Cohesion and Coherence

Coherence is the logical organisation of your ideas. Does it make sense?

Cohesion is how your ideas are linked or connected. Does it flow? Have you repeated yourself?

Apart from the content, most academic writing focuses on the coherence and cohesion of your writing.

There are various ‘cohesive devices’ that you can use to improve the overall cohesion of your writing.  These include:

  • CONJUNCTION includes listing words such as, "firstly", "next", "lastly"; linkers for addition(e.g. "moreover", "and", "also"); concession(e.g. "but", "however", "despite"); and cause and effect (e.g. "so", "because, "as a result").

  • LEXIS is a way of creating cohesion using: synonyms (e.g. "beautiful" for "lovely"); hyponyms and superordinates (e.g. "daffodil", "rose" and "daisy", are all hyponyms of the superordinate "flower"). Lexical chains are created in a text by using words in the same lexical set (e.g. "army", "soldiers", "barracks", "weapons"). These techniques allow for the central themes to be reiterated in a way that avoids monotony for the reader.

  • ELLIPSIS is when we omit words because they are understood from the context (e.g. "John can type and I can [type] too!", "I don't want to go out, do you?" [want to go out] 

  • SUBSTITUTION uses a word/phrase to replace a word/phrase used earlier. For instance "the one(s)" and "the same" can be used to replace nouns (e.g. "I'll have the same."). Verbs can be replaced by "do" (e.g. "The authorities said they had acted, but nobody believed they had done."). In speaking, whole clauses can be replaced by, "so" or "not" (e.g. "I hope so/not.").

  • REFERENCE is a way of creating cohesion using determiners (e.g. "this", "that", "these" and "those"); pronouns (e.g. "him", "them", "me"); possessive pronouns (e.g."your", "their", "hers"); relative pronouns (e.g. "which","who", "whose"). This type of cohesion can also be achieved comparatively with expressions like: "similarly", "likewise", "less".

  • COHESIVE NOUNS are a kind of lexical reference. They can summarise many words in one (e.g. "attitude", "solution", "difficulty"), and have been called 'umbrella' nouns for this reason (Bailey 2006:150). They are used to signal what is to come (e.g. "the problem to be discussed..."), or can refer back (e.g. "The issue mentioned above...").