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IELTS Preparation Series 3, Episode 3: Cohesion & Coherence in Writing


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Hello, and welcome to Study English, IELTS preparation. I'm Margot Politis.

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Today we'll look at writing an essay on ageing populations and how to organise ideas about

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it in a paragraph.

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Let's begin by listening to a young woman talking about her grandmother:

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She does mainly the cooking and looking after us, you know, making sure that we turn out

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right, being strict with us. But I think part of her being here, like, allowed us to have

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respect for like, you know, older people. Yeah, I think from her, I've learned a lot

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- like, the Buddhist belief, how to be a good person, how to be honest and respectable person

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to everyone around you.

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She talked about the valuable contributions an elderly person can make. The grandmother

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has positively influenced the children, teaching them respect and honesty, and cooking. Let's

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see how this sort of positive view about older people is developed in a paragraph as part

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of an essay.

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The paragraph starts with a sentence that establishes the main point:

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The valuable contributions that active and healthy aged individuals can make should not

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be overlooked.

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This is called the topic sentence. The main idea is valuable contributions that active

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and healthy aged individuals can make.

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The writer then goes on with two sentences that support the main idea that old people

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make valuable contributions by saying what the contributions are.

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Firstly, these retired people could take on the role of carers for their grandchildren,

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allowing both parents to work longer hours and save on day care expenses.

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Notice the linking word 'firstly'. It means there will be more than one supporting sentence.

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What linking word should follow 'firstly"?

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Secondly, the retirees could volunteer their services as drivers for the very old and sick.

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To further develop the supporting ideas, the writer provides an example.

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For example, they could deliver meals directly to their homes or assist with transportation

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to and from specialist appointments or hospital.

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The sentence is logically related to what has just been said and linked by 'for example'.

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This sentence is called a developing sentence.

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How you refer back to things you have just written is an important way of creating a

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natural flow to your language. The examiners call it cohesion.

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You do this with words called referents which help make links within and between sentences

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and paragraphs:

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For instance, look at these sentences:

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'These retired individuals'. 'These' refers back to 'aged individuals' in the preceding

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sentence. And 'their' grandchildren are the grandchildren of the same 'aged individuals.

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Referents are used all the time and not just in essays. Listen to the way the man in the

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next clip uses 'the' and 'those' to refer back:

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The car's driven by four inhub motors. And the inhub motors directly drive the four wheels.

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The power source is the batteries. Those batteries are sort of charged by literally plugging

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it in at home or by the solar cells.

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He doesn't just repeat himself. He says the car is driven by inhub motors. To say what

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the motors do, he refers to them again, but as the inhub motors:

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The car's driven by four inhub motors. And the inhub motors directly drive the four wheels.

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Next he says that the power source is the batteries. He's already said 'the' batteries

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so he refers to them again as 'those batteries':

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The power source is the batteries. Those batteries are sort of charged by literally plugging

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it in at home or by the solar cells.

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Using referents helps you avoid using exactly the same words too often.

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You can also use synonyms - words that have similar meanings - in much the same way.

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Let's look at our paragraph about aged people again.

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'Aged individuals is not repeated in the same form in the paragraph, but as

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retired individuals, retirees and in specific roles as carers and drivers.

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Using referents and synonyms skilfully is not just for essays. Let's look at the way

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synonyms and referents create cohesion and meaning in the next clip on an entirely different

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topic, the ruined city of Angkor Wat:

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Right now we're at Angkor, which is a collection of temples in the north of Cambodia, which,

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about a thousand years ago, was the centre of a huge empire which stretched across most

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of South-East Asia. The true significance of the place is that it's probably the world's

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most amazing collection of religious monuments. What you see here is a scale of engineering

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and aesthetic beauty and a complexity that isn't really seen at any other collection

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of monument sites around the world.

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First he calls Angkor by its name:

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Right now we're at Angkor.

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He then refers to it and says what it is:

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which is a collection of temples in the north of Cambodia

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Refers again and explains its function:

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which, about a thousand years ago, was the centre of a huge empire which stretched across

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most of South-East Asia.

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He goes on to refer to Angkor again as 'the place' and 'it', and finds another way of

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saying 'collection of temples': collection of religious monuments:

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The true significance of the place is that it's probably the world's most amazing collection

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of religious monuments.

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Now let's look at coherence. What is coherence?

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When writing an essay you need to organise and develop your argument logically using

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paragraphs, starting with an introduction, 2 or 3 body paragraphs and finishing with

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a conclusion. There should be a clear transition from one paragraph to the next, linking the

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ideas between paragraphs. The paragraph we looked at earlier was the first body paragraph

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of an essay answering this question:

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The increasing number of older people will cause economic problems for the young.

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To what extent do you agree or disagree?

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For this sort of essay you have to write about different things in each body paragraph. The

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first paragraph disagreed - it said what positive things older people contribute. So the next

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body paragraph has to look at the negative effects of an ageing population. Let's look

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at what its opening sentence or topic sentence should be like:

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However, the increasing proportion of older people no longer contributing as much tax

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as younger people will put a strain on the nation's budget.

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Notice that the sentence begins with the word 'however'. However is a linking word that

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is used for contrasting. It shows the writer is moving on to develop the other side of

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the argument.

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To recap, you should know how to structure an essay. Using paragraphs correctly in your

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essay is important. You need an introduction, which gives some background information about

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the topic, followed by what you are going to write about.

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You start the first body paragraph with a topic sentence that establishes the main idea

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you will write about. You follow this with some supporting sentences that give reasons

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and provide examples that develop your ideas further.

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You do something similar with the next body paragraph, but from the opposite point of

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view and finish with a conclusion that summarises the main points and makes it clear what you

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think.

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And you should link sentences with transition words.

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This gives your essay coherence.

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Using referents and synonyms as we've seen will help you achieve cohesion.

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That's all for today.

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