Determining the intended audience of a source

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When analysing a source, it is important to realise that all sources were created for a particular individual or group of people.


Therefore, knowing about the intended audience of a source can help you in evaluating it.

What is an 'audience'?

The audience of a source is the person, or group of people, who were originally intended to see or use it. 


Based upon what you know about the time the source was created and who created it, you need to identify for whom the source was originally created.

How do I discover who the audience was?

Some sources make it easy for you to discover who their intended audience was, because they may specifically address them.


For example, if your source is a letter, it might simply begin with "Dear John"; in which case, John was clearly the intended audience. 

However, most of the time you will be required to make an informed guess regarding the original reader or viewer.


There are some general guidelines that may help you discover the intended audience.


For example: 

Type of Source Typical Audience(s)
 Academic Journal University academics and students
Book General public who is interested in the topic of the book
Diary The creator of the diary probably only wanted themselves to be the audience
Government Document Government employees and departments
Letter The recipient in the address
Newspaper General public
Textbook High school or university students studying the topic
Website General public


Discussing the intended audience of a source in your writing:


The Gallic Wars, created by Julius Caesar himself during his campaigns in Gaul in the 50s BC, was written primarily for the residents of the city of Rome.


The magazine article was written to not only inform their readership, but also to be entertaining. 

Watch a video explanation on the History Skills YouTube channel:

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