay
To write with cohesion, you will need to write with 'logical flow'. However, 'logical flow' may be different by culture. In American-style academic essays, the flow of an argument is very direct. It is like a straight river from point A to point B. There are no bends or deviations. Maybe the river is long; it might be from point A to point Z, but it will still flow directly. This can be seen at the essay level getting from the introduction ideas to the conclusion ideas, or it can be seen at the paragraph level going from the topic sentence to the concluding sentence. It can also be seen at the sentence level going from one idea in a word, phrase, or clause to the next idea in a word, phrase or clause.
Image: 2022 Barraza
Here you can see two paragraphs as rivers.
The first paragraph has clear cohesion between all the sentences. The idea that ends the sentence starts the next one as shown with the arrows. Where help understanding the connection is needed a cohesive device is used as shown with the boxed words. There is even cohesion with what would be other paragraphs because "one reason" implies that the other body paragraphs will look at other reasons public transportation is good.
The second version of the paragraph has all the same sentences as the first, but it also has two extra sentences, B1 and C1. These sentences seem a little connected with the topics of the previous sentences; they talk about dollars and gas. However, they don't really connect with the sentence that follows after them. So the reader may be confused why the writer went in a different direction for a while if it didn't really help the main idea of the paragraph.
There is also one last pattern of poor cohesion that is not shown in this image which is when the paragraph goes completely off-topic. For example, if the paragraph started talking about conversion rates between the dollar and the Euro and then what factors contribute to that and how the Euro compares to the Yen and so on. This leaves the main idea behind and is like a separate river splitting off to go in a different direction.
For an American-style academic essay, try to keep the river of thought flowing directly to the conclusion.
Let's look at how sentences might have cohesion with one another.
Example Using Sequencing
1) Sentence 1 = idea A then idea B. Fake Christmas trees should be banned.
2) Sentence 2 = idea B then idea C. They should be banned because they are plastic.
3) Sentence 3 = idea C then idea D. Plastic is harmful to the environment.
Notice how the idea that finishes one sentence starts the next sentence. If we were to take out sentence 2 and just say "Fake Christmas trees should be banned. Plastic is harmful to the environment.", the reader might infer the connection between the two sentences. However, the sentences in this example are simple sentences with simple ideas. With longer more complex sentences containing many ideas, your reader might not be able to infer the connection and would just be confused. It would seem like you jumped from one idea to a completely unrelated idea.
The sentences connect through the order or sequencing of ideas. The B idea of the first sentence is repeated or referenced in some way at the start of the next sentence to show how the ideas are connected. If an idea isn’t repeated or the next sentence is just idea C, then a cohesive device (word or phrase such as those from the list below) is needed to show how the ideas connect.
Example with Cohesive Device
1) Sentence 1 = idea A then idea B. Fake Christmas trees should be banned.
2) Sentence 2 = idea C. The parts of these trees are made from plastic.
3) Sentence 3 = idea C then idea D. Plastic is harmful to the environment.
In this version, there is no repeat or reference to idea B, so a cohesive device is needed. While students often think cohesive devices can only be adverbs or subordinating conjunctions, there are also many other possibilities such as the demonstrative pronoun "these" used in this sentence. "These" shows that the trees being talked about in sentence 2 are the same trees from sentence 1. This shows the connection between the ideas of sentence 1 and the ideas of sentence 2.
For more information about cohesive devices, see "Cohesive Devices" at the end of this section.
Exercise 7.22: Identify logical order of sentences
Each of these sentences combines to make a paragraph. On a piece of paper, write a number for each sentence A-E to show a logical order for sequencing the supporting sentences.
Topic Sentence: Robots are becoming more advanced with advances in technology.
- NASA has robots in space that "are performing tasks with sub-millimeter precision" (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2015, para. 3).
- Today's robots are very powerful.
- On the other hand, the robots of twenty years ago were not able to do as much or make such exact movements.
- In addition to being powerful, today's robots are also very precise.
- Robots in the United Kingdom, for example, were strong enough to harvest five tons of barley from a farm run by robots last year (Pultarova, 2017).
Conclusion Sentence: With the amazing advances we have seen recently, it is very likely that robots will continue to improve and become capable of doing even more.
Exercise 7.23: Insert a sentence
The underlined numbers represent places where the bolded sentence could be inserted into the paragraph. Choose the most logical place to insert the bolded sentence below.
Even though all people have different lives and circumstances, stress is universal because it has so many different causes.
1 Everyone experiences stress. 2 Some of these causes include health, relationships, life changes, and conflicts between your beliefs and your values ("Causes of Stress," 2018). 3 Regardless of the cause, everyone should understand stress because they will have to know how to handle it. 4
Exercise 7.24: Identify misplaced sentences
Read the original paragraph. Identify the sentences that seem to be out of place. Then compare the original to the revised version.
The skin is one of the most important lines of protection that the human body has against infection. If a germ makes it past the skin, the body has several mechanisms in place to destroy it. For example, the body uses white blood cells to find and destroy germs that enter the body ("Components of the Immune System," 2015). These mechanisms don't always work quickly enough to prevent people from becoming sick, but they do begin fighting the bacteria or virus and help people recover. In order to become infected, either bacteria or viruses have to enter the body. The skin prevents this from happening most of the time, as we encounter thousands—if not millions—of germs every day. Thus, the skin is one of the best ways to protect the body from germs because it blocks the majority of them.
The skin is one of the most important lines of protection that the human body has against infection. In order to become infected, either bacteria or viruses have to enter the body. The skin prevents this from happening most of the time, as we encounter thousands—if not millions—of germs every day. If a germ makes it past the skin, the body has several mechanisms in place to destroy it. For example, the body uses white blood cells to find and destroy germs that enter the body ("Components of the Immune System," 2015). These mechanisms don't always work quickly enough to prevent people from becoming sick, but they do begin fighting the bacteria or virus and help people recover. Thus, the skin is one of the best ways to protect the body from germs because it blocks the majority of them.
