How do you find the connecting thought in a text?
This study deals with texts written by 19-year-old students in upper-secondary school or students in the corresponding adult education. From a larger corpus I here work with eight texts, expository or argumentative, written within the national test in Swedish. Teachers have stated in a questionnaire on assessment that The connecting thought is one of five criteria with a high ranking when they decide whether to pass a text or not. The object of the study is to find out more about coherence in these school texts.
I have used a model for analysis by Melin (1999), which combines six factors to describe coherence and structure in a text. The factors are: reference cohesion, focus on main cohesive chain, theme-rheme and theme-theme connections, conjunctions and paragraph linking.
The main result is that this combination of coherence factors shows a difference between texts that have passed the test and those that have not passed. The Pass texts reach a higher value on four out of six factors, especially on focus. This is a pleasing result; a text with focus on the most important content is of course better than a confused text without focus.
Can this model for analysis be useful for a larger text corpus? It may be impossible to find a model that is easy to work with and still gives as much information as the sum of the six factors used here. What model can work in the classroom? It is a good thing that teachers see the structure of a text and take it into consideration when grading, but they shall also be able to help students to improve unfocused texts.
2003. 10- p.