Audience Analysis and Document Planning

I’m currently working through the first chapter of Ruben’s Science And Technical Writing: A Manual of Style.  It covers audience analysis and document planning, a good review for me.  I conducted a couple audience analyses during school, but I think there was definitely room for improvement in both. The document planning material should be useful as well. Style guides are interesting in that sometimes it can feel like you’re reading an outline instead of a book.  I’m a huge fan of style guides and enjoyed the project I worked on in school.  My workplace could benefit from one, and I have considered just making one for them.  The only thing that stops me from doing that is considering the idea that the branding could change at any time.  My university seems to be going through some sort of transition in its marketing and until I feel like it’s done I don’t want to touch it.

I should probably add this information to the blurb about me on the side of this blog, but FYI for any readers, I work in the instructional design unit of my university as a temporary employee.  Our unit is responsible for developing and distributing the instructional materials for the faculty.  For example, since Blackboard is stopping its support of the LMS WebCT Vista, we produced how-to guides for migrating content and using the new LMS Desire2Learn. This is only one of many support tasks we take on.  The instructional design philosophy dictates that the first stage is audience analysis (See ADDIE).  During my time here, I haven’t yet had an opportunity to conduct an audience analysis.  I’m looking forward to my first professional experience doing so. 

So far, almost all of the materials I’ve produced for work have been at the “novice” level.  We use PowerPoint, each slide has a few steps and associated screenshot(s) with call-out numbers matching the steps.  It’s fairly simple, and allows us to create quite a lot of materials quickly. Writing for novices can be tricky, because of how easily they can be lost and because they are more anxious as readers, but easy because it is more easy to grasp the objectives they need to be taught.  In contrast, when I performed an audience analysis of RepRap users, I found that most that replied to my post were at the expert level.  The main mistake I feel like I made was having done too little research to ask them the right questions.  It is challenging to research thoroughly enough to understand the expert users.

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