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Who is your audience?


This is a lesson on using market research to tailor content. In order to understand the audience prior to building a website, it is essential to do market research to discover who the target audience is and what their habits and preferences are before.  Students will brainstorm who their audience is and what interests they have. After brainstorming what they know, they will create a poll/survey to actually ask their student body about their interests.


  • Students will analyze their audience demographics and also online habits.
  • Students will understand how to create a poll/survey to survey their audience to understand their social media/online habits and what their interests are.
  • Students will understand the difference between quantitative (structured questions) and qualitative (open-ended) polling within their surveys.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.



Two 50-minute classes


Class set: Student Interests Chart

Class set: Group Evaluation

Class set: Knowing Audience Survey

Access to links: Pew Internet and American Life Project –

JEA Digital Media –

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Using the Student Interests Chart as an example, have students write down three different things that they either do, like or use each and every day. So, if they use their cell phone to post on Instagram or to send a Tweet, students should write down that example. Start generating a list of different interests, activities, and also what they do every day. As students generate the list, start to create various categories. See sample chart, and organize on a white board, large paper, or by post-it notes. This initial brainstorm of categories will help to focus the poll/survey the students will write to interview students about their interests.

2. Group reflection — 30 minutes

After students have placed the various interests into similar categories, have students work in groups of 2-3 and list interests or ideas that are not represented. Use the following questions to inspire discussion and again, use the chart for organizational reference.

Are there interests that are not represented because they are not represented by your students/staff?

How would you discover what the majority of students are interested in?

How many students should be interviewed to get a good sample of the students at your school?

Allow students to share what is missing and make a comprehensive list that the whole class can refer to and also edit and revise. 

Students or class can also create their own chart using

3. Present — 10 minutes

Discuss what student groups came up with and also define what areas of interest and who their targeted audience will be for the website. Students should finalize their individual lists for class tomorrow.

Day 2

1. Building background — 10 minutes
Introduce students to survey writing using the Knowing Audience Survey handout. Discuss the difference between quantitative and qualitative questions, what information students will learn and when to use each type of question.

2. Group work — 20 minutes
In groups of 2-3 students, students should create 2-3 quantitative and qualitative questions (4-6 total) based on the information that students collected the previous day.

Example of a Bad Question with Inconsistent Answer Choices

How many hours a day do you spend doing homework?

0 to 1 hour

180 to 210 minutes

4 to 5 hours

more than 5 hours

Remind students that they need to be consistent with what they are asking.  If they are asking for hours in the question, then they must keep the choices as hours in the multiple-choice examples.

Example of a Bad Question With an Irrelevant Answer Choice

Which subject do you enjoy the most at school?

❏      Math

❏      Science

❏      English

❏      Foreign Language

❏      History

❏      Art

❏      Music

❏      Football Practice

❏      Cheerleading

❏      Other

If students are interested in activities, then they should restrict the question to activities versus subjects or possible classes.


While students are creating sample questions, introduce the idea of the“filter” question. A filter question asks about a general topic before introducing specific questions about that topic. For example, if students are asking about how others use social media, it is important for the survey to ask if the student actually is using social media before asking additional questions about how they use social media.

Remind students to only ask one question at a time.  Some students will ask multiple questions at the same time, which is called a double-barreled question.


An example of a double-barreled question:

How have teachers and students at your school responded to the vending machines being removed in the cafeteria?

❏      Satisfied

❏      Unsatisfied

Ask students what is wrong with the question above and how would they change it to make it a good question. (They should realize that the question is aimed at two different groups — students and teachers — and they should rewrite the question into two different prompts).

3. Present—10 minutes

Once students have a rough draft of their survey questions, present to the class and ask for feedback. Are the questions all-inclusive? How will they help the class design a better journalism website? Do students feel like this survey would provide insight into what their peers might want from a website?

You might also use this time to discuss the importance of polling at least 10 percent of the population in order to develop a reliable baseline of information. So, if a school has 1,800 students, students should survey at least 180 students, randomly chosen.   Students should consider randomly choosing students versus surveying students from all of the same art class or same football team to give more validity to the survey.

Check out the Pew Internet and American Life Project – for some additional survey examples:

The Survey System – – This Sample Size Calculator is presented as a public service of Creative Research Systems.  You can use it to determine how many people you need to interview in order to get results that reflect the target population as precisely as needed. You can also find the level of precision you have in an existing sample.

Students can create surveys at the following online websites, but sometimes it is hard to get other students to answer online polls.  For some online poll websites, visit:

4. Follow-up — Take home exercise

Assume that you are to conduct a survey at your school on some issue of interest to students, such as use of social media.  Write your ideas about the following:

  1. What will you use to ensure that your polling sample is fair?
  2. What three useful, well-phrased questions you would use in your survey?