ERIC Number: ED192344
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1980-Apr
How Headings in Documents Can Mislead Readers. Technical Report No. 9.
Swarts, Heidi; And Others
Misleading headings in documents, which make it hard for readers to find what they need, are common in many types of documents. A review of research on the importance of cues in the reading process suggests that heading miscues might seriously impair understanding. Three experiments were conducted to discover how headings cue or miscue adult readers. Results of the first two experiments indicated that headings may be very important in some documents and suggested factors that differentiate between effective and ineffective headings. Results of the third experiment suggested that misleading headings can be offset by clear prose and led to the conclusion that the role headings play in documents is dependent on the nature of the document and on the reader's degree of familiarity with it. In attempting to write headings that help readers, document writers should consider that effective documents develop a human-centered network of ideas focusing on their audience's needs and that they are based on the "scenario principle," providing examples of scenarios in which the reader will likely play a part. Writers of headings should (1) adopt the scenario principle, (2) anticipate readers' questions, (3) clarify all terms used, and (4) make sure that short, definitional headings are accurate and specific. (GT)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (DHEW), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC.; Siegel & Gale, Inc., New York, NY.; Carnegie-Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh, PA.