Audience Analysis

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 allows the communicator to consider the multiple cultural, disciplinary, and institutional contexts of their target audience, producing a valuable audience analysis.[2]

David L. Carson of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute asserted that technical communicators most often perform their jobs with little or no knowledge about their audience. As a result, audience analyses address a fictional audience. Carson asserts that the communicator's image of any particular audience is a figment of the communicator's imagination. Ideally, the technical communicator would be able to control a project from inception through dissemination. Carson states that the analysis should include a reader's level of comprehension of the technical vocabulary and motivation, as well as reading level. Indicators of a reader's high level of motivation include high interest in in the subject matter, relatively high knowledge of the content, and high personal stakes in mastering the information.[3]

Another technique used to conduct an audience analysis is the "bottom-up" approach. Leon de Stadler and Sarah van der Land[4] explore this type of approach in reference to a document produced by an organization that develops different kinds of interventions in the field of HIV/AIDS education. This particular...