“Minimum Qualified Reader” — sounds very stern, very old-school comms. “Don’t bother unless you have a PhD.”
Actually: just the opposite.
Yes, you get to define your Minimum Qualified Reader — for your book, your talk, your argument, your podcast, your work.
But the MQR isn’t just what your audience has to know to understand you.
It quickly becomes the articulation of your responsibility toward your readers to help them understand you. To help them become your MQRs, and to evolve with you as your thinking evolves.
Your MQR isn’t born. It’s made. By you.
The MQR as defined by Manning Publications, the publisher of books on computer technology and web development, is a framework to a) help authors before they start writing decide who their books are for, and b) write effectively for those people. Here’s Manning’s definition:
Minimally qualified reader (MQR)—The persona of a typical student with the basic skills needed to benefit from the information. Knowing the MQR means understanding what that person already knows, and teaching what that person doesn’t yet know. Defining the reader is an essential part of making good, useful living documentation.
As my colleague and cloud computing security expert Stephen Kuenzli (co-author of the Manning book Docker in Action) explains, listing the prerequisites and takeaways for the MQR is a great way to build one — the more “plausible and specific” the lists, the better.
But Stephen adds that he and his coauthor for Docker in Action, also wrote personas/MQRs for each chapter of the book — in essence, describing how the MQR (and real readers) should be evolving in their knowledge as they finished each chapter, and what they needed to know for the next.
Stephen didn’t worry about lack of science literacy or innumeracy in his readers.
He took the concept of the MQR and used it to create, step by step, the Minimum Qualified Readers he needed for his book to work.
Because you need MQRs for your research or research expertise to work.
How might you transfer this concept to your research comms? Your digital channels?
What are the foundational concepts, research-driven insights and solutions you could translate for your audiences so that — in 15 minutes, or in five — those audiences could become your MQRs?
One example you should bookmark: IDEO’s Design Kit, which introduces the cornerstone concepts, mindsets and methods underpinning IDEO’s concept of “human-centered design.” (And illustrative case studies.)
IDEO could mystify “human-centered design” and wield it in engagements as a proprietary wand. Instead, they choose to break it down and open it up to everyone.
An ethos that research — and research comms — needs. At a minimum.