Thematic Organization and the Analysis of Selected Online Academic Scientific Journals' Site

Thematic Organization and the Analysis of Selected Online Academic Scientific Journals' Site

Foluke Olayinka (Redeemer’s University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch024
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This chapter analyses the thematic organization of the instruction to authors’ section of selected online academic scientific journals’ sites. Fifteen scientific journals were selected randomly from different fields in the sciences. The theoretical framework for the study is provided by Systemic Functional Linguistics. The results showed that the marked theme had a higher occurrence than the unmarked theme. The marked themes were realized by adverbials and grammatical subjects. The unmarked themes were realized by subjects and predicates. Simple themes had a higher occurrence than multiple themes while interpersonal themes had more frequency than textual themes. The editors observed the given-new information structure as there was a low occurrence of entirely new information. The derived theme pattern was mostly used while the split-theme pattern had the least occurrence. The results show that the editors of these journals made use of these structures to organize their message logically and coherently.
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Thematic organization is a functional resource that serves as one of the markers of textuality in discourse and it is closely related to discourse coherence (Downing, 2001). It is part of the structural cohesive devices in English, Halliday (1989). Thus, it is necessary to look at the various aspects of thematic organization within discourses. The aspects to be studied in this paper include Halliday’s (1985) given-new dichotomy of the information structure, the theme-rheme dichotomy of the thematic structure and thematic progression of the Prague school.

In English, every clause is divided into a theme and a rheme. The theme is the starting point of a clause while the rheme is the remaining part which develops the theme. This is exemplified below:

  • Barack Obama is the President of the United States.

Barack Obama is the theme while the rest of the sentence is the rheme.

In declarative clauses as seen in the one above, the subject is also the theme and in this case, the theme is said to be unmarked. Unmarked themes exist in interrogative clauses as finite and subject (Who opened the door? or Have you seen him?); in imperative clauses as predicator (Open the door) and in exclamative clauses as Wh-complement or Wh-word adjunct (What a beautiful day this is! or How delicious this food tastes!).

Marked themes occur in declarative clauses when any other element apart from the subject is placed in the theme position. The most common element that appears as marked theme is the circumstantial adjunct as seen in example below:

  • After a long time, the man left the palace.

Complement can appear as a marked theme as seen in the example below:

  • John I love, Jane I hate.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Thematic Structure: The ordering of information along the theme-rheme axis within clauses.

Information Structure: The ordering of information in a clause into the given-new development within clauses.

Thematic Organization: This is concerned with the ordering of information within and across utterances

Systemic Functional Linguistics: A language theory that is concerned with studying language function within social interactions.

Scientific Journals’ Sites: webpages of academic journals in the sciences Instructions to Author’s Section: Editorial instructions to would-be authors of academic journals

Thematic Progression: The development of theme and rheme along a long stretch of utterances.

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