Academic texts, part 5: Target Audience


Sometimes you can determine whether a text is scientific och popular scientifc by getting a sence of who is the primary target audience of the text. Scientific texts are written the other researchers in the subject area in mind. This means that some things are taken for granted, e.g. subject knowledge or that the author is familiar with a specific theoretic tradition. It might also mean that a specific language (e.g. established terms or mathematical formulas) is used which is not easy to understand for those outside of the research area. Consequenses for readability differs between the research areas – in some subjects the target audiences ia a wide audience, even the generel public, while in other areas texts are mainly written for specialists. These specialists may include both researchers and professional population.

Within the natural sciences and history there are many good examples of writing popular science articles and presenting research in a more accessible way. Journals whose main audience (as authors and/or reader) is professional people are often (not always) popular science, branch or trade journals.

Scientific journals are aimed for researchers, students and professional people.The following for example is written in the description of description of Journal of Documentation from Emerald Publishers:

”Key journal audiences

  • Educators, scholars, researchers and advanced students in the information sciences
  • Reflective practitioners in the information professions
  • Policy makers and funders in information-related areas
  • The Journal’s content will also be of value to scholars and students in many related subject areas.”

In Author guidelines for the influential journal Nature we can see that the journals is written a number of audiences in mind but that all of them are not expected to read each and every article:

”Authors are strongly encouraged to attempt two 100-word summaries, one to encapsulate the significance of the work for readers of Nature (mainly scientists or those in scientifically related professions); and the other to explain the conclusions at an understandable level for the general public.” (From “For Authors”)

Both of these journals have researchers, students and professional people within the special areas as the target audience but they are also open for the fact that even general public might be interested in the articles.

//Helena Francke, lector at BHS

Blog posts are translated from Swedish by Pieta Eklund.