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Audience & Purpose

In this Section
Professors, whether in Humanities, Science or Engineering, have a variety of goals for their assignments. These goals may be assumed but not stated in the assignment. Ask your professor his/her goals for an assigned paper. The ultimate goal is to persuade the reader to accept a thesis or take an action. Sub-tasks that accomplish that goal could include one, or a combination, of the following:
  • define, summarize and/or compare key course concepts
  • synthesize concepts studied throughout the course,
  • critique texts, projects, experiments
  • apply course concepts in experiments or personal experience
Ultimately, the goal is to persuade the reader to accept a thesis or take an action. The professor may use the writing task as a take-home test in order to assess your knowledge of course material and class discussions; your ability to argue your position on an author's work; or your ability to apply ideas in another context.

Reader’s Expectations
Sometimes professors state the reader’s expectations explicitly in the assignment, or they assume that the writer knows these standards. Expectations vary by discipline and include the following:
  • structure (inductive or deductive),
  • degree of development (evidence, arguments),
  • style and tone (formal/informal),
  • format and documentation.

If you are an inexperienced writer or unfamiliar with a professor's expectations, you should ask your reader to explain his/her expectations and to show you some sample papers.

Keep the project's goals and the reader's expectations throughout the writing process.

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