The contribution of text-highlighting to comprehension: A comparison of print and digital reading

Gal Ben-Yehudah, Yoram Eshet-Alkalai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of digital materials in educational settings is common, despite evidence indicating that comprehension of digital text is inferior to comprehension of printed text. A potential solution to this problem is to use learning strategies for deeper text processing. Text-highlighting is a strategy known to improve comprehension of printed text; however, its contribution to digital reading comprehension is not clear. A between-subjects design was used to examine the influence of active text-highlighting on the comprehension of a collegelevel expository text, displayed either in print or digitally. Results for the without-highlighting condition replicated previous findings of inferior comprehension of the digital text relative to the printed one. When participants were instructed to use text-highlighting, performance improved only in the printed condition. Specifically, text-highlighting improved accuracy on questions that required inferential processing, but it did not affect performance on literal questions. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the highlighting patterns in each media did not explain the differential effect of text-highlighting on comprehension in these settings. These findings bring into question the usefulness of text-highlighting as an effective strategy for learning from digital text. Thus, emphasizing the need for more systematic research on the effectiveness of traditional learning strategies in digital contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-178
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

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© 2018 Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. All rights reserved.


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