Analytic and constructive processes in the comprehension of text
This thesis explores the process of comprehension as a purposeful interaction between a reader and the information in a text. The review begins by discussing the difference between educational and psychological perspectives on comprehension. Approaches to the analysis of text structure are then described and models and theories of the representation of knowledge are evaluated. It is argued that these are limited in that they tend to focus either on the text or the reader: they either examine those procedures that are necessary for text analysis or the knowledge structures required for comprehension, storage and retrieval. Those that come nearest to examining the interaction between text and knowledge structures tend to be limited in terms of the texts they can deal with and they do not deal adequately with the predictive aspects of comprehension. Experiments are reported which look at the ongoing predictions made by readers, and how these are affected by factors such as text structure and ‘interestingness’. The experiments provided the opportunity for examining the potential of alternative methodologies (such as the content analysis of open-ended questions). It is felt that it is necessary to examine comprehension using methods which are direct but not intrusive. The studies reported demonstrate that it is possible to obtain reliable measures of a reader's predictions and that these are systematically affected by the structure and content of the text.