Needs analysts have understood how needs change during a course [e.g. Richterich, R., & Chancerel, J. (1978). Identifying the needs of adults learning a foreign language. Oxford: Pergamon]. They have also considered how learning needs should influence the way course content is delivered [Robinson, P. (1991). ESP today: a practitioners’ guide. Hemel Hemstead: Prentice Hall; Widdowson, H. (1984). Educational and pedagogical factors in syllabus design. In ELT documents: Vol. 118. General english syllabus design (pp. 23–28). Oxford: Pergamon Press; Hutchinson, T., & Waters, A. (1987). English for specific purposes: a learning centred approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; West, R. (1994). Needs analysis in language teaching. Language Teaching, 27, 1–19; Tudor, I. (1996). Learner centredness as language education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press], examining how to integrate this iterative concept of needs into a course structure [Nunan, D. (1988). The learner-centred curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Brindley, G. (1989). The role of needs analysis in adult ESL programme design. In R. K. Johnson (Ed.), The second language curriculum (pp. 63–78) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press]. However, such goals are neglected when ESP practitioners base their course design on a Target Situation Analysis. In response, this paper derives a set of qualitative techniques of needs analysis grouped as Participatory Appraisal (PA) from an aid project approach known as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), assessing how these helped evolve course structures that both responded to changing needs, and began to advance learner independence in the EAP reading classroom. Copyright © 2006 Elsevier.