History and Politics Behind the “Pills”

The politics and history of birth control are topics of interest to a variety of people. However, the way both topics are presented can make a significant difference in how people respond to them. When attempting to reach an older audience, a newspaper or other form of print media might be more effective. When reaching for a younger, more tech-savvy audience, one might use the internet as their platform of choice. Even within the internet, there is a divide between academic and popular articles: on one hand, the former is full of useful information portrayed in a detailed and in-depth manner, while the latter tend to be shorter and more engaging to the average Internet user. In this essay, I will be examining how the presentation of an argument affects its target audience and effectiveness. Some of the techniques I will be looking at will be the format of the article, citations and references, and the language used in the article.

     The popular article I found was titled  “After Health Care, Act, Sharp Drop in Spending on Birth Control” and was written by Sabrina Tavernise, a journalist for The New York Times, and published by The New York Times.  I believe she wrote this article for average people who wanted to know the politics behind the increased access to the birth control pill. For people who want the relevant information immediately and without too much technical writing, this article is a good choice. In order to grab the attention of the reader and make the article easier to digest, the article consists of short paragraphs and is written in more colloquial language. The author does not use difficult terminology and leaves out the complicated details of the studies she uses as the evidence or support. This way, readers do not require professional knowledge of the subject in order to understand the article. 

     One of the most effective techniques utilized by the author is the omission of highly technical details and information regarding the procedure of the studies. The average internet reader does not care about how studies are conducted; most of them only care about the results. She also uses words such as experts or researchers to refer to the people who conducted the studies. Having too many details about the studies might seem boring to certain demographics and could possibly turn them away.  Additionally, the author does not have proper citations or references: instead, she has hyperlinked certain keywords and when the readers click on them, they are directed to external links or other articles published by The New York Times. The hyperlinks indicate that that despite the lack of proper citations, the author has read and referenced academic articles related to the topic. I believe that the readers expect the author to provide them with easy to digest information without too much effort on behalf of the readers. The people who read this article expect information quickly, and hyperlinking makes relevant information easier to access as opposed to searching through citations at the end of the article.

One of the main goals of the popular article is to convince the readers to read the academic articles and generate traffic to the host website. The author makes good use of simple colloquial language and makes it easier for her intended audience to access the academic article without being deterred by the complex nature of the studies.  The quote below is an example of the author’s use of simpler language and basic information about the topic; while the author could have gone into more detail about the studies and how they were conducted, she only talked about the end result and general trends in both studies.

“Experts cautioned that the sample, while large, represented claims from just one insurer and was not designed to be nationally representative. However, they said the trends it showed were convincing. Smaller studies also have found sharp declines in out-of-pocket spending, though experts said Tuesday’s study was the largest to date.” (Tavernise)

The academic article I found was written by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, (professors of economics from Harvard University), and published by the Harvard University.  Unlike the popular article I examined above, this article is geared towards people who are interested in the history of birth control pill; how it has effected the cost of professional education for women. The authors assume that audiences have extended knowledge in this issue.

The use of language in this article is different from the popular article. The more scholarly article uses more elevated scientific language. The authors make the assumption that their readers are at least somewhat aware of the terminology and background of the topic. The addition of more experimental vocabulary, such as the names of hormones, are signs that this article is not meant for the general public. The elevated language might create a barrier between the general public because not everyone who comes this article might be familiar with the terminology used. Additionally, the use of less colloquial language is indicative of the target demographic, an educated population with interest in the topic. The authors of this articles uses “we” over “you” or “your” to emphasize the fact that authors share views similar to the readers.  By speaking directly to the audience instead of a hypothetical population, the authors are trying to establish a more intimate connection with the reader. The authors are aware that their audience are most likely invested in this topic and care about it, and by speaking more personally with them, they increase appeal of reading their study.

The use of proper citations and references is another technique employed by the authors of the more scholarly article. By citing the information correctly as opposed to simply linking it like the more popular article, the authors are lending their work credibility.  This change in the format, namely the use of long paragraphs and citations, is meticulous and detailed for the sole purpose of education. This marked difference in format highlights the differences between short and long articles: shorter articles are meant to spread general information and awareness without being too wordy and boring, while longer articles are meant to engage and educate a specific audience about a topic in depth. The more popular article, as discussed previously, is meant to drive traffic to a website, not to fully educate the general public in an in-depth manner. The length of an article appears to be directly related to its purpose; longer articles are meant to convey information in detail, while shorter articles are meant to briefly engage the reader, educating them in a manner that catches their attention without being overly technical or difficult to process as an average internet user.

Ultimately, the way information is presented says a lot about its intended audience. Though my analysis, I have learned that in order to persuade or educate people, the first step is knowing your demographic. A longer article may be intended for a more educated and invested audience, while a shorter article might be written for the purpose of getting hits on a host website. The was related information is presented says something about the author’s perception of the audience as well. The popular article article uses hyperlinks to provide information and references because the author understands that their audience probably has a shorter attention span and wants information immediately. The longer, more scholarly article has detailed citations because the people reading that article would be more invested in the information and where the information came from, thus meriting proper citations that make the author’s writing more credible. The information in an article is important, but the way it the author presents it may matter more.




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