Maintaining Your Focus

Focus is Too Broad

Michel Muraski, Journalism and Technical Communication
The biggest conceptual shift in most students is having too broad of a statement and literally finding everything they ever knew about this topic and dumping it into a term paper. They need to consider what they write a pro-active document: a document that's going to be used by a specified audience for a specified reason about a specific area of that broader topic.

Kate Kiefer, English Department, Composition Director 1992 -1995
A broad focus looks easier for students, but it turns out that a narrow focus is generally easier. General articles and essays with a broad focus require lots of background information and a pretty clear sense of the readers' goals in reading the piece. Otherwise, writing with a broad focus tends to result in pretty boring prose. Most academic writing requires a narrow focus because it's easier to move from that into the specific supporting detail highly valued in the academic community.

A broad focus covers too much about a topic. It never discusses the fine details necessary to adequately present a topic and keep readers' interest. A good way to narrow a broad topic is to list the subcategories of the topic. For example, two subcategories of Civil War tragedies are:

When you list subcategories, be careful not to narrow your topic too much, otherwise you won't have enough to write about it.

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Introduction