General WritingResearch and CitationTeaching and TutoringSubject-Specific WritingJob Search WritingESL
OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

The Development Stage

Summary:

Audience Analysis: Building Information About Your Readers? discusses your communication's complex audience and provides key questions you can ask to determine readers' needs, values, and attitudes. This section also provides useful charts to help you with your audience analysis.

Contributors:Allen Brizee, Dana Lynn Driscoll
Last Edited: 2010-04-21 08:20:26

Audience Analysis

A helpful way of gathering information about your readers is to conduct an audience analysis. Depending on the purpose and needs of your documents, you may perform a brief audience profile or an in-depth audience analysis (or something in between). You may expand or contract the following process to match your situation, but remember that the more you know about your potential readers, the more persuasive and user-centered your documents may be.

Some key questions (adapted from Johnson-Sheehan's Technical Communication Today) to ask about your readers are:

Meeting frequently (in person and/or virtually) with members of your audience to discuss their needs and expectations will also help you compose your documents. The following reader analysis chart (adapted from Johnson-Sheehan) is effective for investigating your audience:

Readers Needs Values Attitudes
Gatekeeper
Primary
Secondary
Shadow

How readers will use your documents is also important. This context analysis chart (adapted from Johnson-Sheehan) is effective for determining how your audience will use your documents:

Physical
Context
Economic
Context
Political
Context
Ethical
Context
Primary
Readers
Readers'
Company
Readers'
Industry

In addition, determining where your audience sits in their organization may help you understand readers' specific needs. Drawing a chart of your communication's lifecycle will help you gather this information about your audience. The following graphic illustrates the development stage where you might be authoring a document with a team of people in your organization:

Audience analysis: who are they? What do they need? Where will they be reading? When will they be reading? Why will they be reading? How will they be reading?  What position do they occupy in their organization?  What responsibilities do they have?

Image Caption: Development Stage

Copyright ©1995-2014 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.