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A helpful way of gathering information about your readers is to conduct an audience analysis using a chart where on the x axis you list all possible and potential audiences you consider and on the y axis list audience analysis questions. For potential audiences refer to my previous post: “Three types of audiences”.

A sample audience analysis grid

A sample audience analysis grid

Depending on the purpose and needs of your documents and the budget of your project, you may perform a brief audience profile, or you can perform in-depth analysis, or something in between.

In the figure, I put green check marks against the  questions for those I have answers. That provides me with a quick overview of what kind of information and for what types of audience I already have. And what information (if any) I need to find. Also you might newer find answers on some audience-related questions . That is OK.

The chart will provide you with a quick overview of what you know and what you don’t know about your potential audience(s). And you will decide if you have a enough information to proceed with your document, or you need more time for analysis. You may expand or contract the list of question to match your particular situation, but remember – the more you know about your potential readers, the more user-centered  your communications may be. Knowing your audience would also help you to avoid delays in publication and will help you produce documents of better quality.

References:

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