The July Writing Workshop has reached its half-way point. Here’s a sneak look at what we covered yesterday – how to create cohesion and coherence in your essays:
Today is a really important lesson. In the workshop exercises to date, quite a few students have drifted away from the outlines and guidance we have provided, perhaps lapsing into long-established writing habits. While that is understandable, it is also likely that these habits will prevent you from achieving your 7+ score. Today, we will illustrate why it is very important that you should closely follow the approach we are developing.
There is nothing more frustrating for an IELTS student than to be told that “you need to improve your cohesion and coherence”. How exactly is an improvement in these elements achieved?
The answer is that cohesion and coherence cannot really be studied as separate elements of writing. They are developed as part of the structure of your essay, its paragraphs and sentences.
The good news for you is that this workshop has been teaching you cohesion and coherence since Day 1 – you just didn’t realise it. The essay outlines, topic sentences, paragraph structures and sentence counts we have shown you are all designed to ensure that your essays are both cohesive and coherent.
To illustrate, let’s look at one of the essays that I have built up over the last few days in response to this prompt:
Many processed foods and ready-made meals contain preservatives and chemicals. What are the advantages to this? Do you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
I haven’t actually done an introduction for this prompt yet, so I need to add that. This is an advantages/disadvantages prompt so I will use Outline B, with a context/paraphrase/thesis introduction, as follows:
Food safety is an increasing concern in many countries. Many processed and convenience foods today contain additives and preservatives. In this essay I will argue that the advantages of adding chemicals to such foods outweigh the disadvantages.
Some people argue that there are significant problems associated with adding chemicals and preservatives to food. They are convinced that adding foreign substances to foods can have unanticipated effects on our health. Some chemicals used as food preservatives, such as MSG, have only been developed in recent years and so the long-term effects of consumption are unknown. Moreover, the long shelf life that preservatives and chemicals provide has an impact on local economies. Chemically-preserved foods can be transported over long distances and stored for lengthy periods, meaning they are widely-available at all times of years. For the producers of fresh, organic produce it is extremely difficult to compete with the convenience of processed foods, and so the livelihoods of such people is placed at risk.
I believe, however, that the advantages associated with using chemicals and preservatives in food outweigh the disadvantages. Firstly, by extending the shelf life of many foods, preservatives permit suppliers to sell foods at a significantly reduced cost. Perishable foods must be sold quickly, or they will spoil, and suppliers allow for this in their pricing models. By extending the period before foods must be withdrawn from sale, food preservatives place many foods within the reach of more people. Secondly, chemical additives in foods often protect us from potentially harmful bacteria. Treating food with chemicals is often intended to prevent the growth of dangerous fungi that pose a health risk. In the case of bacteria such as E Coli, the risk is not only of illness but even of death. Treating foods in order to protect consumers from the risks of food poisoning is an essential aspect of food safety.
In conclusion, the economic and health advantages of using chemicals and preservatives in food easily outweigh any disadvantages. Low-cost, non-perishable food may well hold the key to eliminating hunger in those countries unable to produce sufficient food to feed their own people.
OK, now here is the official IELTS scoring rubric for a 7 score in cohesion and coherence:
- logically organises information and ideas; there is clear progression throughout
- uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use
- presents a clear central topic within each paragraph
The Outline B structure gives a logical overall organization, while the approach of starting from the general and moving to the specific via short, clear topic sentences that do not attempt to answer the question in one sentence gives us organization within paragraphs
The simple and clear language of our introduction gives us a base for progression. We then use BP1 language to make it clear we are not presenting our own view, followed by BP2 with our own view. This is a logical progression, and you can see at every point where the essay is heading.
I have underlined the cohesive devices. Notice that I have used a couple of different ones – I have not repeated firstly/secondly or any of the other devices in both paragraphs. I have also not used too many cohesive devices – it is easy to overuse such devices and end up with the “mechanical” cohesion that scores a 6 for CC.
A couple of subtleties here:
- My use of “they” in BP1 is an advanced cohesive device, linking to the reference to “some people” in the previous sentence. This can work for you too, but ONLY if you follow the guidance around writing a clear and simple topic sentence. If the topic sentence is complex, it is much harder to correctly refer to it in the next sentence.
- I moved “however” away from the start of the sentence in BP2. This small change means that my cohesive device is more advanced, moving toward the level where cohesion is managed so well that it is not noticeable (a 9 score CC requirement).
Here is a video by Ben McBride giving further details on how to create cohesion and coherence……………………………………
Our August workshop will be starting soon. For more information, message me at http://www.facebook.com/ieltsguy.
There are no exercises today. Rest assured that you are already learning how to write in a manner that will score you a 7+ for CC!
Tomorrow we will explain strategies for maximizing your