Dr. Judith M. Newman

Finding Focus

Sometime you’ll find you have a focus before you begin; other times your focus will emerge during the writing; sometimes you have to stand back and play with the emerging document to shape a focus.

Focusing Questions

  • What’s most important?
  • What will my readers be looking for?
  • What will my readers want to know more about?
  • Can I identify a logical progression of ideas here?
  • Might there be a better order for the content?
  • Have I captured enough of the specifics?

Developing Focus

  • Get yourself a set of colored highlighter pens
  • Work with a hard copy of your document
  • Take one pen, quickly read through your document, highlighting everything that seems to have some kind of common theme
  • Take a second pen, again quickly read through the document marking other paragraphs/sections that seem to have a different theme.
  • Repeat a third and fourth time, if necessary
  • Now lay out your pages according to the predominant highlighting color
  • Open your document file, “Save As” using a new file name—now cut all the information that’s highlighted in other than the predominant color (Be sure to paste this material into your out-takes file—you might well want it later!)
  • Now read what you have – it will certainly be shorter, and it ought to have a definite focus

Use A Reader: Ask For Feedback

  • Have someone read what you’ve written—it’s useful to tell him or her just what kind of feedback you’re looking for. Another person often can see what you’re driving at more easily than you can; you’re too close to the writing