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Questions for Audience Analysis


Who is my audience, and how do they view my issue?


-          Who are my readers?  How do I define them in terms of age, economic and social class, gender, race, educational level, and so forth?

-          What typical attitudes or stances toward my topic do they have?

-          What in their background or daily experiences helps to explain their point of view?

-          What are they likely to know about my issue?

-          How might they be uninformed or misinformed about it?

-          How would they like to see the problem, question, or issue resolved, answered, or handled?  Why?  That is, what personal stake do they have in this issue?

-          In what larger framework—religious, ethical, political, economic—do they place my issue?  That is, what general beliefs and values are involved?


What are our differences?


-          Is the difference a matter of assumptions?  If so, how can I shake my readers’ confidence in their assumptions and offer another set of assumptions favorable to my position/argument?

-          Is the difference a matter of principle, the application of general rules to specific cases?  If so, should I dispute the principle itself and offer a competing one the audience will also value?  O should I show why the principle should not apply in some specific instance relevant to my case? 

-          Is the difference a matter of a hierarchy of values—that is, do we value the same things, but to different degrees?  If so, how might I restructure my readers’ values?

-          Is the difference a matter of ends or of means?  If of ends, how can I show that my vision of what ought to be is better or that realizing my ends will also secure the ends my readers value?  If a difference of means, how can I show that my methods are justified and/or effective, more likely to be productive than others?

-          Is the difference a matter of interpretation?  If so, how can I shake my readers’ confidence in the traditional or common interpretation of something and show them that my interpretation is better, that it accounts for the facts more adequately?

-          Is the difference a matter of implications or consequences?  If so, how can I convince my readers that what they fear may happen will not happen, that it will not be as bad as they think, or that other implications or consequences outweigh any negatives?


What do we have in common?


-          Do we have a shared local identity—as members of the same organization, for example, or students at the same university?

-          Do we share a more abstract, collective identity—as citizens of the same region or nation, as worshippers of the same religion, and so forth?

-          Do we share a common cause or ultimate goal, such as promoting the good of the community, preventing child abuse, or overcoming racial prejudice?

-          Is there a shared experience or human activity—raising children, caring for aging parents, going to school, helping a friend in distress, struggling to make ends meet?

-          Can we connect through a well-known event or cultural happening—a popular movie, a best-selling book, something in the news that would impress or concern both your readers and yourself?

-          Is there a historical event, person, or document that we both respect?


(Adapted from The Aims of Argument, Crusius and Channell, 3rd ed.)