How Ideas Are Connected in a Text

Instructor: Jennifer Hays

Jenny has taught college English and has a Mater's degree in English and another Master's degree in Secondary Education.

The lesson will focus on describing strategies used for ensuring coherence and cohesion in a historical text. It will help readers to learn how both are used, while using examples from an American History and World History text.

Coherence vs. Cohesion

Understanding what we are reading is an important aspect as we develop our reading comprehension skills. However, have you ever thought about how ideas are connected within a text or how the sentences themselves are constructed? Coherence and cohesion are two examples of the elements of a text that can influence our comprehension.


But first, what are coherence and cohesion? First, let's look at coherence. Many aspects go into defining coherence. These include how easily your writing can be understood by others, the organization of your writing, strategies used to make an argument, and other devices, such as developing strong topic sentences for each paragraph. How effective you are at developing and delivering your ideas in a text all contribute to how understandable your writing is to others. One easy way to remember this is that coherence means to make sense. If our writing uses effective ideas, strategies, and organization in the text, it will be coherent and make sense to other readers.

Let's look at an example from Martin Luther King, Jr's I Have a Dream speech. Notice how Dr. King organizes his ideas in this excerpt.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

By using argument strategies such as repeating 'one hundred years ago' or describing African-Americans as 'languishing in exile in the corners of American society', Dr. King uses a strong argument strategy to make his speech more persuasive. For example, repeating a phrase can emphasize a point. This is called repetition. The author also uses pathos, or an argument strategy that creates an emotional reaction, by stating that African Americans have 'languished in exile'. Using these persuasive techniques creates strong coherence in Dr. King's speech.

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