Journal of English for Academic Purposes
Abstract Coherence is a notoriously difficult construct to describe for the purposes of responding to student writing. Student writers can be admonished for failing to make their writing sufficiently coherent, yet their lecturers may struggle to understand or explain why it lacks coherence. This study aimed to contribute to understanding of coherence, a term widely used but relatively under-theorised in the EAP literature. It reports a qualitative inquiry to explore two aspects of coherence in fairly advanced EAP writing. Samples of postgraduate students' responses to an academic argumentative writing task were analysed with a double focus. Firstly with reference to a classification of textual metadiscourse in persuasion (Dafouz-Milne, 2008) we observed how signals of text organisation were used and secondly with reference to the construct of rhetorical relations with and without signalling (Hoey, 2001; Taboada, 2006) we observed how concessive relations, a key relation in argumentation, were presented. Each focus represented a different discourse analytical approach (one concerned with form and one with a rhetorical relation). Illustrative texts are presented to show specific ways the use of the discourse features guided the reader (or not) to a line of understanding. Suggestions are made for targeted EAP writing instruction, assessment and research.