Exercise 7.25: Revise for cohesion
Revise the paragraph for cohesion.
The languages spoken in Haiti and the Dominican Republic are one evidence of their distinct cultures. On one side of the island, they speak French, while on the other side they speak Spanish. Interestingly, both of these languages were imported, and they are both "...the result of centuries of European colonization and numerous power struggles" (Silver, 2010, para. 3). The indigenous people of the island originally spoke Taino. However, France and Spain both established colonies, bringing their languages with them. There are a few words of Taino that remained in Spanish like huracán (tornado) and maíz (corn) (Reichard, 2017). Due to these new influences, most of the native Taino language was conquered. Both sides of the island are certainly distinct because they now have different languages.
One way to improve the cohesion of your writing is by using cohesive devices properly. There are many types of cohesive devices: pronouns, adjectives, determiners, prepositions, conjunctions, repeated words, transition words, etc.
Some cohesive devices show certain relationships between ideas, like showing contrast or a cause/ effect relationship.
|Another||Another reason to use public transportation is that it is reliable.|
|Also||Public transportation is also reliable.|
|Besides||Besides being efficient, public transportation is reliable.|
|In addition||In addition to being efficient, public transportation is reliable.|
|First, second, etc.||Second, public transportation is reliable.|
|Both||The two sports share both a wide fan base and a name.|
The two sports share a wide fan base. Likewise, they share a name.
|Similarly||The two sports share a wide fan base. Similarly, they share a name.|
|However||RNA is able to leave the nucleus of the cell. However, DNA isn't.|
RNA is able to leave the nucleus of the cell. In contrast, DNA isn't.
|On the other hand||RNA is able to leave the nucleus of the cell. On the other hand, DNA isn't.|
|Whereas||Whereas RNA is able to leave the nucleus of the cell, DNA isn't.|
|Yet||RNA is able to leave the nucleus of the cell, yet DNA isn't.|
|Thus||Excessive stress weakens the body, thus making it easier to get sick.|
|As a consequence||Excessive stress weakens the body. As a consequence, stress makes it easier to get sick.|
|Therefore||Excessive stress weakens the body. Therefore, stress makes it easier to get sick.|
|As a result||Excessive stress weakens the body. As a result, stress makes it easier to get sick.|
|Consequently||Excessive stress weakens the body. Consequently, stress makes it easier to get sick.|
|An example of||Squats are an example of exercises that strengthen our muscles|
|For instance||Many exercises strengthen our muscles. For instance, squats are an exercise that improve muscle strength in your legs.|
|To illustrate||Many exercises strengthen our muscles. To illustrate, consider how your muscles are strengthened when you do an exercise like squats.|
Exercise 7.26: Identify connectors
1. The following research comes from an article by Peri (2018). If you wanted to include all of this research in a body paragraph, what kind of cohesive device could you use? Write the type of cohesive device on the line below.
- Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning.
- Lack of sleep impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.
- Various sleep cycles play a role in "consolidating" memories in the mind.
- If you don't get enough sleep, you won't be able to remember what you learned.
2. The following research comes from an article by DiSalvo (2017). If you wanted to include all of this research in a body paragraph, what kind of cohesive device could you use? Write the type of cohesive device on the line below.
- Controlling your breathing calms your mind
- Breathing regulates your blood
- Counting breaths taps into the brain's emotional control regions.
- The rhythm of your breathing affects
- Controlled breathing may boost the immune
3.The following research comes from an article by Jacobs (2017). If you wanted to include all of this research in a body paragraph, what kind of cohesive devices could you use? Write the type of cohesive device on the line below.
- To give someone a business card, a Japanese business person will hold the card with two hands as she passes the card to the costumer. The card should be studied and discussed as part of the conversation.
- When an American business person passes a business card to another person, they do not hold it with two hands, and they may not even have a card with them. Many millennials prefer to have business contacts go to their LinkedIn Failure to present a business card is not offensive in American culture.
Exercise 7.27: Draft a body paragraph
Fill in between the sources with your own commentary to draft a body paragraph about why people should meditate. Use cohesive devices to connect your commentary to the ideas in each source.
TS: It has been proven that meditation reduces stress significantly.
- Meditating for 10 minutes each day has been shown to reduce mental stress and anxiety because it changes the chemicals in the brain (Andrews, 2016).
- Georgetown University Medical Center researchers say people who practiced mindfulness meditation had "sharply reduced stress-hormone and inflammatory responses to a stressful situation," while those who took a non-meditation stress management course had poor responses (Scott, 2014, para. 3).
- College students who practiced meditation were better able to put their demands into perspective and moderate their stress response (Jones, 2017).
Devlin, K. (2005, November 26). Musical ability and the brain [Radio broadcast transcript]. NPR. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5028224 (Accessed: 9 December 2022)
John Hopkins Medicine. (2022, April 13). Keep your brain young with music. Keep Your Brain Young with Music | Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/keep-your-brain-young-with-music#:~:text=It%20provides%20a%20total%20brain,%2C%20mental%20alertness%2C%20and%20memory
iSeeCars, & Nexstar Media Wire. (2022, February 28). How high is the average used car price in Utah? ABC4 Utah. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from https://www.abc4.com/news/how-high-is-the-average-used-car-price-in-utah/
XE.com. (2022). 1 USD to EUR - convert US dollars to euros. 1 USD to EUR - US Dollars to Euros Exchange Rate. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=1&From=USD&To=EUR
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