Given and new information in paragraphs

time to complete: 10 minutes

There are three choices in organising given and new information in texts:

Choice 1

Each sentence starts with the same given information. In the paragraph below see how ‘music therapy’ and ‘it’ are repeated. The new information is different in each sentence and not repeated again.

Music therapy is a type of therapy based on engagement in musical activities. It typically involves listening to music, singing, playing musical instruments, or composing music. It is undertaken to promote physical rehabilitation, enhance interpersonal communication, reduce anxiety or improve cognitive functioning. Music therapy can also help improve concentration and attention skills.

Adapted from: American Music Therapy Association, (©2020). Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy [online]. American Music Therapy Association. [Viewed 21 August 2020]. Available from:

Note how this type of writing style can be repetitive and is also more common in descriptive writing.

Choice 2

The new information in a sentence becomes given information in the next sentence. Notice how the given information refers back to the underlined words in new information in the previous sentence e.g.  decided ← choice, music scenes ← music scenes.


Indie rock = independent rock music
Black Flag = an indie rock band
eschewing = giving up / ignoring

Modern indie rock began in 1979, when Black Flag decided to become extrainstitutional by eschewing a traditional record label and handling promotion, distribution, and tour booking themselves (Azerrad, 2001). What started out as choice has become a necessity for many bands, as mass-marketed, commercially minded major label conglomerates and artistically minded indie rock bands do not have similar interests in mind that would make for a successful professional relationship (Caress, 2015). Despite a lack of organizational help, indie rock musicians form a vital element of a creative economy that can produce real economic benefits for cities (Seman, 2015). Cities such as Austin; Nashville; Omaha; New Orleans; Newport, Rhode Island; and San Francisco have seen economic development around music scenes (Seman, 2010; Wynn, 2015). Music scenes – the informal collection of indie rock bands in an area —‘‘foster existing economic externalities in addition to igniting new economic possibilities’’ (Seman, 2015, p. 44).

Adapted from: Carradini, S., (2016). An Organizational Structure of Indie Rock Musicians as Displayed by Facebook Usage. Journal of technical writing and communication, 48(2). 151–174.

Note that this is more common when the writer is developing their argument or making multiple points in a paragraph.

Choice 3

However, many texts are a combination of the two patterns. Here, the first three themes (given information) are the same, while the last two themes were rhemes (new information) earlier in the text.

Phonological similarity describes the phenomenon by which immediate serial recall of a sequence of visual– verbal items is detrimentally affected when the items are acoustically similar as opposed to when they are dissimilar (e.g., B, V, G vs. F, K, R; Conrad, 1964; Conrad & Hull, 1964). Phonological similarity has also been shown to detrimentally affect performance when presentation of to-be-remembered materials is auditory (Baddeley, Lewis, & Vallar, 1984; Surprenant, Neath, & LeCompte, 1999). Phonological similarity is a robust and highly replicable effect that is regarded as a characteristic of immediate serial recall from auditory–verbal short-term memory. This makes it a suitable manipulation to compare memory for verbal and musical sequences. If the same short-term memory system is processing speech and pitch sounds, the following testable prediction can be made…

Adapted from: Williamson, V. J., Baddeley, A. D. & Hitch, G. J., (2010). Musicians’ and nonmusicians’ short-term memory for verbal and musical sequences: Comparing phonological similarity and pitch proximity. Memory & Cognition. 38(2). 163–175.