It’s Friday, get ready for the happy hour. What’s on tap? Not what you expected, I am sure. Save your energy for St. Patrick’s green beer tomorrow. Today, we are talking about a different kind of TAP – the one that you must remember to turn on when you are about to write something important. This TAP stands for “Topic,” “Audience,” and “Purpose.” In other words, before you write anything, you need to be clear about the topic of your writing, you need to know who your audience is, and what purposes your writing is going to serve.
Topic. Some writing assignments in law school include a specific topic, so you won’t have a choice in the matter. However, if you need to write a research paper or a student note for a law journal, you will have to choose what to write about. Here are some factors to consider when you choose a topic:
- Your interests.
- Your experience.
- The importance of the topic to the legal community.
- The relevance of the topic to your personal and career goals.
- The availability of resources for research.
- Access to experts in your area of interest.
It is better to select a narrow topic than a broad one. If your topic is too broad, you run a risk of not being able to cover it with adequate depth. The research may be too extensive for the time constraints you are given. However, if your topic is narrow, you are more likely to uncover everything there is to know about it. If after your research, you realize that you need to broaden it a bit, it is going to be easy to do. Most likely, your research will reveal some additional areas that you may then decide to include in your topic.
Audience. Who is your reader? It is very important that you know the answer to this question as you start writing. Writing is a way of communication. The writer is responsible for its effectiveness. When you know your readers, you can make assumptions about their knowledge base, education, interests. The structure of your writing, the explanations you provide, the level of formality – all depend on your target audience. Lawyers write for fellow members of the bar, judges, juries, clients, public at large. Can you think how their writing can be different depending on which group they target?
Purpose. Every piece of writing has a purpose. If you keep a journal, you write to express yourself. In law school and law practice, you write to communicate, inform, persuade, create a binding relationship. If you write an essay in response to an exam question, your purpose is to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject. A single writing piece can serve multiple purposes. As you compose and revise your draft, keep in mind what you want to accomplish with your writing.