Classmates and professors
For an academic audience of classmates and teachers, you have the task of considering a diverse group. You’ll want to think about how much background information your audience will need on your topic, as well as what terms will need to be defined. You’ll want to be sure to use a formal tone, as research papers for an academic audience generally require a tone that is quite formal.
Colleagues or potential colleagues
For an audience within your field, you’ll want to consider how much background information you’ll need to provide and what terms you need to define. You may not need to provide as much background information as you would for a diverse academic or general audience, and you wouldn’t want to define terms that would be considered common knowledge in your field. Your tone should be formal, as colleagues or potential colleagues in your field of study will expect a formal voice.
The general public
Although many research papers in college-level classes are intended for an academic audience, you may encounter assignments where instructors ask you to write for a general public type of audience. When you write for the general public, you may need to provide helpful background information, define important terms, and use a tone that is semi-formal.