It is advisable to define the purpose of the text early on so that your writing can be directed towards a more specific kind of audience and therefore communicate its information more efficiently. If this is clear, your readers will be more able to determine if your paper is relevant to them, thus saving them time and frustration. Your readers will also be able to follow your text more easily.

To help you define your purpose, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. What is the subject of the text?

Writers tend to have a vague notion of their purpose when they sit down to write. Still, a fairly simple list of questions would enable writers to specify their goals:

  • Does it introduce a theory?
  • Does it discuss alternative solutions to a problem?
  • Does it explain a new technology, describe a process, or does it simply report results?
2. Why is the text being written?
  • Is the aim of the text to instruct?
  • Or is it written to persuade readers to act in a specific way
  • Is it perhaps written to inspire readers?

As much as you can, try and be precise when formulating your purpose. To say that the purpose of the text is to inform readers is not a useful definition of a text’s purpose. The purpose has to be more exact: what is the nature of the information to be communicated?

3. Where will the text be published?
  • Are you writing the text for a particular course?
  • Will it be distributed within a company, or published in a commercial publication?
  • Will it be placed in the university library?
  • Are you writing a research paper to be presented at a conference or in a professional journal?