6.2 Cohesive devices - 6 Paragraph development: achieving flow

Academic Writing for International Students of Science - Jane Bottomley 2015

6.2 Cohesive devices
6 Paragraph development: achieving flow

There should be logical connections between the ideas in a paragraph. These logical connections can be indicated through the organisation and grammar of the text, and sometimes by the use of particular words and phrases. Look back at the paragraphs you formed in 6.1.2 on lighting and climate change.

How were you able to make logical connections between the sentences?

Did the grammar or particular words/phrases help you to link the sentences/ideas together?

You should notice that there are many ways to indicate logical connections in a text; it is not just a case of adding lots of ’linking words’ like however (although these can help if used with care and precision).

Explorative Task

1) Look again at the texts from 6.1.2 repeated below. This time, some examples of cohesion have been highlighted. Consider how these words/phrases help you to make logical connections between the ideas. Find examples of:

the use of repetition and synonyms

the use of pronouns and other expressions to refer back to what has been said

the use of linking expressions

Text A

Infectious diseases remain a major threat to global animal and human health. Recent examples (1) include the 2002 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in the UK, the 2003 global epidemic of SARS and the threat of an influenza pandemic. The control of infectious diseases (2) in animals and humans is a problem that needs to be addressed by scientists, veterinarians, healthcare workers, economists, social scientists and policy makers.

Text B

Unless a patient needing an organ has an identical twin, there will always be immunological differences between the patient and the transplanted organ. These differences (3) are immediately recognised by the recipient’s immune system, and, depending on how closely the donor and recipient were matched, cause a reaction intended to destroy the transplanted organ. Consequently (4), transplant patients are placed on drug regimens designed to lessen the immune response against the organ to prevent rejection. These drugs (5) reduce the chances of rejection by diminishing the patients’ overall immune capability. However (6), this causes the patient to be more susceptible to infection.

Text C

The Capsicum family includes a wide variety of peppers ranging from the large sweet peppers to the fiery (7) chilli peppers. Chilli peppers derive their (8) hotness (9) from capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin (members of the capsaicinoid family), and restaurants specializing in ’hot’ (10) foods owe much to these molecules of nature (11). They (12) work by interacting with the same receptors in your mouth that (13) sense heat (14). Excessive amounts of capsaicin (15) are toxic because capsaicin (16) prevents the production of certain neurotransmitters and affects the function of neuroproteins in the brain. At high enough concentrations, capsaicin (17) destroys ’substance P’ in the nervous system. This effect (18) has now been harnessed for medical use: ’substance P’ is associated with the pain suffered by people with, for example, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and application of a cream containing capsaicin (19) results in pain relief.

The paragraphs above use a range of cohesive devices to link ideas together. These are listed below with examples from the texts:

1) repetition of words and phrases: (2) (15) (16) (17) (19)

2) the use of synonyms: (7) and (10); (9) and (14)

3) the use of ’ellipsis’, i.e. when words are left out because they are understood through what has gone before (1)

4) the use of pronouns, including relative pronouns ( 4.2.4), to refer back to nouns (8) (12) (13)

5) the use of this/these + noun (occasionally that/those) to refer back to nouns (3) (5)

6) the use of linking words/phrases (4) (6)

2) Add more examples to the list above from the paragraph below.

The body can defend itself against infection by using two types of immune response, the innate (20) and the adaptive (21). The innate immune response (22) is available to us when we are born and is nonspecific, where nonspecific means that this response (23) can react against any infection or pathogen. In contrast (24), the adaptive immune response (25) is specific, meaning that it responds against a specific pathogen. The adaptive immune response (26) also has the gift of ’memory’, which (27) allows it (28) to remember any pathogen it (29) reacted against in the past and to respond quickly and powerfully if that pathogen (30) returns.

(Strelkauskas et al., 2010: 325)

Study Box: Ways to improve cohesion

1) When you refer back to a noun mentioned earlier in the text, consider whether you should use a pronoun, for example it/them, or whether you need to repeat the word to avoid vagueness or ambiguity. Do not be afraid of some repetition as it often aids clarity and can be used elegantly ( 5.3 on parallel structures); this is not the same as redundancy, where words are repeated through a lack of conciseness, or information is repeated because the text does not have a clear, linear structure.

2) If you decide to use a synonym, make sure it really is a synonym!

3) When you refer back to something earlier in the text, think about whether you should use a singular or plural pronoun, e.g. it or them/this or these.

4) Use linking words carefully and precisely to add real meaning; do not use them as decoration!

Practice (i)

Complete the text, by choosing from the pronouns below, so that it is grammatical and makes sense:



One of the most energetic explosive events known is a supernova. These occur at the end of a star’s lifetime, when (1) _____ nuclear fuel is exhausted and (2) _____ is no longer supported by the release of nuclear energy. If the star is particularly massive, then (3) _____ core will collapse and in so doing will release a huge amount of energy. (4) _____ will cause a blast wave (5) _____ ejects the star’s envelope into interstellar space. The result of the collapse may be, in some cases, a rapidly rotating neutron star that can be observed many years later as a radio pulsar.

(High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Centre, Supernova)

Practice (ii)

Select the best option to complete the text so that it flows easily.

Taking omega-3 fish oils could help to protect against skin cancer, Manchester researchers have found. (1) The researchers/They analysed the effect of taking (2) omega-3/it on healthy volunteers and found a regular dose boosted skin immunity to sunlight. (3) Omega-3/It also reduced sunlight-induced suppression of the immune system, (4) it/which affects the body’s ability to fight skin cancer and infection.

Professor Lesley Rhodes, from the Photobiology Unit Dermatology Centre, based at the School of Medicine and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said: ’Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, (5) it/they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking (6) omega-3/it could reduce the risk of cancer over an individual’s lifetime.’

(7) Professor Lesley Rhodes/She added that (8) omega-3/it was not a substitute for sunscreen and physical protection, but should be regarded as an additional small measure to help protect skin from sun damage.

(Unilife, 2013: 10)

Practice (iii)

Complete the text with a word or phrase from below so that the connections between ideas are clear:

thus; this knowledge; furthermore; for example; these new materials; these; at this point

The earliest humans had access to only a very limited number of materials, those that occur naturally: stone, wood, clay, skins and so on. With time they discovered techniques for producing materials that had properties superior to those of the natural ones; (1) _______ included pottery and various metals. (2) _______, it was discovered that the properties of a material could be altered by heat treatments and by the addition of other substances. (3) _______, materials utilization was totally a selection process that involved deciding from a given, rather limited set of materials the one best suited for an application by virtue of its characteristics. It was not until relatively recent times that scientists came to understand the relationships between the structural elements of materials and their properties. (4) _______, acquired over approximately the past hundred years, has empowered them to fashion, to a large degree, the characteristics of the materials. (5) _______, tens of thousands of different materials have evolved with rather specialized characteristics that meet the needs of our modern and complex society; (6) _______ include metals, plastics, glasses, and fibres.

The development of many technologies that make our existence so comfortable has been ultimately associated with the accessibility of suitable materials. An advancement in the understanding of a material type is often the forerunner to the stepwise progression of technology. (7) _______, automobiles would not have been possible without the availability of inexpensive steel or some other comparable substitute. In our contemporary era, sophisticated electronic devices rely on components for what are called semiconducting materials.

(Callister, 2007: 2)