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Searching informational texts: Text and task characteristics that affect performance

Gavin Brown

Searching informational text involves use of text characteristics and task factors. 

  • Text characteristics include signalling devices (e.g., headings, subheadings, titles), typography (e.g., fonts, boldface or italic text), and structural features (e.g., organisation, graphics, paragraphing). 
  • Task conditions depend on how explicitly or implicitly search requirements have been stated and on whether the search problem involves a single, multiple, or complex formulation. 

Research into young adolescent students' use of text characteristics to locate main ideas and details in a variety of task conditions led to the development of standardised paper-and-pencil assessments.  Students easily located answers using a single, declarative, verbatim search term cued through typographic and signalling features.  In contrast, students found most difficult locating answers using complex, multi-word search terms and extraction into graphic organizers or structural outline note-taking frames.

The full article published in Reading online.

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Gavin Brown