Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

OnTopic: TEL Environment For Strengthening Topical Cohesion In Writing

We propose to demonstrate a TEL environment prototype, called OnTopic, which is
intended to provide meaningful individualized feedback to student writers. Current stateof
the art pedagogy on cohesion-coherence relies on static diagrams that fail to
communicate how characteristics of writing—like word and synonym overlap,
grammatical function (e.g. the subject function), and sentence position (e.g., early in the
sentence, later in the sentence)—can dynamically contribute to the perception of
readable text (e.g., texts “holding together” and “staying on topic” successfully etc.).
Building upon the corpus-based research on cohesion in writing, we have developed a
preliminary working prototype that visualizes global and local cohesion by highlighting
words and synonyms that are repeated between sentences and/or paragraphs. Our
visualization provides a richer and more flexible learning environment for bringing the
principles of textual cohesion-coherence to the awareness of student writers.

Ishizaki, Suguru
Kaufer, David
Moreau, CP
Ringler, Hannah
DC, English