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What Research with Computers Can Tell Us about the Uses of Reading in Writing


Writers who compose on computers have often complained of the difficulty they have in evaluating and correcting their work on the screen, particularly if the changes necessary are large, structural ones. A study of six freshman composition students and five writers experienced with computer writing examined how each used hard copy printouts of their compositions to supplement their evaluation of their work. Over a four-month period, the writers kept logs of their writing, noting when they made hard copy printouts, why, and what troubles they experienced with evaluating their compositions. Results initially suggested that the subjects used printouts (1) to check formatting (2) to proofread (3) to read the text to reorganize it, and (4) to read the text critically. Further study suggested that paper copy printouts were used differently when the tasks were either familiar or "knowledge forming," or long or short. Final results suggested that short, familiar tasks were easier to evaluate on the screen than long, knowledge forming ones. The findings of the study suggest that computer researchers may wish to work with software developers to alleviate difficulties with reading on computer screens, and that composition teachers working with students may wish to point out the dangers of relying completely on evaluating on-line and the benefits of hard copy evaluation. (JC)


Haas, C. What Research with Computers Can Tell Us about the Uses of Reading in Writing. Retrieved June 17, 2021 from .

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