Cohesion in Academic Texts

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A good piece of writing is not just a set of random sentences. When writing a text, it is important to have ideas flowing smoothly; otherwise, you will only have a collection of non-sense sentences. Halliday and Hasan (1976) say that there are four types of links that can be used to avoid this: reference, ellipsis and substitution, conjunction, and lexical cohesion. Next we have a piece of writing about dental caries. Some of the elements that give cohesion to ideas have been highlighted in blue.  In dental caries process, acidogenic (acid-producing) oral plaque bacteria ferment carbohydrates that are taken into the mouth, thereby producing organic acids. These acids diffuse into the enamel dentin, or cementum, partially dissolving the mineral components of the tooth, leading eventually to cavitation if the process continues. In normal dental plaque, these acidogenic bacteria occupy less than 1% of the total flora. As caries becomes progressive and more aggressive, the environment becomes more acidic, and these aciduric bacteria survive at the expense of the other benign bacteria. The most important aspect for the current discussion is that all acids produced by the bacteria can readily dissolve tooth mineral. Two major groups of bacteria produce such acids, namely, the mutans streptococci (including Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus) and the lactobacilli species; yet there are undoubtedly other acidogenic organisms involved in dental caries.

Now let’s take a look at some of the highlighted expressions:   “These acids diffuse into the enamel dentin.” “These acids” refer to organic acids that bacteria produce from carbohydrates (reference). “If the process continues”. Here, the expression “the process” replaces a statement before: “the acids dissolve the mineral components of the tooth” (substitution). The word “if” is a subordinating conjunction that gives a condition to the possible result of the process: “leading eventually to cavitation” (conjunction). “The environment becomes more acidic.” This expression refers to the environment inside the mouth, which is not mentioned explicitly (ellipsis) because the authors assume that the reader knows what they mean. “Yet there are undoubtedly other acidogenic organisms involved in dental caries.” Here, the word “yet” links the contrasting idea before: “there are two major groups of bacteria that produce such acids” with the next idea: “other acidogenic organisms are also involved in dental caries” (conjunction). “Other acidogenic organisms” and “dental caries” are expressions that refer again, but in a slightly different form, to “acidogenic oral plaque bacteria” and “dental caries process” (lexical cohesion).

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This stuff (reference, ellipsis, substitution, conjunction, and lexical cohesion) may sound kind of complicated, and probably it is. But life can be made simpler if we put all those things together in just two categories: referents and connectives.


 It is very common in oral and written texts to find words or expressions (reference words) that replace another word or expression (referent), which avoids repeating that word or expression several times. Referents usually appear first. However, there are cases in which they actually go after the reference word. Reference words are usually (but not always) pronouns. They may refer to a simple word, a phrase, or a complex idea.

EXAMPLE 1 Egyptian bookkeepers associated with royal storehouses kept meticulous records (of the goods stored in them), which were checked by an elaborate internal verification system. These early accountants had good reason to be honest and accurate, because irregularities disclosed by royal audits were punishable by fine, mutilation or death. Although such records were important, ancient Egyptian accounting never progressed beyond simple list-making in its thousands of years of existence. It is believed that besides illiteracy, the lack of coined money prevented its development. SOLUTION

• • •

Them: royal storehouses. Which: records (of the goods stored in them). These early accountants: Egyptian bookkeepers associated with royal storehouses. 2

Irregularities: (in) the meticulous records (kept by the Egyptian bookkeepers associated with royal storehouses). • Such records: the records (kept by the Egyptian bookkeepers associated with royal storehouses). • Its and its: ancient Egyptian accounting. • It is believed: that besides illiteracy, the lack of coined money prevented its development.* * Illiteracy and the lack of coined money prevented the development of ancient Egyptian accounting. This is what is believed. EXAMPLE 2 When blood pressure falls, norepinephrine and angiotensin II (both of which constrict the arteriole muscles) are secreted into the bloodstream. At the same time, the body halts the secretion of NAP (a protein that causes arteriole muscles to relax and the arterioles to dilate). These maneuvers cause the arterioles in the skin and nonessential muscles to constrict, increasing their resistance to the incoming blood. This allows the blood to flow to critical organs such as the brain. To visualize this, imagine a garden hose that branches in two; if one branch constricts, the pressure in and flow through the other one increase. It is the same with arterioles. • • • • • • • Both of which: norepinephrine and angiotensin II. At the same time: when blood pressure falls. These maneuvers: norepinephrine and angiotensin II are secreted into the bloodstream, and the body halts the secretion of NAP. Their resistance: the arterioles in the skin and nonessential muscles. This and this: the arterioles in the skin and nonessential muscles constrict, increasing their resistance to the incoming blood. The other one: the other branch (in the garden hose). It: if one branch constricts, the pressure in and flow through the other branch increase.

ACTIVITY 1 The balance sheet registers other assets that are tougher to convert to cash—for example, buildings and equipment, which is the reason why they are called fixed assets. Many small businesses may not own a large amount of fixed assets because most of them are started with a minimum of capital. It is important to remember that the original cost of a fixed asset may be more than that in the balance sheet because it can include shipping and other expenses. ACTIVITY 2 There can be numerous barriers to achieving effective communication, which include illiteracy, hearing deficit, and cultural patterns. In addition, breaks in communication can lead to confusion, error, and problems in the nurse–patient relationship, all of which can lead to a negative outcome. To avoid this, it is imperative that patients have a full understanding of what they will be experiencing. Therefore, that information must be stated clearly. 3

Cataphora - Infinitive phrases and noun clauses Until here we have given examples of anaphoric reference, in which a word, usually a pronoun (reference word), is used to refer back to something else already mentioned in the text (the referent). But we can also have the opposite situation (cataphoric reference). Take a look at the four following sentences: 1. 2. 3. 4. It is important to encourage the patient and family to ask questions. It is helpful that the nurse can learn a few basic words in the patient's native language. It is imperative that written instructions be given to the patient preoperatively. It is also important to review the expectations of the patient and family members.

Cataphora is the use of a word or phrase, for example the pronoun “it”, that refers to something that is mentioned later in the text. In the examples above, the referent appears after the reference word (it) and corresponds to the underlined infinitive phrases (1 and 4) or noun clauses (2 and 3).

Connectives (also known as conjunctions) link words or ideas. In general, they join two ideas, an idea with a set of words, or less commonly several ideas. They can even link paragraphs. When we have two linked ideas, usually (but not all the times) they can be found just before and after the connective, but sometimes the two ideas are actually after the connective. Let’s see an example: Although most adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder recognize that what their actions are senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary. In this case we have two opposite ideas (separated by a comma), one positive and one negative that seem to contradict each other. The first idea says that “most adults with obsessivecompulsive disorder recognize that what their actions are senseless” while the second one says that “some adults and most children (with obsessive-compulsive disorder) may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary”. The only way to join them is using a contrastive connective, in this case “although”. When working with connectives, the readers don’t need to be worried about which one is the main idea, and which one is the subordinate idea; the really important task they have to do is to identify, and understand, the ideas that are affected by the connective. It is also important to know the type of connective. Appendix IV includes a comprehensive list of connectives, their classification, and additional information (in Spanish) about this topic. 


Types of Connectives There are many types of connectives, but they can be classified in four broad categories: Illustrating connectives (they give, emphasize, exemplify, explain, or add information), cause and effect connectives, comparing/contrasting connectives, and time/order connectives (used to arrange, list or sequence things or ideas). Next are some examples of each category: Illustrating connectives These connectives help us to improve our understanding of the topic (that) the reading is dealing with. Example: Sheep are expected to be highly valuable for research in cystic fibrosis, because their lungs resemble those of humans. Moreover, because sheep live for years, scientists can evaluate their long-term responses to treatments. First idea: sheep have lungs that are similar to human lungs, so they could be of high value to investigate cystic fibrosis. Moreover (illustrating connective) Second idea: researchers can analyze, for many years, how they respond to treatments. This is because sheep live for a long time. Cause-effect These connectives link two related ideas. In these cases one of the ideas is the result or the consequence of the other one. One thing leads to another. Example: Because many key drugs for treating heart disease are now off-patent and thus relatively inexpensive, important reductions could theoretically be achieved worldwide in deaths caused by these maladies. First idea (cause): Numerous drugs that are used in the treatment of heart diseases are not protected by patents anymore, so they are available now at lower prices. Because (cause-effect connective) Second idea (effect): Reducing deaths associated to heart diseases, all over the world, is now possible: more patients could be treated. Comparison/Contrast These connectives are used to highlight similarities (comparison) or differences (contrast) between two things. Example: 5  

