Purpose Analysis
Used with assignment 6

syllabus | assignment—Popular Press

This page was originally conceived and formulated by Associate Professor Sue Fisher Vaughn; used by permission.

Writing is an iterative process, one in which your ideas slowly become clear—a set of vague notions shrouded in nebulous phraseology is replaced by sharp thoughts stated in precise and friendly language. There is nothing wrong with beginning in a fog, so long as you never invite your reader to join you there.

Thus far, we have talked about the content of a scientific article, and we have worked on some of the things that make writing hard to understand. It is time to apply what we know to the materials we have been working on. I suggest the following as a guide for revision of any written drafts, and ask that you apply the guidelines to your own work.

  1. If you have not finished a revision based on readability—do that first. Work through your article systematically to correct errors caused by excessive use of passive voice, weakness caused by nominalizations or abstract nouns or meaningless verbs, and confusion arising from noun clusters or long strings of modifiers. Of course you will also check for proper use of tenses, and for subject / verb agreements, etc. And you will also be kind to your reader by unloading long left branches, packing subject, verb and objects together as readably as possible, and by weaving or cleaving sentences into smoothly readable units.
  2. Second, recall clearly the image of the reader that you had before you began to write. Reshape that image if it was fuzzy. Keep this reader in mind as you begin the following revision of the content of your work.
  3. Without looking at your paper, write a single sentence to state the purpose of the paper. Be specific. "This paper is to present my research," is simply too vague. Try to imagine what you would say if asked, "What's the point of the paper?" and write down your answer. This answer defines the overall purpose of the paper.
  4. Analyze the paper as you wrote it. Start by numbering each paragraph. On a separate page, write the number of the paragraph and write a single sentence to describe the purpose of each paragraph. As you do this, ask yourself whether the purpose which you intended for the paragraph is consistent with the overall purpose of the paper: if the purposes are inconsistent, can you immediately eliminate the paragraph? (If you think so, do so!) When you have outlined the entire paper as a list of paragraph purposes, see whether paragraphs should be combined or relocated so that paragraphs with similar purposes occur together.
  5. Now work through each paragraph individually. Check for information that isn't consistent with the written purpose of the paragraph. Eliminate inconsistent information if it is also inconsistent with the overall purpose of the paper (recall the editing of the introduction of the corn paper, where irrelevant or trivial information was deleted from the second draft). If the information belongs in the article (i.e., it is consistent with the overall purpose), you can either relocate it to another paragraph (i.e., it is consistent with the purpose of the other paragraph), or you can create a new paragraph with a new purpose.
  6. When you have finished relocating information based on your analysis of purpose, you should have both a more readable and a more easily followed draft. Your relocations may reveal duplicate ideas (consolidate or eliminate sentences) or ideas which need further explanation (supply this by providing references, by including necessary details, or by adding new data, etc.).
  7. It may be that you will need to repeat this process. It is more likely, however, that you will merely need to apply the purpose assessment concepts to particular pieces of the article in subsequent revision (i.e., you'll ask yourself, "What do I want to do here?" "Does this belong in the paper?" and "Does this belong somewhere else in the paper?").
  8. Read through the finished draft aloud to check for the smoothness and euphony. Remember that most readers hear what you're writing as well as look at the words.