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learning with professionals - Higgins Counterterrorism Research ...

“Utilizing the assumption that military deception at the strategic and tactical level has

been and may again be an effective and efficient technique in armed conflict, one that repays

handsomely the minimal investment of resources it usually requires.” (This excerpt from a

graduate thesis uses lots of big words, but it goes nowhere. There’s no verb for the subject.)

Coherence

“The assessment additionally need to be based on human perceptions and assessment

of the problem. Combining the two above factors, the determination of terrorist responsibility

may be expedited. Monitoring of the terrorist problem must be continuous and thorough,

as well.”

The student who wrote that short paragraph wasn’t thinking about coherence. There

are at least three major ideas: 1) assessing the terrorism problem; 2) determination of the

responsibility for terrorism; 3) keeping track of the problem. It may be easier to keep

track of shadowy terrorist groups than the main idea of that paragraph.

Think of coherence as a plan, a blueprint for logical continuity in your paragraphs.

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (2003) defines coherence as a

“systematic or logical connection or consistency.” Our minds have a natural tendency to

think logically, always trying to connect one thing to another and make sense of them in

terms of things we’ve experienced in our lifetime. When we encounter something incoherent,

our minds immediately say “Whoa!” and shift into neutral, grinding and crunching

what we’ve encountered, trying to bring it into focus. Failing our ability to

understand, the inevitable result is frustration.

You don’t want your readers to be frustrated because you failed to follow a coherent

organizational scheme in your writing. That’s why the topic sentence is so important to

intelligence writing. The topic sentence, usually the first sentence of your paragraph, says

to the reader: “Hi, there. Welcome to a new paragraph. I’m the main idea here and I’ll be

your guide through the next few sentences.” Pick your controlling idea — your central

assertion for each paragraph — and stick to it. When you change controlling ideas, move

to a new paragraph with a smooth transition. In that way, you’ll ensure a more coherent

product for your reader.

USING THE BASIC TOOLS

Having reviewed the basic tools of writing an intelligence paper, you’re now ready to

proceed with the writing itself. Don’t be overwhelmed with rules and regulations to the

extent that you shy away from writing. Just try to remember those six basic principles,

and review your papers with them in mind. Keep your writing clear and understandable;

be concise, saying only what you need to say in order to get the point across; watch for

coherence throughout the process, sticking to an orderly, logical procedure; be sure your

writing is appropriate for your intended audience, as nearly as you can determine that

audience; check the final product to ensure that you’ve said everything you needed to say

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