Maintaining Your Focus

What It Means to be Focused

Donna Lecourt, English Department
What it means to be "focused" changes from discipline to discipline. Say for example, in literature, my "focus" comes through a novel. I want to write about Henry James's Turn of the Screw. On one hand it could come through theory. I want to do a feminist analysis and Henry James's Turn of the Screw just happens to be the text I apply it to, or I might add another text. I might just approach a novel and say, "Okay. Everybody's read it in these ways before. Here's yet another way to read it." I don't have to show that I'm adding to, in some ways, I can show I'm distinguishing or coming up with something new. What my "focus" is, is determined disciplinarily as well as by my purpose.

Another example would be a typical research report where a "focus" is what's been done before because that determined what an experiment was going to be about. And so, in some ways, you're not coming up with your own "focus" the way in English, in some ways, you can. You have to look at "X," "Y," and "Z" studies to see what was done on this topic before you can prove your point. Focus comes out of what was achieved before. You have to link what you're doing to previous research studies which is a requirement of a lot of research reports.

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