When the 2004 tsunami hit, no one had a set game plan for orchestrating a recovery effort that involved more than five countries. Likewise, no global architecture exists to deal with other health threats that cross national boundaries. First idea: In 2004 there were no contingency plans for a tsunami, nobody knew what to do. Likewise (comparative connective) Second idea: Even now, there are no worldwide plans to ameliorate possible health menaces or dangers that can simultaneously affect several countries. In this case, the connective highlights the similarity between the two mentioned situations. Now, let’s examine a contrastive connective: Although temperature is important in the transmission dynamics of malaria, many other variables are of equal or greater importance. First idea: environmental temperature is an important factor to be taken into account in malaria transmission. Although (contrastive connective) Second idea: other equally (or even more) important than environmental temperature need to be taken into account too. Time/order These connectives are used to organize (in time or space) things or ideas. They also allow hierarchize related elements (to establish ranks among them). Example: In September 1982, a young girl died in Chicago after taking extra strength Tylenol capsules contaminated with cyanide. On the next day, three more deaths were reported due to Tylenol. The company (J&J) immediately alerted consumers across the US, via the media, not to consume any type of Tylenol product. Then, in 1986, J&J faced another problem when a woman died after taking a cyanide-laced Tylenol capsule. The company quickly offered to replace all capsules with caplets, tablets in the form of capsules. Finally, J&J decided to permanently discontinue capsule products. Here we have seven ideas that flow in a time sequence linked by six time connectives, just as they happened. Let’s see: In 1982, a young lady took some painkiller pills that had been contaminated with cyanide. After The young lady died. On the next day 6  

Three more persons died, for the same reason. Immediately The manufacturer warns its clients about not taking its painkillers anymore. Then In 1986, another woman died, for the same reason. Quickly The manufacturer replaces all the painkiller capsules with other pills called caplets (capsuleshaped tablets). Finally The manufacturer stopped manufacturing capsuled products. ACTIVITY Identify and tell the two ideas linked by each connective in this paragraph: If current trends continue, by 2020 global rates of infectious diseases, such as diarrhea, pneumonia and tuberculosis will decline relative to chronic diseases. Mental illness, particularly depression, will increase, occupying second place on the list of contributors to the world's burden of disease. Heart disease will hold first place, and, surprisingly, vehicular accidents will climb to third--being especially numerous in countries that lack (or poorly enforce) licensing, registration and inspection requirements. At the same time, rates of obesity, tobacco-related disease and industrial accidents will continue to ascend. Solution First idea: by 2020 global rates of infectious diseases will decline. If Second idea: Current trends continue (this condition must be fufilled). Third idea: Mental illness, particularly depression, will increase, and will become second place on the list of contributors to the world's burden of disease. Fourth idea: Heart disease will become first place (on the same list). And


Fifth idea: Vehicular accidents will become third (on the list of contributors to the world's burden of disease) especially in countries that don’t have strict licensing, registration and inspection requirements. At the same time Sixth idea: Obesity rates, smoking-related illnesses and industrial accidents will continue to climb. Observe that there’s another connective included in the first idea, which links two sets of words: Infectious diseases. Such as Diarrhea, pneumonia and tuberculosis. ACTIVITY 3 REFERENTS AND CONNECTIVES - Look for reference words in this reading and identify the corresponding referents. - Look for connectives in this reading and identify the two linked ideas. CHEESEMAKING BASICS All cheese starts with milk. Once the milk is collected, it is put into a huge container and warmed. First, the milk must separate into curds (solid) and whey (liquid). To start this process, the lactose, or milk sugar, needs to become lactic acid. After warming the milk, cheese makers add a starter culture that contains one or more types of bacteria, including Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus helveticus. These bacteria are also known as lactic acid bacteria (LAB) because they produce lactic acid as they metabolize. Once the acidity level in the milk rises, the casein (one of the proteins in milk; whey is the other) can curdle. This requires the addition of rennet, which is a group of enzymes extracted from the stomach lining of a young cow, sheep or goat. In the stomach, rennet allows the animal to digest its mother's milk. When added to milk, it makes the casein turn into curds. After settling for up to two hours, the curdled milk has the appearance and texture of custard or pudding. The temperature of the cheese at this point depends on the type of cheese being made. Generally, higher temperatures produce firmer cheeses. Next, the curd is cut using a tool called a harp, which releases the whey. The size of the curds will determine the type of cheese -- soft cheeses come from large curds, while harder ones come from very fine curd. The whey is drained and used as an additive in processed foods and in animal feed. Making Cheese Once the cheese is condensed into curds and salted, there are still a few steps before it is ready to eat. All of them really depend on what the cheese maker produces. Although the type of cheese became a factor with the temperature of the milk and the size of the curds, the differences become even greater in the final steps. If the cheese maker is producing cheddar (or a similar uncooked, pressed cheese), for example, he or she might cheddar the curds. In this process, the curds are stacked on top of each other, pressed together and then stacked again to expel the maximum amount of whey and dry them out. Then they're chopped fine, salted and pressed into molds. 8

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