The Issue Section

What are you working on? What keywords would you search?

Side-by-Side Example

See the full side-by-side of Kathy’s Message Box here.


Importance of wildlife corridors

Initial Feedback

The phrase “importance of” is a little vague.


Conserving wildlife corridors

Refined Feedback

Using the word “conserving” in place of “importance of” provides more specificity—she’s going to discuss how to conserve these corridors, not just why they are important.

FAQs for the Issues Section

What’s the difference between the Problem and the Issue?

The Problem box is more focused and specific to your work or research question. The Issue box is helpful for providing context and indicating how the Problem you’ve identified fits into the bigger picture. 

How broad/narrow is too broad/narrow?

The Issue needs to be broad enough to encompass the key points you want to get across, but specific enough that it sets up what’s to come. You want to set the stage for what’s to come without getting stuck in the weeds right away. If your Message Box were a movie, this would be the genre.

My research is only one small part of this topic. Is that okay?

Yes. Putting your work into the broader context helps you to take a step back and articulate the other parts of the Message Box and why they should matter to your audience. It can also help guide you as you work through the Message Box. Often, one piece of the Message Box will feel very clear, the others, maybe not so much. So taking a broader view and thinking about the context can be helpful.

Why does word choice matter?

The Issue can cue or ‘frame’ the rest of your Message Box, so while it seems very simple, it’s still important for signaling the scale, severity, or significance of your message. 

Pick a section of The Message Box to explore next

Download a blank Message Box to print, and fill out as you go.
Click on a section below to learn more about it.

More from the Message Box


View Initial and Refined Message Box examples from Dr. Kathy Zeller


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Discover how researchers from different fields use the Message Box to communicate with a variety of audiences


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