Technical Writing – Definition of Target Audience

As a technical writer, you seldom write in a vacuum. For whatever type of document you’re writing, there is a designated Target Audience.

Depending on the assignment, the target audience can be very broad: everyone who buys a Harper’s Handy Home Widget, or it can be very specific: aerospace mold makers using a TRF-3 Tri-axel Reciprocating Fulminator. When you write, you must write to a defined target audience.

The easiest target audience to write for is the most clearly and narrowly defined one. As the target audience becomes less specific, the tech writer’s job becomes more difficult.

General Characteristics of a Target Audience

Every target audience shares common characteristics. Normally, your client knows what those characteristics are and gives them to you. In some rare cases, you may need to research the target audience to discover what makes it a target. Some common, shared characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Income
  • Education
  • Interests

You’ll notice that these are the same characteristics taken into consideration by marketing companies. For the tech writer, though, there are other characteristics that may be even more important than these.

Specific Characteristics of a Target Audience

When writing procedures it’s important that you understand what the target audience already knows about the subject. From that, you can decide at what level you need to begin and how much information you need to supply.

In the case of a common, household appliance, such as a toaster, you can tell from the manufacturer’s target market who the target audience is likely to be. If the product is going to be sold in the US in large department and appliance stores, you can pretty safely assume that the people who buy it already know what a toaster is, what it does, and how to use it. They know it’s an electrical device that has to be plugged into a 110v outlet. If it’s like most toasters, it has a slot for each slice of bread and a control of some sort that determines how well done the toast is. Obviously, you don’t spend much time on these elements.

If the toaster has a setting for toasting only one side of bagels and English muffins, you want to be sure that the user knows about this feature and how to use it. Not all toasters have settings for frozen waffles or tarts. This needs to be clearly explained.

What you’re doing is deciding what the user already knows and what he or she will need to be taught. Of course, there are the standard Warnings and Disclaimers that are usually written as though the user was either five-years-old or a complete idiot.

On the other end of the scale is writing for a very narrow or specialized audience. Again, the client should supply you with information. But whether that happens or not, it’s your job to find out the salient characteristics of the target audience. You need to ask:

  • Who will use the product?
  • Under what conditions?
  • What is the user’s expertise, training, level of experience?

Fortunately, that’s often easier the more specialized the target audience is.

If you’re writing about an improved model of a testing device, you can probably assume that the technician using it is already trained in the subject and has experience using the current device. Unless the operation is significantly different, the focus will be on how the new model is different from the old model.

Generally Speaking…

The same standards apply regardless of what type of material you’re writing. You’ll write a technical report or a brochure depending on who’s going to read it. It’s only after you have a clear understanding of who the target audience is that you can begin to plan the approach and develop the content for any writing assignment.

Analysis of Betty Friedan’s The Problem That Has No Name

In an excerpt from her book, “The Feminine Mystique”, Betty Friedan defines women’s unhappiness during the Fifties as ”the problem that has no name.” She identifies “the problem that has no name” as upper-middle classed suburban women experiencing dissatisfaction with their lives and an inarticulated longing for something else beside their housewifely duties. She pins the blame on a media perpetuated idealized image of femininity, a social construction that tells women that their role in life is catch a man, keep a man, have children and put the needs of one’s husband and children first.

According to Friedan, women have been encouraged to confine themselves to a very narrow definition of “true” womanhood, forsaking education and career aspirations in the process by experts who wrote books, columns and books that told women during that era that their greatest role on the planet was to be wives and mothers. The role of a “real” woman was to have no interest in politics, higher education and careers and women were taught by these experts to pity women who had the nerve to want a life beyond the cult of true womanhood.

If women expressed dissatisfaction with their charmed lives, the experts blamed their feelings on the higher education they received before becoming a housewife. During the fifties, little girls as young as ten years were being marketed by underwear advertisers selling brassieres with false bottoms to aide them in catching boyfriends and American girls began getting married in high school. America’s birthrate during this time skyrocketed and college educated women made careers out of having children. The image of the beautiful, bountiful Suburban housewife was accepted as the norm and women drove themselves crazy, sometimes literally to achieve this goal.

Friedan ultimately concluded that “the problem that has no name” is not a loss of femininity, too much education, or the demands of domesticity but a stirring of rebellion of millions of women who were fed up with pretending that they were happy with their lives and that solving this problem would be the key to the future of American culture.

10 Interactive Science Education Websites For Grades K-12

As science teachers prepare to go back to school for the next school year, some have already returned, they are always searching for good online resources to supplement their lessons. It is always nice when someone helps them by previewing science websites and make recommendations.

The best science education websites are interactive, allowing students to make changes to or manipulate variables to observe what happens and share with others. This falls within the boundaries of inquiry-based teaching and learning. Students are developing their own experiments, observing the results, and reporting their findings.

The following websites have been previewed and meet the criteria of interactive and inquiry-based:

FOSS Web – is designed to support Full Option Science System (FOSS) Science K-8 science kits, but anyone can use the interactive activities for grades K – 8.

Volcano Cams – provides real-time views of volcanoes around the world. Students can observe volcanoes and develop their own experiments using these virtual cams for grades 5 – 12.

