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Audience Analysis

2196 words - 9 pages

Audience analysis involves gathering and interpreting information about the recipients of oral, written, or visual communication.

There are numerous methods that a technical communicator can use to conduct the analysis. Because the task of completing an audience analysis can be overwhelming, using a multi-pronged approach to conduct the analysis is recommended by most professors, often yielding improved accuracy and efficiency. Michael Albers suggests that an analysis use several independent dimensions that work together, such as reader knowledge of the topic and reader cognitive ability.[1]

Writers can also use conversation to help them to complete an audience analysis. Conversation ...view middle of the document...

This particular document focused on the use of contraception and targeted the black youth of South Africa. The initial document was created by document designers in the United States who did not base their design on an extensive audience analysis. As a result, the document, which used the informal slang of black South African youth, did not effectively communicate with its target audience. After the dissemination of the document, Van der Land used focus groups and interviews of a sample of the target audience to discover what improvements should be made. Upon considering the audience's perspective, she found that the initial document's use of the hip-style language backfired. The interviewees indicated that the use of the popular language was not effective because it was not used correctly or consistently throughout the document. Additionally, to the target audience, the informal language did not fit the seriousness of the topic being discussed. The suggested "bottom-up" approach should have incorporated the target audience during the design process in stead of as an afterthought. Most technical communicators approach an audience analysis from the "top-down," which usually ignores the vital input from the intended audience. The authors of this article acknowledge the potential cost of time and money that the "bottom-up" approach presents; however, they believe that the time and money would be best spent on the production of a quality, effective document than spent on attempting to rectify the production of a bad design.[5]

Marjorie Rush Hovde provides even more tactics that can be implemented in the process of an audience analysis in relation to one's organization. She suggests talking with users during phone support calls, interacting with users face-to-face, drawing on the writer's own experiences with the software and documentation, interacting with use-contact people within the organization, studying responses sent from users after the documentation is released, and conducting internal user-testing. Like Michael Albers, Hovde asserts that the use of a combination of tactics proves to produce a more accurate audience analysis than using one tactic alone.[6]

Karen D. Holl[7] discusses what writers should consider when writing papers that address an international audience. She focuses on those writers who attempt to publish studies in publications that are circulated abroad. She suggests that these writers consider the following questions when framing their papers: What conclusions from my study would be relevant and novel to land managers and scientists working in other ecosystems and socio-economic contexts?, What is the geographic scope of the literature I am citing?, To which ecological and socio-economic systems do my world view and results apply?, Is my study sufficiently well replicated to generalize my results?, and Are my conclusions supported by my data and, conversely, are all my data necessary to support my conclusions?....

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