Creating Term Papers: Identifying An Audience

Why identify your audience?

Every writer must know the target audience for the work they are creating. It’s one of the best ways to focus and orient your work to make sure it accomplishes its goals. Furthermore, knowing your intended audience can influence your language use, your vocabulary, the overall slant or perspective of your prose, and the length and complexity of the work, and the sophistication of the arguments.

Identifying your audience and tailoring your work accordingly can also increase the effectiveness of your work. If your term paper is designed to persuade or to advocate a certain course of action or point of view, you will be far more likely to succeed if your writing is focused on the people who will actually be reading your paper. This is true for writing of all kinds, of course, from admission essays to dissertations to emails.

How to identify your audience: Potential Readers

Thinking about your potential readers should precede any other aspect of the writing process, other than thinking about the prompt. Ask yourself who will naturally encounter your work after you’ve written it. Is your paper going to be shared with your classmates? Will it be posted online as a blog or submitted for public critique? Is your instructor a young graduate student or an emeritus professor with decades of experience? Is your paper supposed to take the format of a conversational article, or a complex academic work?

Complexity of the Work

The intended format of your paper may help clue you in to your intended audience. If the paper has a relatively low word or page limit and requirements that are not too rigorous in terms of research, your audience may be fairly broad or not that sophisticated. If, instead, the paper is expected to be quite long and bolstered by a large amount of research and citations, you may be expected to write in a more formal and complex manner.

Broadness of the Audience

Generally, the breadth of your audience is also a clue into the complexity your paper should have. Papers that are likely to be widely read by a wide variety of people should have more accessible language and limited vocabulary. However, papers that are tailored for a niche audience or specialists in a particular field can be written in a more difficult and esoteric manner. Let’s take popular newspapers as an example: USA Today is a much more popular and widely disseminated newspaper than The New York Times, which is only read by a select subset of people. As a result, USA Today has a third grade reading level, where as The New York Times is written at an eleventh grade level.