ERIC Number: ED258165
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1985-Jun
Reference Count: 0
The Effects of Topic Familiarity on Good and Poor Readers' Sensitivity to What Is Important in Text. Technical Report No. 337.
Winograd, Peter; Newell, George
A study was conducted to examine the influence of topic familiarity on good and poor readers' ability to identify and use important information in expository texts. Subjects were 56 eighth grade students and 37 adults. After indicating their familiarity with the topics of eight experimental passages using J. P. Guilford's method of paired comparisons, subjects read, summarized, and rated the importance of each passage. The resulting data were used to compute four dependent measures, each of which assessed a different dimension of students' sensitivity to importance: (1) agreement with adult ratings of importance, (2) agreement with peer ratings of importance, (3) agreement with adult summaries, and (4) agreement with peer summaries. The analyses revealed that good readers were significantly more in agreement with adults' ratings of importance and adult summaries than were poor readers. Good and poor readers did not differ in terms of peer group consistency of importance ratings or in the summaries. The analyses also revealed that both good and poor readers became more sensitive to importance when they were dealing with more familiar passages than when they were dealing with less familiar ones. Adults' agreement over which elements to consider as important increased with topic familiarity as well. The findings support earlier studies indicating that the degree of topic specific knowledge has a powerful effect on reading comprehension. (HTH)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Illinois Univ., Urbana. Center for the Study of Reading.; Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc., Cambridge, MA.