Writing For Non-Technical
Audiences
Modules:
 

Audience Analysis: Reviewing a Journal

Exercise: Analyzying the Journal for Your Public Information Article

An important step in writing your article will be to carefully tailor your writing to the publication you select, which means you'll need to fully understand your target audience. To help you reach that understanding, write a short memo to your instructor analyzing the publication (magazine or web site) and its audience and explaining how your article fits.

Steps

To conduct your analysis, you'll focus on a single article, but also scan the entire publication.

  • Select a recent article from your target publication (journal, magazine, or web site) that is similar to the article you want to write (e.g. if you're writing a product comparison about a new technology, look for other product comparisons; if you're writing a public health article, look for other public health articles; if you're addressing a policy questions, look for articles addressing other policy questions).

  • If required, photocopy the selected article.

  • Before you leave the library or web site, review the entire publication to make sure you can answer ALL the questions below.

  • In a short memo to your instructor, synthesize your answers to these questions to 1) provide a clear overview of the publication's constraints in terms of audience, style, tone, and related factors, and 2) explain how your project will fit into those constraints.

Important: Do not simply type the questions followed by your answers. Like all memos, this one should summarize and organize the information effectively to present a clear picture of the audience and publication you're writing for.

Questions

  • What audience does the article seem aimed for? Consider issues such as how much (what kind of) knowledge they seem to possess as well as factors such as their age(s), genders, education level, occupations, income, and moral or political views.

  • Who else might turn to this source for information? For example, although the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) addresses physicians, individuals with a specific illness may also read it while searching for for information about treatments or breakthroughs concerning that illness.

  • To what extent does the article use technical language? Do you see any examples of jargon? Consider listing examples.

  • How long is the average sentence? Paragraph? Does this tell you anything about the audience?

  • How formal/informal is the style? Why?

  • Is there advertising in the magazine or journal? If so, what do the ads tell you about the reader?

  • Are formulas or equations present? How important are they to the article?

  • Does the writer use of tables, graphs, or figures? Could the article make sense without them? What do they accomplish?

  • Does the article use any sidebars (adjoining "mini-articles" next to the main text or available as links on a web page) to explain key terms or provide more detail? If so, would such sidebars be effective for your article?

  • How long are the average articles in this journal? (Provide a rough estimate in number of words/pages and number of pages.)

  • What kinds of titles are customary? Can you make a guess why?

  • Are there any headings and subheadings? How are they written (as questions, statements, phrases)? How are they used? Why?

  • What other matters of style do the articles in this publicaton share?

  • Why/how will your article "fit" this e audience you discovered in this journal? State the purpose for your article and what readers will look for given the journal (content, organization, sentence length, technical language, visuals, etc.).

Developed in consultation with Sue Hagedorn: see her site on audience analysis. For additional information, please visit her links.

Checklist (download the RTF Version)

    Content

    ___ Does your introduction provide background; the necessary author, title, and journal information about the article

    ___ Does the body of the memo effectively summarize the publication's

    __ primary audience

    __ additional potential readers

    __ writing style

    __ design/layout standards

    ___ Does the memo use specific examples to support your ideas?

    ___ Do you explain how your examples relate back to your analysis?

    ___ Does the memo explain how your proposed article will fit into the publication, based on the audience/style analysis?

    ___ Is the information organized clearly and effectively?

    Format

    ___ Is the memo formatted correctly?

    ___ Have you used headings, lists, and related design strategies throughout the memo, as appropriate? Do the headings mirror your overview?

    ___ Have you used the proper form for direct quotations?

    ___ Did you include a photocopy of your article if required?

    Style and Correctness

    ___ Is the paper free from grammar and punctuation errors?

    ___ Is the paper concise and direct?

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Copyright 2001 - James Dubinsky, Marie C. Paretti, Mark Armstrong