Who Will Read Your Academic Papers?

Whenever any writer sits down to write, they want to know their audience. The reader, after all, indirectly influences many of the writer’s decisions and strategies. So, when writing an academic paper of any type, it’s important for the writer to determine who will be reading it.

Published or Unpublished?

When determining the potential audience for your academic paper, consider the following:

  • Will it be published?
  • If so, where?

The first answer may not be as straightforward as students imagine it to be. Certainly, if they are writing expressly for publication, they know the answer. However, many universities and colleges also reserve the right to publish student’s work, and of course, the majority of dissertations and theses are published in some form or another through the university.

Thus, the easiest way to answer the question is that if the paper is a lower level academic paper, or specifically assigned as part of a student’s coursework, it will likely be read only by the instructor and perhaps other students in the class unless it is to be published by the student.

If the paper is a graduate or doctorate level research paper, it will be published, and would have a much wider potential audience.

Who Reads Graduate and Doctorate Level Papers?

That depends largely on the topic of the paper and how unique it is in the writer’s field of study. If the paper doesn’t cover a unique aspect of research, the writer can assume that it will likely only be read by other students researching that common topic.

However, if the paper represents something innovative in the field, and there are few other examples of its study in the literature, then they can anticipate that it may have a much broader audience. Other researchers that work in the field professionally may well seek out their paper to read it.

If it is the case that the paper represents an innovative perspective in the field, the student may also wish to submit it themselves to a peer reviewed journal for publication. If this is the case, the student should consult with their mentor to determine what steps they need to take to delay the paper from being published by the university prior to its publication in the journal. Many journals will not publish previously published articles; they want first rights to publication for each submission.