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This is the second post related to audience analysis.


In my first post I outlined the basic principles of audience analysis and listed sample questions that can help one to understand who is they audience.

Who is my audience and how many?

Interestingly enough, as soon as one starts answering these questions, one realizes that there is more than one potential audience. Sometimes one can count 3 to 6 (and even more) different groups of people who made up for different audiences. Yes they all will read your communication.

Here is an example:

  1. The initial audience are the people who first read the document, and then route it to other audiences (or they do not). Sometimes (but not always) the initial audience are the people who asked you to write the document – a boss, for example. Note that these people are not necessary your main primary audience.
  2. Your co-authors. These are people will read your  first draft and many drafts after. Be nice to them.
  3. The primary audience – this is the audience you address your document. But it will receive it only after the initial audience approves it.
  4. A gatekeeper audience has the power to stop the document (paper, poster, manual, tech report, etc.)  before it gets to the primary audience. This audience includes supervisors, members of editorial boards and review panels, policy makers, regulatory boards, editors,  etc.
  5. A watchdog audience – these are people who do not have the power to stop the document,  but they still pay close attention to the transaction between you and the primary audience. These include the media, boards of directors, members of program,  advisory committees, reviewers, critics, etc.

  6. A shadow audience – others who may read your communication.

Questions, questions, questions

It is helpful to gather at least some information about all these people listed above and answer at least some of the following questions:question

  • Who are these people? Do you know their names, titles, positions?
  • What do they need?
  • What requirements do they have (if any) to the documents/paper/presentations/reports etc they suppose to give a green light?
  • Do they have any specific requirements to the document content and style – style guides, guidelines, preferences? If they do have requirements, are they in public domain and available (e.g. published)?
  • Where will they be reading? In which environment?
  • When will they be reading? Do they have a specific deadlines or time lines? Is this information available?
  • Why will they be reading? what is they interest in your communication.
  • How will they be reading?

Where to find the information

This graphic illustrates the development stage of the document creating. Adapted from: Johnson-Sheehan, Richard. Technical Communication Today. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2005.

This graphic illustrates the development stage of the document creating. Adapted from: Johnson-Sheehan, Richard. Technical Communication Today. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2005.

Sometimes finding answers to the above questions is easy, sometimes it is not.

For example,

  • If you’re preparing for a talk or a poster for a conference, the easiest way to answer the most of questions is to look at the conference website and read about which scientific communities are likely to attend the event. Also look at the names of the different sessions and plenary talks and their chairs. This will give you an idea of who will be in your audience.
  • If you’re preparing for a publication, look closely at the Instructions to Authors” of the journal. Usually journals describe what kind of research they prefer, which  research communities are their target audiences, what is the they preferred style, etc.Tips-on-Article-Writing-1-Keep-It-Short-and-Simple
  • If you are preparing an article to your organization web site,  talk to web site team and learn about the style guide. Also inquire about the people who use your website and the information they are looking for. Answer the following questions how did they get there? What page did they first visit? Where did they go from that page? If they used the site search, what page were they on at the time? What terms did they use to search for what they were looking for?

OK, let’s keep it short and stop on this.


  • ResearchBlogging.org
    Carrie Ann Koplinka-Loehr (1984). The Use of Educational Theory in Science Writing: Audience Analysis and Accommodation Cornell University
  • ResearchBlogging.org
    Kibiwott Peter Kurgat (2011). Needs Analysis in Writing: a study into academic writing needs of undergraduate students Lambert Acdemic Publishing DOI: ISBN: 978-3-8443-8735-3
  • ResearchBlogging.orgJoAnn T. Hackos (1994). Managing Your Documentation Projects, John Wiley & Sons

Butcher, G (2005). Using audience analysis in the development of web sites American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting Other: #ED53B-01
Johnson-Sheehan, Richard. Technical Communication Today. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2005.