Making your Engineering Case Study Report Cohesive

To create a coherent report from beginning to end, writers employ a number of strategies. The writer needs to anticipate who will be reading the report, what sections readers may choose to focus on, what the reader needs to know and finally, it must be clear what action(s) or direction the writer is recommending. Different readers will read different sections for different purposes but not always in the sequence you have presented, so it is important to structure the report so the reader can orientate themselves each time they read the report

Repetition of key information

Cohesion can be created by repeating information across reports, usually in a paraphrased form. Repetition is most obvious in the executive summary, the introduction and the conclusions. These serve to focus the reader and summarise the key information. The body of the report contains the situation's details, presents a critical analysis and includes supporting evidence. Telling the reader what you are going to tell them and then telling them improves readability.

Orientate the reader throughout the report

When introducing a new section or chapter in a report it is helpful to orientate the reader to the purpose and structure of the section. This only needs to be a couple of sentences. Here is an example:

Section 2. Establishing the context
To enable the accurate identification and analysis of risks, the risk management context needs to be defined and clearly understood. To assist the reader in understanding the outcomes of the assessment, Section 2 includes a summary of the key features of the context.

2.1 Angola's history…

Place lists, tables and figures in the context of the report

This is achieved by the use of introductory and concluding statements. Lists, tables and figures cannot be expected to 'speak for themselves'. Do not assume the reader will form the same conclusions about the information as you or that the point you wish to make is 'obvious'.

Introduce the list, table or figure and comment upon the significance of the information. Consider why it is important that you include the list, table or figure in the report. State what you want the reader to notice or keep in mind about the information in the list or table you present.

Activity 1

Here is an example of a poor use of a bullet lists. What changes would you suggest?

1.1.2 Corporate context
The review of company's strength and weaknesses in relation to its ability to successfully implement the long term strategic objectives.


  • Financially sound
  • Well established management
  • Decentralised and un-bureaucratic management
  • Largest cocoa processing factories in Indonesia
  • Little competition within Indonesia
  • Well established reputation and public image


  • Culture and working attitude of local employees may not be aligned to Mar's Five principles
  • Raw material quality is inconsistent due to reliance on traditional farming and seasonal factors

Cohesion in paragraphs

Cohesion is achieved within a paragraph by the structure of the paragraph and the way the sentences link and flow.

Activity 2

Before reading about cohesion in paragraphs, reflect on how much you already know about paragraphs.

Read the following paragraph. What do you think the writer has done well? How could the paragraph be improved?

The small-scale packaging facility in Makassar has been established since April 2000 and ongoing trials have been performed since then and the first single packs batch was produced on August 2000. On the other hand, the Medium-scale packaging facility in Medan, North Sumatra, has just been established in early 2001 after learning from experiences in Makassar and is planned to supply ABC Tinny for market research in Jakarta.


Paragraph structure

For clear structure a paragraph usually includes a topic sentence, supporting sentences and, if appropriate, a concluding sentence. Numbered lists and bullet points can be incorporated into a paragraph as well.

A paragraph presents a single idea with all the information contained working to express that idea as clearly as possible. The main idea you wish to communicate is expressed in a topic sentence and this is usually the first sentence of a paragraph. However, writers can choose to place the topic sentence as the second or even the last sentence. All other sentences are supporting sentences and serve to elaborate the main idea presented in the topic sentence. This can be achieved by; describing, explaining, giving reasons, giving examples, referring to other authorities etc. Concluding sentences are appropriate for long paragraphs or after a series of paragraphs elaborating on a topic have been presented. Concluding sentences restate and paraphrase the main idea.

Example of a well structured paragraph:

(1) As the project proceeds, there is a tendency for the balance of control to shift steadily in favour of the host country/government. (2) After exploration is completed, the economic risks associated with the specific project are reduced sharply. (3) This decreases the leverage of the company during the post exploration phrase. (4) Similarly, after construction is complete and production has begun, the relative bargaining strength of the company tends to slip even more.


Link and flow in paragraphs

A paragraph is not a series of unrelated sentences. Two ways that cohesion can be achieved are by considering how the beginnings (Theme) and ends (Rheme) of clauses and sentences connect, and how transition words show relationships between ideas.

Example of Theme and Rheme creating cohesion

Efferm Indonesia Pty Ltd is an affiliated company of Mars Incorporated. It is located in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. It was established in 1996 as a cocoa bean processing company. Its main products are cocoa butter and cocoa powder, which are exported to Mars' confectionery factories in Australia.


Example of Theme and Rheme creating cohesion

It may seem that the government is trying to make economic reforms, but there is the risk that they do not follow them through. This is largely due to the lack of control over public spending and the high level of corruption in the country.


Transition words are like 'Velcro' in your writing. Transition words show what the relationships are between ideas and information. Transition words includes words and phrases such as: in addition, however, thus, due to, for example, and so on. See a list of transition words.

Example of transition words creating cohesion

Due to the high level of uncertainty in Angolan politics, it was determined that in each of the scenarios, the consequence would remain the same. However, it was the likelihood of each event occurring that would be quite different for each scenario.


Repetition of key vocabulary and key concepts

Cohesion can also be created in the recycling of information. This is achieved by repetition and the use of synonymous words which assists the writer and the reader to stay focused on the main topics of the text.

Activity: Paragraph structure

Now that you have read about cohesion in paragraphs and looked at the examples, can you locate the cohesive elements of a paragraph in these 2 examples?

Paragraph 1

Two assumptions were made for the risk assessment. Firstly, that any significant findings or reports from a particular source had to be verified from two other sources; for example, a statement made by the Angolan government had to be reflected by press, embassies or humanitarian agencies. Secondly, identified risks were considered as having equal value or weighting in the analysis phase of the risk assessment.


Paragraph 2

All four of the previously mentioned trends in government control over foreign investors are painfully evident in the world's petroleum industry. Host governments of all political stances and states ranging from developed to third world, have intervened to play a larger, controlling role in the development and disposition of their petroleum. When it comes to regulating foreign involvement in a state's petroleum, all political systems, whether they be democratic, autocratic, capitalist or socialist, pursue similar goals of maximising domestic economic returns and political control


See next: Evidence