Sunday, November 2, 2014

Gerald Grow's Funnel of Focus

The Funnel of Focus

A Way to Focus a Magazine Article

by Gerald Grow

Professor of Journalism, Florida A&M University
Topics from
Large to Small
Directions: Work your way down the funnel by inventing a library-sized topic and narrowing it until you reach the size and focus of a magazine article.

Topic that would Fill a Library of Thousands of Books


Topic Big Enough to Fill an entire 600-page book

(Parental involvement in education)

Would be the topic of an ongoing magazine

(The Parent-Teacher)

Would fill a whole Issue of a magazine

(What can parents do to help their kids in school.)

Several articles in a magazine

(Several articles directed to parents helping kids in different grades.)

One article in a magazine

(How parents can help teenagers with high school.)

One article in a

(How to set up a volunteer program to help with high school math. For a magazine read by professionals who use and value math. )


(How to organize your colleagues to start and run a volunteer program in local high school math classes. A 2000-word article with two sidebars and a resource list, directed to a magazine read by electrical engineers. Sidebar 1: Steps. Sidebar 2: Common problems. Based on the story of an engineer I know who did so, with additional information from the guidance department at my old high school, two recent books on volunteers in schools, and the National Volunteers In America website resources.)

Focus Worksheet

Answer the following series of questions to focus your idea from general to specific:
1. What large Topic (that would Fill a Library of Hundreds or Thousands of Books) is your idea part of?
2. What is a book-length version of your topic? (Look for actual published books on your topic.)
3. State your topic as the theme of all the articles in a whole issue of a magazine. What magazine might publish this issue?
4. State your topic as the subject of a section of a magazine that consists of several related articles. Name three magazines that might publish such a section.
5. State a magazine-article-length version of your idea.
6. Describe your idea as one article in a particular magazine. Recast the idea for three magazines that differ significantly from one another. Name and characterize each magazine as part of the idea.
  • Magazine 1:
  • Magazine 2:
  • Magazine 3:
7. Describe your idea as one article. State a version of the idea that could be completed satisfactorily in the space of one magazine article. Give the length you think it would require.
8. Describe your idea as one article directed to a particular audience. Working from your answer to the previous question, now describe in more detail the characteristics of the magazine and its audience.
9. Describe your final idea.
  • type of article (How To, Profile, etc.)
  • its focussed topic and length
  • specific magazine it is targeted to
  • characteristics of readers of that magazine
  • how you will develop the idea
  • resources you will use to do so, and how you will obtain them and complete the article within the time available
  • extras--sidebars, photos, illustrations, celebrities

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