Theme & Rheme: Topic Sentences, Examples, and Explanations

Theme & Rheme: Topic Sentences, Examples, and Explanations


The end-weight principle is based in reading informing writing and writing informing reading. When sentences connect - that is, lead on from one another - it is easier to understand the author’s ideas. It is expected that “new” information comes at the end of a sentence, while “old” information is located at the beginning. 

Linguist Michael Hoey (1991) argues in Patterns of Lexis in Text that students need to be exposed to and analyze patterns of lexis across sentence boundaries, and, in the bigger picture, that these patterns increase knowledge of overall text organization.

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This handout is designed to help guide students through cohesion and coherence in academic paragraphs. It asks students to write topic sentences (using theme and rheme), an example, and an explanation of that example using a complex or compound sentence. Finally, it tasks students with putting it all together in the form of a paragraph. The prompt for task 3 is left blank to allow for flexibility and applicability to a variety of themes and topics. 

The overarching objective of this activity is to have students study and analyze one of the most common academic sequences - topic-comment, example, explanation. This primes them to introduce evidence or academic research supporting those three elements. In academic articles, this structure is repeated time and time again. Learning to write in this way not only improves coherence in student writing, but also is extremely beneficial to their academic reading skills as they can notice these patterns in the writing of others. 

This activity is good to be used in conjunction with “Discourse Analysis - Point Example Comment” also in our store.