Explore eLearning – provides simulators for all science concept areas for grades 3 – 12.

Real-time Stream Flow Data across the Nation – by the US Geological Survey (USGS) provides real-time data typically are recorded at 15- to 60-minte intervals and transmitted to the U.S. Geological Survey offices every four hours. Data can be selected by state and county for grades 8 – 12.

Real-time Water Quality Data across the Nation-by the US Geological Survey (USGS) provides real-time water quality data are returned directly field instruments. Data are updated at five minute to one-hour intervals. Data can be selected by state and county for grades 8 -12.

Design a Roller Coaster – allows students to design their own roller coaster. They are building a conceptual coaster using the same physics concepts that are used to design real coasters for grades 6 – 12.

Human Anatomy Online – allows students to explore the Human Anatomy. Each topic has animations, 100’s of graphics, and thousands of descriptive links, for grades 4 – 12.

Earth and Atmospheric Kids Crossing – allows students explore water, atmosphere, and weather for grades 3 – 8.

Recycle City – lets students explore plenty of ways to see how a city’s residents recycle, reduce, and reuse waste for grades 3 – 8.

MBG Net – allows students to explore Biomes, Freshwater Systems, and Marine Systems of the World for grades 6 – 12.

Blessings Of Online Education

Online education may be defined as training, learning or degree program which is generally delivered through internet or an intranet. It is an approach of redefining the technique of study where common people can educate themselves without any boundaries of attendance, timing and travel difficulties. In online courses, teachers and students can meet periodically or once in a physical setting for labs, exams and lectures. Overall, internet education gives more emphasis on the global interaction and concept of newest knowledge expansion. Online study does not demand huge investment. For internet study, you need a personal computer with an internet connection. Many people with job responsibilities and family do not have time to attend regular classroom studies. Internet learning is beneficial for busy people of modern times.

Internet learning is famous for online degrees and online courses. There are multiple benefits of internet education. There are no age limitations for the people willing to acquire knowledge through internet. People belonging to different age groups can acquire degrees according to their interests. Online education has removed all the hurdles. You can opt for several online courses, in the universities where online education facility is conveniently available. There is no dearth of various universities that offer a wide array of online educational courses via online education. People residing in the remote areas have to face many problems when they have to reach their college or university. Online education has resolved this problem in the best way. Now, people belonging to far-off places can get educational degrees without going out of their home. They can select any online educational institutions for getting the desired online degree. So, internet education has removed the territorial barriers. You are not required to get worried about hostel charges because you can get education simply sitting at your home.

There is a great tendency of people towards internet study. If you are looking for the best cost saving education then web-based education is ideal for you. Internet study is ideal for the physically handicapped students. They don’t have to travel from one place to another for the purpose of getting higher education. They can continue higher studies without getting worried about the travelling issues. This mode of education does not need any kind of physical presence of the students. You can get education anywhere via your personal computer. You should not get anxious about reliability of online universities. You will be happy to know that many online universities are attributed by recognized educational bodies.

A Review of the Instructional Design Models

Before we discuss what instructional design models (IDM) are, it is important to first define itself. Its also referred to as Instructional Systems Design (ISD), is the process of creating instructional experiences that make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient and effective. The instructional design discipline grew out of World War II, when the U.S. military needed to quickly train large numbers of personnel to perform various tasks.

While the terms Instructional Technology and Educational Technology are frequently used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) defines Instructional technology as “the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning,” while Educational Technology is defined as “study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.

With the key definitions now out of the way, let us examine instructional design models. First, a model is a representation of a complex entity or phenomenon, whose purpose is to objective understanding of what it represents. Models help the designer to visualize the problem at hand, and to then to break it down into smaller, more manageable units.

It then follows that an instructional design model are frameworks for developing instruction that enhance learning outcomes and also encourages learners to gain a deeper level of understanding. In other words, IDM tells instructional designers how to organize pedagogical situations in order to achieve instructional goals. It is important to note that effective instructional models are based on learning and instructional theories.

Models are classified into prescriptive and descriptive. Prescriptive models provide guidelines to organize and structure instructional activities while descriptive models describe the learning environment and how it affects variables at play.

There are many instructional models that have been developed over the years, and most are based on the ADDIE model. ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

This systematic IDM consists of five generic phases, which have been refined over the years in other models like the Dick and Carey Design Model and the Rapid Prototyping Model.

Common examples of these instructional models include:

  1. Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction
  2. Bloom’s Learning Taxonomy
  3. Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels of Training Evaluation
  4. Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction
  5. Kemp’s IDM
  6. Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction)
  7. ASSURE Model (Analyze Learners, State Objectives, Select Methods, Media, and Materials, Utilize Media and Materials, Require Learner Participation, and Evaluate and Revise)
  8. Smith and Ragan IDM
  9. Rapid Prototyping Model.

This of course is a non-exhaustive list.

Of importance to note is that in all models, the learner is (or should be) central to instruction. The learning context is also of importance to positive instructional outcomes. This includes instruction at all levels, i.e. K-12 education, adult learning, and higher education. Thus instructional design models are applicable to teachers, designers, trainers, and college level instructors mention a few.