Introspection as a method of identifying and describing competence in reading skills
Reading comprehension in English as a second language in the context of Iranian education system is not unproblematic. Hardly any studies have been attempted to investigate reading strategies and processes employed by novice and skilled readers through an on-line method of reading skills research in this context. The present study was thus undertaken to address the present need by employing think-aloud methodology to compare novice and skilled reading strategies. Therefore, a qualitative approach was taken to elicit as much information as possible for the purpose of identifying and describing competence in reading skills. The main research question addressed in this study deals with comparing strategy use of a group of novice second language EST readers studying academic English in Iran with another group of skilled second language EST readers from the same ethnic population but studying at the highest academic levels outside their mother land, viz. in Scotland. Several hypotheses were formed following a preliminary pilot study which included the following: a) there was a positive relationship between the number of strategies used by readers of each group and their performance on the TOEFL test; b) there are common areas in the readers' use of comprehension strategies which make the individual difference hypothesis in reading comprehension a debatable issue; c) the readers tend to follow an interactive approach to reading comprehension. Using an interactive model of reading seven categories of strategies were identified and classified. Non-significant correlation was obtained between number of strategies and language proficiency scores. Using a human information processing system, each reader's protocol was subjected to a detailed stage by stage analysis which supported the notion of the individual difference in reading comprehension. The readers also applied an interactive reading process to text comprehension.