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Articles on Readability

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Ackerman, John M. "Reading, Writing, and Knowing: The Role of Disciplinary Knowledge in Comprehension and Composing." As submitted for publication in Research in the Teaching of English; copy dated July 23, 1990. Published 25.2 (May 1991): 133-178.

Ackerman describes an experiment with business and psychology grad students who wrote essays on supply- side economics or rehearsal in memory, after reading several texts provided by the experimenters. He looked at both the writing process (using think-aloud protocols with some subjects) and written product . High-knowledge subjects' background knowledge enabled them to evaluate and contextualize the texts they read for the essay and include more "new" information in their essays. Low-knowledge subjects were more text dependent, and had less new information. Many other measures didn't discriminate between high- and low-knowledge subjects: rhetorical moves, elaborations, rhetorical awareness of structure and content.

Hirsch, E. D., Jr. "Culture and Literacy." Journal of Basic Writing 3.1 (1980): 27-47.

Describes research on the effects of good vs. poor writing on readers' comprehension. A more complete description of the research summarized in "Cultural Literacy."

Hirsch, E. D., Jr., and David P. Harrington. "Measuring the Communicative Effectiveness of Prose."Writing Eds. J. Dominic, C. Frederickson, and M. Whiteman. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1981. 189- 207.

Describes the effects of good vs. poor writing on reading rate, time required to answer questions about the reading, and number of questions answered correctly.

Pichaske, David R. "Freshman Comp: What is this Shit?" College English 38.2 (October 1976): 117-124.

Pichaske argues that for freshman composition to have anything to do with good writing it would be better for courses to aim at the general, nonacademic, "popular" expository style of writing found in magazines like Harpers and the Atlantic instead of modeling writing from academic, PMLA-style essays. He also calls for eliminating the split between "creative" writing and composition; focusing on the content of writing; and getting professional writers to teach composition courses.

Webster, Linda, and Paul Ammon. "Linking Written Language to Cognitive Development: Reading, Writing, and Concrete Operations." Research in the Teaching of English 28.1 (Feb. 1994): 89-109.

Tested 5th grade children's abilities to sequence and to classify, and correlated these abilities with abilities to read/comprehend and write narrative and comparative essays, respectively. Results showed correlations between sequencing and narratives, and between classification and comparison, but in both cases the relationship is necessary but not sufficient. Also observed low correlations between reading and writing within each genre.

White, Edward H. "How Theories of Reading Affect Responses to Student Writing." Teaching and Assessing Writing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985. 100-119.

Discusses theories of reading: does the meaning reside in the text or is it constructed by the reader? Current theory supports the latter, that reading is a process of interaction between reader and text. Also currently popular are theories of writing as a process, and measurement of writing using holistic scoring. Author ties these trends together.

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