Too Broad

Generally, when you go into a retail store to buy a belt, you never buy the belt that you know won’t fit you.  For example, no woman who is a size 18 in pants needs to buy a belt that is a size 14 or 16. In comparison, no woman who is a size 8 buys a size 12 belt. A woman only buys a belt that is maybe one size larger than she is, but typically no more than this.

Think about this scenario: Jane goes to the store with the purpose of finding and buying a black belt. She wants the belt to hug her waist, but not feel too tight. She takes Jim and Janice along for moral support. She tries on many belts while her friends watch her. Jim and Janice become confused when they see Jane try on a belt that is two times larger than her frame. They look at Jane strangely. When Jane returns to the dressing room, they both ask each other, “Doesn’t she know what kind of belt she wants? Why would she get a belt that she can’t wear?”

With this scenario in mind, the comment “Too Broad” can mean one of two things, or both:

1) when your professor asks you to write a paper and choose a subject, you choose many subjects that either don’t apply to the requirement or the subjects are so many that all of them can’t fit under one paper; and/or

2) when your professor asks you to write a paper and to choose a subject, because you don’t know exactly what to write about, you pick a subject that is wide in reference to time period.

Your English papers typically range from 10 to 12 pages. Therefore, you cannot discuss the historical period of the twentieth century in a paper of this range, nor can you discuss the “Reconstruction” period.  However, you can discuss the major player(s), a major political policy, and the impact of both on certain individuals of the period. In this regard, your paper specifies one period, the major issues and people of the period, but not the entire period itself and/or every person who lived during the period.

In adopting such a method, you are including information about one subject in your paper and you demonstrate to your professor an understanding of incorporating only the most important material that will in turn be relevant for your paper and serve the purpose you intend. With this method, you have essentially narrowed your interests and your subject matter. In other words, this method applies to both of the two meanings and to “Too Broad.”

For extended explanations, see also the comments “Ambitious” and “Specify (Be Specific).” They provide practical tips to help you bring focus to your paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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