Audience Analysis Sheet

(Adapted from Crusius and Channell, The Aims of Argument)

Successful written argumentation requires that the writer try to think like his or her audience--"get into their heads," so to speak--inasmuch as such a feat is possible. It is necessary that a writer understanding how s/he is like and unlike the intended audience, determining what motivates them, what they value, and what they have invested in the issue we're investigating--so that s/he can write a convincing or persuasive argument. As writers, if we fail to think about these things, we are simply shooting in the dark, writing the argument we ourselves want to hear.

The following audience analysis questions are designed to help you understand your audience and how they should be approached. At this point, you have compiled a good deal of research and knowledge on your topic. These questions will help you to shape this research and knowledge to address a specific audience successfully.

Complete an audience analysis that is between 1/2 and 1 page (typed, single-spaced) in length based on the following questions:

Your Topic

  1. Specifically, write out the position you will be taking on your topic in the Arguing Essay.
  2. Why are you interested in this topic? What is the relationship of this issue to your current studies, or more generally, to your life?
  3. What position do you take with regard to the issues involved in this topic? (You may have already answered this one in question "1".
  4. Who benefits and who suffers in the situation surrounding this topic?
  5. How would each group you just named define the issue/question?
  6. Which group defines the issue/question most similarly to the way you do in questions "1" and "3" above? Which one defines it most differently?
  7. General Characteristics of the Audience and their Connection to the Topic

  8. What is your purpose for writing (to convince those who disagree with you or are neutral, to persuade those who agree or are neutral to act, to mediate a dispute between pro/con views)?
  9. Who is your intended audience?
  10. Specify the characteristics of your audience. How would you define them in terms of age, economic and social class, gender, education, and so forth?
  11. What typical attitudes, stances, or biases about your topic does this audience hold?
  12. What in their background or daily experiences helps explain their point of view?
  13. What are they likely to know about your topic?
  14. How might they be uninformed or misinformed about it?
  15. 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 the topic?
  16. In what larger framework--religious, ethical, political, economic--do they place your topic? That is, what general beliefs and values are involved?
  17. Differences Between Writer and Audience

  18. The process of written argument begins with the assumption that the audience the writer is addressing needs to hear this argument in order to be won over to a different way of thinking or acting. Therefore, when you launch an argument, you have to understand that you are addressing an audience which differs from you in their position on the topic in certain essential ways. The trick is to figure out specifically how and why the audience disagrees with you. The following questions can help you to examine the roots of these differences. To respond to this portion of the analysis, simply choose the set or sets of questions that seem to address your differences from your audience best, then respond to those questions with a short paragraph or two.
  19. Is the difference a matter of assumptions? If so, how can you shake your readers' confidence in their assumptions and offer another set of assumptions favorable to your position?
  20. Is the difference a matter of principle, the application of general rules to specific cases? If so, should you dispute the principle itself and offer a competing one the audience will also value? Or should you show why the principle should not apply in some specific instance relevant to your case?
  21. Is the difference a matter of hierarchy of values--that is, do you and your audience value the same things but to different degrees? If so, how might you restructure your readers' values?
  22. Is the difference a matter of ends or of means? If of ends, how can you show that your vision of what ought to be is better or that realizing your ends will also secure the ends your readers value? If a difference of means, how can you show that your methods are justified and effective, more likely to bear fruit than others?
  23. Is the difference a matter of interpretation? If so, how can you shake your readers' confidence in the traditional or common interpretation of something and show them that your interpretation is better, that it accounts for the facts more adequately?
  24. Is the difference a matter of implications or consequences? If so, how can you convince your 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?
  25. Commonalities Between Writer and Audience

  26. When writing an argument, it is important to keep in mind not only the nature of your differences from your audience, but also the nature of your similarities with them. These similarities provide you the basis for identification with this audience, allowing you to see what resources you can draw on in order to make effective argumentative appeals and to build your credibility and trustworthiness as a writer on your topic. To complete this portion of the analysis, answer (like you did in the last section) only those questions which seem to be appropriate to the audience you have chosen.
  27. Do you and your audience have a shared local identity--as members of the same organization, for example, or students at the same university?
  28. Do you share a more abstract, collective identity--as citizens of the same region or nation, as worshippers in the same religion, and so forth?
  29. Do you share a common cause--such as promoting the good of the community, preventing child abuse, or overcoming racial prejudice?
  30. Is there a shared experience or human activity--raising children, caring for aging parents, helping a friend in distress, struggling to make ends meet?
  31. Can you connect through a well-known event or cultural happening--a popular movie, a best-selling book, something in the news that would interest both you and your audience?
  32. Is there a person, historical event, or document that you both respect?
  33. Building an Argument

  34. What claim do you want your audience to accept? How strong a claim can you realistically expect them to accept?
  35. What reasons are likely to appeal to this audience? What might you have to rule out?
  36. What kinds of evidence do you think your audience will expect as support for these reasons? What sources of information will they find credible?
  37. What can you do to present yourself as a person this audience can trust and respect?

This audience analysis should show that you have spent a significant amount of time thinking about your topic. It should be well written and coherent.