Advanced User Analysis

In science and engineering, the term “user analysis” refers to the method scientists and engineers use to determine the characteristics of users and how those characteristics influence the development of systems or other technological products. For plain language writers, the term is used similarly. For writing to be effective and meaningful, you need to analyze the characteristics of your target audience and understand who will be receiving your communication.

In this course, you’ll learn how to plan and evaluate writing and writing contexts so that communications can be targeted specifically to your intended audience.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Erin Klingmann $630.00 22 Register
Online - - TBD $630.00 29 Register

Instructional hours: 21

Schedule clarification: This course begins on the first date listed and ends six days after the last date listed. Between those times, you work at your own pace within the timelines set by the instructor.

What will I learn?

On completion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the communication planning necessary to develop user-centred documents
  • Define usability as it relates to clear communication
  • Use several sources of information to analyze the users/tasks/contexts for a communication
  • Conduct a usability test
  • Revise a document based on user analysis so that it is clear and effective for the target audience

How will I learn?

Prepare to spend six to 10 hours per week on coursework, including:

  • Weekly course modules accessed through Canvas
  • Group assignments
  • Independent writing assignments
  • Extra reading
  • Online research and discussion groups

Course materials will be available 24/7, and assignment deadlines will be posted well in advance, allowing you to set your own pace for learning.

How will I be evaluated?

Evaluation methods may vary, but you will be evaluated using standard university evaluation approaches, such as a combination of examinations, projects, labs, papers, case studies, assignments and individual and group participation. An A to F letter grading scale will be used. To qualify for a certificate, you must successfully complete the program courses with an overall minimum B average.

Textbooks and learning materials

You are responsible for purchasing the recommended texts, which are available in print and e-book formats.

All other course materials will be provided online.

Recommended texts:

Stephens, Cheryl. Plain Language in Plain English., 2010. ISBN 978-0557537877 (e-book available from

Cutts, Martin. Oxford Guide to Plain English. 5th Ed. Oxford University Press, 2020.
ISBN ISBN 978-0198844617 (e-book available)

Hardware and software requirements 

We deliver this course using SFU's online course management system, Canvas. You will receive course details and Canvas access instructions on the first day of the course. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.

New to online learning? See About Online Learning for helpful videos and additional information.

English language requirements

To succeed in this course, you will need an advanced level of written and spoken English. If you are unsure whether your English language skills are sufficient, we recommend you complete the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with the following minimums:

  • Overall band score minimum 6.5
  • No band below 6.0
  • Writing band score minimum 8.0

Please note we can’t refund your registration fees after the course start date if you find your English language skills are not adequate.

If you have questions or concerns about your English language proficiency, we encourage you to contact your local IELTS Test Centre.

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