Define your stakeholders

Understand who currently contributes to your publication, who you would like to contribute, and how you can better meet stakeholders’ needs.

Any well-designed project considers the needs and perspectives of its audience. For a scholarly journal, this may include not only readers, but also authors, editors, reviewers, designers, and other publication staff. It’s likely there are a variety of interests and needs within these groups depending on factors such as career status, institution type, and geographic location. By better defining your journals’ stakeholders, you should be able to make more strategic decisions when crafting journal policies, outreach plans, and accessible website design.

One common technique is to develop user personas, or fictionalized profiles of specific individuals who represent larger groups of stakeholders. But good user personas are not stereotypes. To use them effectively, you should do some research and involve real stakeholders however possible. For instance, if you are seeking to improve gender representation among your authors, you could collaborate with a subject librarian to identify publications that address this issue across your field. You could also invite a small group of women as well as non-binary, genderqueer, and other gender-minority scholars and graduate students to chat about the ways they identify journals in which to publish and what obstacles they anticipate or have faced. (If possible, try to compensate them with a meal, gift card, or honorarium.) Based on what you learn, you could then create one or more user personas that assign specific attributes, perceptions, and needs to a fictionalized author or reader.

Next steps to defining your audience

  • Identify your stakeholders. If you have already launched your journal, who are you reaching? Who would you like to include?
  • Research stakeholder needs. Literature reviews, surveys, and informal discussions are all useful tools, but try to reach beyond your existing network.
  • Develop user personas. Based on your research, you may want to create profiles that represent the various stakeholders you hope to include.

References and resources

McDaniel, C., & Suffern, C. (2020, August 31). Conducting virtual focus groups: A short methodology case study for social scientists. Ithaka S+R.

Penn State. Universal design with personas. Pennsylvania State University World Campus