My professor says I need better focus.

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Maintaining focus in your paper is critical.

The good news is that a paper that veers off topic is fairly easy to spot and self-correct. Try these exercises to test the focus of the paper you are working on right now:

  • First, ensure that you have a strong thesis sentence.
  • Ask a friend to read your paper out loud to you and then start outlining the key points of your paper as you hear them read aloud. Your main outline points should match the topic sentence at the start of each of your paragraphs, and your sub-points should correspond with nice transition words within your paragraphs. If you struggle to create a clear outline while hearing your paper read aloud, go back and revise your paper so that your paragraphs have more direct topic sentences and explicit transitions from one point to the next. If something you have written does not fit in with your thesis, cut it out.
  • Use transition words [doc] to help you introduce your points.
  • You can also use this Argument Checklist [doc] to ensure that your subclaims are well ordered and clearly understood in your writing.
  • Read through the Writing Center's comments on clarity to ensure that your paper smoothly progresses from one point to the next.