Original Research

A research on comprehension differences between print and screen reading

Szu-Yuan Sun, Chich-Jen Shieh, Kai-Ping Huang
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 16, No 5 | a640 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v16i5.640 | © 2013 Szu-Yuan Sun, Chich-Jen Shieh, Kai-Ping Huang | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 May 2013 | Published: 07 December 2013

About the author(s)

Szu-Yuan Sun, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan
Chich-Jen Shieh, Chang Jung Christian University, Taiwan
Kai-Ping Huang, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

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Since the 1980s, extensive research has been conducted comparing reading comprehension from printed text and computer screens. The conclusions, however, are not very consistent. As reading from computer screens requires a certain degree of individual technical skill, such variables should be objectively taken into consideration when conducting an experiment regarding the comparison between print and screen reading. This study analyses the difference in the level of understanding of the two presentational formats (text on printed pages and hypertext on computer screens) for people between 45−54 years of age (i.e. “middleaged” adults). In our experimental findings there were no significant differences between the levels of comprehension for print and screen presentations. With regard to individual differences in gender, age group and educational level, the findings are as follows: gender and education effects on print reading comprehension performance were significant, while those on screen reading comprehension performance were not. For middle-aged computer learners, the main effect of age group on both print and screen reading comprehension performance was insignificant. In contrast, linear texts of traditional paper-based material are better for middle-aged readers’ literal text comprehension, while hypertext is beneficial to their inferential text comprehension. It is also suggested that hypermedia could be used as a cognitive tool for improving middle-aged adults’ inferential abilities on reading comprehension, provided that they were trained adequately to use available computers.


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