Organise your ideas

In order to have a good writing draft, it is important to organise ideas in a logical sequence and think about cohesion and coherence in your writing. There are some common ways of putting ideas in a logical order in a piece of writing in English, including: logical division of ideas, order of importance, chronological order and comparison/contrast. This resource explains each of these with examples, and then provides detailed tips for achieving cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Putting ideas in a logical order

There are four common ways of putting ideas in a logical order in a piece of writing in English.

Note

Choosing an appropriate pattern of organising ideas depends on the topic and purpose of each assignment.

You can use the above principles of organising ideas to develop both a paragraph and an essay. An essay consists of several paragraphs and discusses a topic. The topic of an essay is normally quite broad, so you need to divide it into major points (or sub-topics) and discuss each point in one paragraph.

Cohesion and coherence in academic writing

Cohesion and coherence are two important elements that ensure a smooth reading in your writing. This section will deepen your understanding about these two elements and help you make your academic writing cohesive and coherent.

Cohesion

Cohesion refers to the way we connect words, sentences and ideas together using cohesive devices (i.e. linking words or connectors) to make our writing as clear and smooth as possible. In other words, cohesion is achieved when we use vocabulary and grammar to link ideas in a piece of writing together.

Cohesive devices - also known as linkers, linking words or connectors - are words and phrases that show relationships between sentences and/or paragraphs within a piece of writing. Cohesive devices are used to create cohesion in a text.

Strategies to achieve good cohesion in academic writing

Below are six ways that you can use to achieve good cohesion in your writing.


Coherence

Coherence in writing refers to the connection between and/or ideas in a text. Specifically, coherence is related to the organisation of ideas and unity of a text with regards to the content of writing (i.e. whether the topic, supporting ideas and concluding points are connected to each other). This is different from cohesion which focuses on the connection between sentences in a text in terms of grammatical and lexical items.

Your writing (i.e. the link between/among supporting points in one paragraph or the link between/among paragraphs) needs to be coherent so that readers can understand the development of your ideas and/or argument. In order to achieve good coherence, it is important to develop an outline of your writing and then examine whether (1) main ideas and supporting points are related to each other and relevant to the topic and (2) ideas are organised in a logical sequence. You can refer to the page Brainstorming and Mindmapping, the section on putting ideas in a logical order on this page and the page Edit and proofread effectively to explore more about how to achieve good coherence in writing.

Some useful tips to achieve good coherence in your writing:

  • Develop a clear outline of your writing before starting to write.
  • Ensure that ideas are logically ordered.
  • Ensure that introduction, body and conclusion are consistent and well-linked to each other.
  • Develop different main points/ideas in different paragraphs (i.e. one main point/idea in each body paragraph).
  • Ensure a clear and logical link between paragraphs.

References

Aktas, R.N., & Cortes, V. (2008). Shell nouns as cohesive devices in published and ESL student writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7, 3-14.

Brick, J., Herke, M., Wong, D. (2020). Academic culture: A student’s guide to studying at university. (4th ed). London: Macmillan Education

Creme, P., & Lea, M. (2008). Writing at university: A guide for students. (3rd ed.) McGraw-Hill Education

Halliday, M.A.K., (2013). Cohesion in English. New York: Routledge

Oshima, A., & Hogue, A. (2006). Writing academic English. (4th ed.). Pearson Education.

Oshima, A., & Hogue, A. (2007). Introduction to academic writing. (3rd ed.). Pearson Education.

Ventola, E., & Mauranen, A. (1996). Academic Writing: Intercultural and textual issues. The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing