Technical writing/Project management/Research

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Research[edit]

Knowing your audience is a vital skill for the successful technical writer. It is of paramount importance to know exactly who it is you are writing for, what are their aspirations and goals in life, as well as the environment in which they will be using the materials which you produce. In order to have a successful piece of technical writing it is important not only to research the product you are writing about but also the person you are writing for.

How can you research potential readers?[edit]

It is not important to know the exact person you are writing for, but rather to have in your mind an image of, and an understanding of, your targetr audience.

An obvious starting place to start your research is by observing people from the target audience that you know personally to see what common attributes and attitudes they have. To be more concrete, we are usually writing for an audience of skilled engineers and technicians, who in all likelihood have a far greater understanding of telecommunications than we have or are ever likely to have.

Some of the questions we need to think about at this stage are concerned with finding common factors in their background, for example what they studied at university and to what level they have taken their education?

It is important when considering our target audience that we are not writing for a particular person, however at the same time neither are we writing for the "average" engineer, we need to create in our mind a composite of engineers to give ourselves as broad an audience as possible.

Tools we can use to help us in our research include:

  • surveys and questionnaires
  • personal experience
  • popular opinion and stereotypes

Why is research valuable?[edit]

Without knowing who it is we are writing for it is easy to be side-tracked or worse irrelevant.

Knowledge of the target audience allows the writer to stay firmly "on message".