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.
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
- 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
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.
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
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
- 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)
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___ 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?
___ Is the memo formatted correctly?
___ Have you used headings, lists, and related design strategies
throughout the memo, as appropriate? Do the headings mirror your
___ 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?