Context, Audience, & Purpose

Context: Type of situation or setting in which behaviors and other environmental patterns impact interaction with the text. The writer should visualize or forecast audience context.

Audience: Specified group of potential readers most likely to come into contact with your essay.

Purpose: The major goal of your writing.

Audience Awareness: Knowing WHO needs to be convinced and HOW to convince them. Audience Awareness begins the moment you form the thesis BEFORE you start writing.

Do not make assumptions about audience demographics just because you are writing in an academic context.  The academic audience is not necessarily homogeneous. Think of the college itself: it is filled with people from different age groups, different religions, different ethnicities, different backgrounds etc. What is the one trait all people in the college community share? They are either at the school to learn, to teach, or to support the learning process in some form. Other than that, the members of the college community are a diverse group.

 Establish purpose by examining your topic
In the section below, you will find several questions to ask yourself regarding your topic.  The questions are followed by brief clarifications, examples, and a possible purpose for your essay.

Is the topic well-known and often debated?
Topic is highly controversial and well-know; most people have already formed opinions about it.
Ex: Gun Control, Gay Marriage, Death Penalty, Immigration, Abortion, etc.
Possible Purpose: Persuasion

Is the topic narrow in scope?
Topic affects small or very specific demographic.
Ex: Texas community colleges should not charge Texas residents for the first 60 credit hours.
Possible Purpose: Forge relevancy i.e. make people care

Does the topic cover information that is not commonly understood? 
Topic includes information or uses terminology that might not be known to people outside of that field.
Ex: Lawyers in the U.S. Army are better qualified than civilian lawyers.
Possible Purpose: Provide Information

Has the topic been subject to widespread misinformation or rumors?
Topic is not highly technical, but is misunderstood due to widespread information.
Ex: Now that Ebola has arrived in the U.S., our citizens are now at risk and should enter quarantines.
Possible Purpose: Analyze