English
6715

Technical Writing

Fall
2016

 

Task & audience analysis

Readings

Week 1 -- readings

Week 2 -- readings

Optional reading

Constructing the user

 

Homework

Answer these questions and email me your answers.
The answers must be in your own words and not a cut&paste from another source.

1. What are some of the different categories of audiences and how do their information needs differ.

2. What are the main steps in an audience analysis?

3. Define rhetoric and how it fits into technical writing.

Discussion questions

Post your answers to these questions to the discussion board.

Week 1

1.

The reading assignments stressed the need to understand the audience. A goal of your writing must be to meet the audience's expectations with respect to detail, amount of explanation, and clarity of concepts. Yet, there are also the client expectations. The audience may be your reader, but the client is the person who pays you/is your boss. How can audience and client expectations differ? How do you resolve any differences?

Examples

In the medical laboratory world the client can be a pathologist, medical director or hospital administrator who’s primary concern is meeting regulatory and accreditation requirements (this person approves the document). The audience is the bench level technologist or other health care providers, people who are actually doing something with the document.

In the corporate world, the HR person pays someone to write a set of procedures for entering weekly hours-worked and requesting vacation. HR is the client and the person working on the factory floor is the audience since they actually use the document to enter hours and request vacation.

You are the MBA program director and decide you need a new short document with title like "You've been accepted into the program....here's what you need to know". So, your hire a writer to create this report.

You, as the MBA program director, are the client. There is nothing in the report that you don't already know....you supplied the information to the writer. You are not part of the audience of the report. Other than reading it for review/feedback, you will never read or use the document.

Your customers, the newly accepted students, are the audience.

Assuming I am developing a software for the call center reps (CCR). The CCRs are my audience, but purchasing officer at the call center company is my client. I interact with the purchasing officer for the software design and development and never talk with or meet the people using the software. The strategy and requirement specifications come through my client, the the purchasing officer . When I write my technical document it is for the CCRs to follow and help their clients. But, my direct contact is the purchasing officer , not CCRs. I don’t know many details of the requirement from the CCRs. I learn their need from the purchasing officer. Most of the time this constitutes a gap in actual requirements. As the requirement flows from CCR's managers to the purchasing officer to me. My technical document targets CCRs, but sometime it doesn’t solve the need of CCRs, because of the gap in the analysis.

weak answer 1: Expectations between the client and reader can differ across nearly every aspect of a technical writing. These differences can be in terms of length, content, use of graphics or data tables. To resolve these differences, a reconciliation between the two parties would need to be done to identify which expectations differ, and why. Once this is complete, identifying the expectations that carry more weight for either party should be evident and a set of blended expectations could be proposed. This outline was a formal process, certainly open informal dialog between clients and audience would be preferable depending on the importance of the technical writing its purpose.

weak answer 2: A goal of your writing must be to meet the audience's expectations with respect to detail, amount of explanation, and clarity of concepts. Yet, there are also the client expectations. The audience may be your reader, but the client is the person who pays you/is your boss. How can audience and client expectations differ? How do you resolve any differences? Once the writer has analyzed the audience, they have an excellent understanding of the audience's expectations, but the client may not have the same level of understanding. As a result of this, the expectations of the audience and client can differ greatly. The audience may want to have more information, but the client may want to keep the document brief. To resolve the difference in expectations, the writer can explain to the client their understanding of the audience and reasons for including details in the document.

 

Week 2

1.

One of the readings has a quote of "And plan to write about it in such a way that even Granddad can understand!" This is a very common statement about technical writing. I've heard many writers say that they always try to write so anyone, even someone with no knowledge, can understand it. But is this always true?

Here's a graphic I included in a paper on audience needs. Each of the ovals defines one audience group which you figured out from the audience analysis.

What defines what you should write? How much detail and how much information? Should Granddad always be able to understand it? How do you determine when he should/does not need to understand it?

2.

Provide a clear roadmap for how you would determine the audience needs. In other words, assume I just handed you a writing assignment and told you to figure out the audience needs for it. What would you do?

This is a trickier problem than it seems. I've asked the question in a thesis defense and gotten (1) a statement of "audience is important because..." Then when the person realized I wanted to know HOW they would figure out the audience, it turned into a deer-in-the-headlights look. The answer is much more than "I'll talk to a few people and maybe do a survey."

3.

A task analysis assumes a closed-ended task..."Here's how you replace the fuel pump on this engine." You can capture all of the steps and verify they are correct. But what about when the task becomes open-ended, such as:.

There are no single path or correct answers or place where either your or the reader can say "now I have all of the information." How do you do the task analysis in these open-ended situations? Do the same processes that work for closed-ended tasks apply?

 

 

 

Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Send me an email.