The Effects of Prior Knowledge and Text Structure on Comprehension Processes during Reading of Scientific Texts

By Kendeou, Panayiota; van den Broek, Paul | Memory & Cognition, October 2007 | Go to article overview

The Effects of Prior Knowledge and Text Structure on Comprehension Processes during Reading of Scientific Texts


Kendeou, Panayiota, van den Broek, Paul, Memory & Cognition


The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of prior knowledge and text structure on cognitive processes during comprehension of scientific texts. To investigate the processes online, we used a think-aloud methodology in Experiment 1 and a reading time methodology in Experiment 2. In both experiments, we obtained offline comprehension measures and measures of individual differences in working memory and need for cognition. Across the two experiments, the results indicated that readers adjust their processing as a function of the interaction between prior knowledge and text structure. In particular, adjustments in the actual processes that take place during reading were observed for readers who had erroneous prior knowledge, but only when they read a text that was structured to explicitly refute this prior knowledge. Furthermore, the results showed that readers' memory for the text was affected by differences in their prior knowledge, independently of text structure. These findings contribute to our understanding of the relation between different factors that are associated with comprehension of scientific texts and have implications for theories of comprehension and conceptual change.

Many factors affect success or failure during comprehension of expository texts. Reader characteristics, text properties, and the instructional context in which reading takes place are just a few of them (Goldman & Bisanz, 2002; Jenkins, 1979; van den Brock, Fletcher, & Risden, 1993; van den Broek & Kremer, 1999). Although these factors have often been studied in isolation, it is their interactions and interdependencies that provide important information about naturalistic text comprehension (Rapp & van den Broek, 2005). In the present study, we focus on two factors: reader characteristics and text properties. The goal is to investigate the possible interactions between readers' prior knowledge and the structure of the text in the comprehension processes that occur during reading of scientific texts.

There is ample evidence that the quantity or amount of readers' prior knowledge influences comprehension of scientific texts (see, e.g., Chi, 1978; Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981). Indeed, mere is a well-documented advantage in comprehension of texts for readers with high knowledge on the topics described by the texts over readers with low knowledge (e.g., Bartlett, 1932; Chiesi, Spilich, & Voss, 1979; Dochy, Segers, & Buehl, 1999; Means & Voss, 1985; Recht & Leslie, 1988). In the present study, we focus on readers' quality of knowledge. Quality refers to the accuracy of one's knowledge and has been investigated mostly with respect to students' inaccurate ideas in science (Kendeou, Rapp, & van den Broek, 2004; Kendeou & van den Broek, 2005). Inaccurate ideas, or misconceptions, have been found to interfere with the acquisition of new, related knowledge from texts (Alvermann, Smith, & Readence, 1985; Diakidoy & Kendeou, 2001; Lipson, 1982; Maria & MacGinitie, 1987; Peeck, van den Bosch, & Kreupeling, 1982). The evidence for interference with learning comes from offline studies-that is, studies in which the end product of reading is assessed by tasks such as recall or question answering, but the presumption is that the interference occurs during the reading process itself. How the processes during reading are influenced by misconceptions has not been studied directly, however, and therefore the details of how misconceptions affect reading are not known.

A second factor that influences comprehension of information in scientific texts is the structure of the text. There are different ways for an author to organize the ideas in texts in general or in scientific texts in particular, resulting in different structures (Graesser, Leon, & Otero, 2002). Meyer and colleagues (Meyer, 1975,1999; Meyer & Freedle, 1984) demonstrated that readers' comprehension is influenced by the text structure used to convey the information. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Effects of Prior Knowledge and Text Structure on Comprehension Processes during Reading of Scientific Texts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.