Revising for Unity & Coherence
Here is a strategy you can use to revise your rough draft of your essay: Checking for essay
coherence. After you’ve finished composing a rough draft and looked at the comments your
peers have offered during the peer review workshop, before you type up the final draft, spend
some time thinking about how your whole essay comes together.
• On the most basic level, you’ll want to make sure that your essay has a thesis and topic sentences. The thesis and topic sentences are like street signs that enable your readers to navigate their way through your essay.
• On a more abstract level, you’ll want to think about how all of these parts of the essay relate to each other.
Below are steps that you can follow to check for essay coherence. As you complete each step
during your revision process, check off the box next to it.
STEP 1: Underline your thesis. Check that your thesis makes an assertion, not simply describes
what your essay will address.
STEP 2: Check for paragraph coherence by “nutshelling.” Read one paragraph at a time, then in the margins, in a nutshell, write in four words or less each of the paragraph’s main point(s). If your paragraph has more than one main point, then you should consider splitting the paragraph into however number of main points that it addresses, i.e. if your paragraph has three main points, revise so that each point has its own paragraph.
STEP 3: Check that each paragraph has an appropriate topic sentence. Your topic sentence should explicitly state the “nutshell,” the main point of each of the body paragraphs.
STEP 4: Write down how each body paragraph is related to the thesis. If a paragraph doesn’t relate, then you should either delete it or further explain how that paragraph relates to your thesis.
STEP 5: Write down how each body paragraph is linked to the previous paragraph. Check that it follows the previous paragraph. If it doesn’t, figure out an appropriate location.
STEP 6: Write down any changes that you are going to make, if any, for each paragraph.
Unity & Transitions Between Paragraphs:
Making Stronger Points
Purpose: Many students say that they want their essay to “flow,” but what does that mean exactly? An essay that flows has paragraphs that transition logically from one to the next. Writers create flow by using transitions. Essays that lack transitions are disconnected, which results in ideas and paragraphs and that seem random and disorganized.
Transitions are words that allow you to:
• Help the reader follow your line of thought
• Show the logical connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections of your paper
• Explain how the different parts of your paper fit together
• Emphasize a point
• Lend unity and coherence to your paper
• Develop and summarize your ideas and evidence
• Mark relationships in time and space
Transition Words and Phrases: Use transitional terms and phrases to connect and develop ideas within and between paragraphs. These provide basic transitions.
How to Use:
Here is partial list of transitional terms and phrases. For a more complete list, please see page 83
in this course packet.
Problems with transition words and phrases:
You should use transition words and phrases SPARINGLY, meaning only occasionally in your
papers. If you use them in every other sentence or in every topic sentence, your will writing
sounds very immature a clunky.
Hooking Transitions: Use key words or phrases from your thesis and/or previous paragraph in
your point (topic sentence) to create a smooth transition between paragraphs.
How to Use:
Repeat keywords (and synonyms for these words) throughout your paper to remind your reader of your main ideas and themes. Include keywords in your thesis and topic sentences.
Basic Formula: Subordinator + topic of last paragraph + topic of new paragraph
Benefits of hooking transitions: They are more complex than transition words and phrases
because they move the reader from one main idea to the next by using similar wordings to guide
the reader. Using hooking transitions indicates to the reader that you are a more mature writer.
Due Date: Sunday, November 20 at 11:50pm
Directions: After reading “Unity and Transitions,” please complete the following exercises.
1. What are the 5 steps for checking the unity and coherence of your rough draft? Summarize.
2. Name 3 things that transitions help you do.
3. List 5 transitions words and phrases.
4. What are the problems with transition words and phrases?
5. What are hooking transitions? What is the formula for a hooking transition?