Document Analysis Worksheets
The DAW is an essential pre-designing/writing effort that will make your communication much easier and much more effective. It can spare you many a midnight hour of frustration–so do a thorough job! Your analysis will fall into four categories: purpose, audience, circumstances, and strategy.
What do you want your document to accomplish? Try to express this in 1 to 3 smooth, finished sentences. For example, the purpose in creating a flyer that advertises an extensive, new Carnivorous Big Cats exhibit at
the zoo might be: “To convince people that there really is something brand new and dramatically interesting at the Knoxville Zoo, and that they should come see it even if they think they’ve already checked out all the zoo has to offer. “
Here’s another example of a purpose statement. This one was my own purpose recently in writing a proposal to Minkle:
“I hope to persuade Dean Minkle to award me a faculty development grant that will allow me to do an internship in technical communication this fall at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL). My document must convince him that this internship will prove vital to my teaching, my research, and my ability to coordinate student internships with ORNL. It must also convince him that the internship will be good for the school’s reputation and for relations with ORNL. “
Who is your audience for this document? You may have a primary audience and then several tiers of less important audiences, or you may have multiple audiences all vital to the success of your communication. You must find out (or intuit) as much relevant information as you can about your audience.
If you have a large audience (for example, scores or hundreds or thousands of people you hope to reach with your document, as with an ad or set of instructions): Are you aiming at specific age groups? Genders? Families? Economic classes? Cultural types? Are you making your appeal to folks with certain kinds of education, experience, tastes–etc.?
If you have a more limited audience (a specific organization or person, for example): What is your reader’s title? Job description? Level of education? Degree of familiarity with the subject matter/language used in the document? Relevant experience, interests, prejudices, fears, etc.? What is the reader’s relationship to you? Attitude towards the subject matter of your document? Reasons for reading the document? How will she/he use the document? What actions must she/he take as a result of reading it?
Why does this document need to be created (assuming a real-world setting)? What exigency or opportunity in business, industry, or government has called for this document to be produced?
Let’s say you’ve been asked to create a flyer for a furniture company that will compete with a flyer just put out by your client’s most serious competitor. What’s going on in the business? Is an event coming up that both businesses wish to capitalize upon? What’s in the other flyer? Is there a Brown Squirrel involved that your own flyer should then make fun of in some way?
Another example of circumstance: Let’s say you are a new writer/document designer at DOW Chemical, and your supervisor has asked you to write and design a booklet on safety measures at one of the company’s plants. What’s calling for this document at this time? Is some kind of inspection imminent? Was someone injured at the plant recently? How did it happen?
How do personnel at the plant feel about the safety of their work environment? What’s the relationship between the plant and the surrounding populace? The answers to these questions, and many others, will be important to you as you decide on the document’s content, structure, style, and design.
This is also the section in which to say something about “constraints” (in terms of client’s/supervisor’s wishes, time frame, equipment, production, budget, etc.).
Now that you have carefully considered the document’s purposes, audiences, and circumstances-how will you shape the document to best accomplish those purposes in connection with those audiences under those circumstances? What content will you include, and what will you leave out? Why? What organizational scheme(s) do you believe will be most effective? Why? What stylistic features will best accomplish your purposes? What would constitute inappropriate style? Why? What design features will best present the materials of your document? Why?
Sketch out your thinking on these matters before beginning to create the document. Good communication is a complex activity; your experience and your product will be dramatically better if you Plan.