Reading Patterns and Formats of Academic Articles on the Web (Rho & Gedeon)

Rho, Y. & Gedeon, T. D. (2000). Reading patterns and formats of academic articles on the Web. SIGCHI Bulletin 32(1), 67-71.

The following is a summary I wrote in the Human Factors class I was in last term. Some of the findings are quite interesting, especially as they seem to confirm what is already obvious when one spends time near the computer lab printers.

This article describes the results of two surveys designed to gauge researchers’ retrieval of web-based articles and preferred displays when reading academic articles obtained on computer screens. In the first survey, participants, who were asked how they used online articles (whether they read them on-screen, perused the article then printed it or just printed it). In the second survey, participants were offered three different formats to choose from: the paper-like single frame format, the simple two-frame format with contents in one frame and text in another, and the “cascade format of page windows”.The first survey results indicate that the researchers surveyed are unlikely to read the full text of an article on-screen. Most scan the text on-screen or read select elements of it, then print it out to read the full article.

The results of the second survey indicate that readers tend to prefer the two-frame format and like the cascading windows (the most prevalent format) the least.

COMMENTS

It would be interesting to ask them why they print the articles, and whether they would be less likely to do so if the article was presented in their preferred format.

Although visual examples of both the single-page and two-page format are given, it would have been useful to also be given an example of ‘cascading format’.

Class discussion revolved around the fact that were no controlled elements in this study. There was no control over which articles respondents used as the basis of their responses, or what type of computer they used, or their level of familiarity with computers and and online articles (or their age, as pointed out by Manya). As well, Dr. Blustein reminded us that people are not particularly good at retrospective analysis, and, as we discussed in an earlier class, will confuse appreciation for a system with usability.

The notion of a “2nd choice” for usage patterns in terms of type of activity most likely to be performed when reading an online article seems somewhat unclear. As a potential respondent, my inclination would be to offer one answer that describes my most typical encounter, but it would feel artificial to have to present a 2nd choice when answering a question that refers to habit.

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