Reading plain text and hypertext on the Internet for native and non-native speakers of English
Tommy B. McDonell, New York University, United States
New York University . Awarded
An exploratory study using a mix methods design examined 25 native and 25 non-native U.S. college and university students reading 2 texts online, one on the cell-phone with hypertext and the other on the printing press with a footnote substituted for hyperlinks. The readings, from Encarta (www.Encarta.com), were found to be equivalent in complexity, and participants reported equal levels of familiarity with both topics. After each reading, students were asked a series of cued recall questions and were assigned one point for each proposition recalled correctly.
Eight students (four native and four non native) were interviewed in order to elaborate on their reading experiences, their perspectives regarding the two texts, their perceived understanding, and their ability to recall information. Statistical analysis showed that students had significantly better recall of the linear text compared to the hypertext passage. However, there was no statistically significant difference between native and non-native speakers under either condition, nor was there any interaction effect between speaker and text type. Neither group could recall a large number of propositions, and most of the propositions recalled were in response to the first three cues.
Native and non-native speakers reported having difficulty in reading both linear text and text with hyperlinks. Linear text was reported as relatively easier to recall than hypertext by both groups of students. Natives and non-natives interviewed differed in their approaches to reading online, and student perceptions were sometimes inconsistent with the objective evidence of their reading recall.
McDonell, T.B. Reading plain text and hypertext on the Internet for native and non-native speakers of English. Ph.D. thesis, New York University.
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