Paper vs I Don’t Remember


Photo of child reading a screen by johnb2008.If the thought of reading Darwin’s Origin of Species on an e-reader gives you pause, then recent research may give educators and parents similar concerns. Recent studies suggest screen navigation can impair comprehension.

For example, a study conducted at the University of Stavanger in Norway asked 72 10th-grade students of similar reading ability to study one narrative and one expository text, each about 1,500 words in length. Half of the students read the texts on paper and half read them in pdf files on computers with 15-inch LCD monitors. Reading-comprehension tests, consisting of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, during which they had access to the texts, revealed that students who read the texts on computers performed a little worse than students who read on paper.

The lead researcher thinks that students reading PDF files had a more difficult time finding particular information when referencing the texts. The students using computers could only scroll or click through the PDFs one section at a time, whereas students reading on paper could hold the text in its entirety in their hands and quickly switch between different pages. Because of their easy navigability, paper books and documents may be better suited to absorption in a text. The lead researcher speculates that navigation may play a role in comprehension: "The ease with which you can find out the beginning, end and everything in between and the constant connection to your path, your progress in the text, might be some way of making it less taxing cognitively, so you have more free capacity for comprehension."

Log Off and Come to the Library

Give your eyes a break, and come to the library for crafts, games, or great performances.

Photo credit: johnb2008


Author Bio:

Paula Hess is a Brisbane Public Library Intern.

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