Determining the Audience


You have gathered so much information about your guiding question through your research this semester. Now it is time to call for action. You’ll be using that research now for a new purpose: to propose an idea, action, advice or solution to your readers. You’ll use the research you’ve already gathered in your annotated bibliography and literature review, along with rhetorical appeals, argument strategies, and good writing to best sell your audience on your proposal.

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Begin by thinking about purpose, audience, and format. I want you to be authentic. Let’s say that your guiding question was about the impact of texting (or sexting) on romantic young adult relationships. Knowing what you now know about that topic, who might you want to propose something to? Maybe, based on your research, you want to write to high school health teachers. Some of the studies you found suggest that an open discussion of sexting in a formal educational setting lead to more healthy phone habits among dating teens. So you want to propose sexting as part of their sex ed or health curriculum and you have an idea or model for how that unit could be incorporated into their class. Or maybe you want to give advice about handling risky photos directly to college students. Or maybe you want to offer an idea directly to parents. Or maybe you believe that a law needs to be passed on this issue and you’d like to write to your state senator.

Once you determine the audience you wish to address, and the purpose of your text, then consider the best way to address that audiece. Teachers, like many professionals, read information published in their fields. So you could write in a more academic way in APA style. But many teachers look first to the web, so you could try to emulate the layout and tone of common educational news websites or teaching blogs. Let’s say you chose college students. They’re probably not reading academic journals for that type of dating info. But maybe they read their online college newspaper, so an editorial approach could work. Or they read a buzzfeed style list (8 ways to guarantee your bae won’t…). Or many other things I don’t know about because I’m neither cool nor that audience. No matter, be authentic. Make that dang list and make it cool and funny and well informed. When writing to a state senator, a more formal letter might work. But I’ve never seen a letter in APA style, so make it look like a letter and determine how you’ll handle the sources you use in a way that feels more authentic to that form. Parents like emails, so how would an email from a school look? Or a mom blog? Where would a parent likely hear info on this topic from?

Bottom line: consider your specific audience and what you wish to say to them. What are you proposing? How can you reach that audience? What moves do you need to make in order to appeal to that audience? What tone do you use? What vocabulary, slang, terminology? In short: what is your rhetorical situation? To clarify, I, your instructor, are not your audience. I’m a silent observer for the sake of grades.


900-1500 words
Clear purpose, specific audience, and format/design that is appropriate to reach the audience
3 or 4 sources from research are used to outline problem and/or support proposed solution. These sources can happily be ones you’ve found and used already this semester. However, you’re free to find more/new sources for this assignment if they are needed.
sources are cited and documented ethically and in a way that is appropriate for the chosen format (MLA, APA, footnotes, hyperlinks, attribution phrases, etc.)
attribution phrases, signal phrases, add credibility and context to the sources used
draft is proofread and avoids spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors; the language and style are tailored to the specific audience
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Determining the Audience

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