A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

The focus refers to the main idea of the text. One way to determine this main idea is to figure out the purpose of your essay. An essay should do more than give you a grade; for example, it can persuade an audience, argue a point, or inform a reader. The assignment sheet is a great place to look for the purpose of the essay. What is your instructor asking you to do? The topic, length, variety and amount of research, audience, etc., all coincide with what the assignment requires. A successfully focused paper will, in addition to meeting assignment requirements, have an insightful, intriguing, and/or original thesis, convincing and compelling ideas, and thoughtful analysis of those ideas.

Once you’ve determined your main idea, it is lot easier to stay on topic. In other words, to keep your focus you must have a main idea and supporting points. As you revise or compose, ask yourself: “How does this paragraph—and all the sentences it contains—support my main idea?” If it does not, or if it’s not clear, then you’ve probably lost your focus because you’ve included unnecessary information. A clearly focused essay will usually assert one idea—in the form of a thesis statement—and will then present a logical progression of related points that help prove the main idea.  A focused essay leaves the reader with a feeling of understanding, rather than confusion. It’s what people refer to as the “flow” of the essay.