This study examined the instructional effectiveness of abstract diagrams and verbal explanations in learning from social science texts, which contained multi-thematic information and were new to the students. Two texts of about 4,000 words each were examined. Each text appeared in four versions, in which the verbal and schematic representations were manipulated. Unlike previous studies conducted on diagrams and other visual devices that are isolated from the broad research on verbal processing, this study incorporates the investigation of the diagrams' functional utility into the broad context of cognitive elaborations applied to text comprehension. 416 students of Everyman's University, the Open University of Israel, participated in the study. The main results indicate that: an explained diagram is more effective than an unexplained one in complex explanations; a diagram, in general, is more effective than a verbal explanation in representing sequential and hierarchical relations; a diagram has a significant effect on 'active' recollection and 'passive' retention; the mode of the text's design and presentation is more influential than the initial verbal and visual aptitudes; and finally, there are no differences between male and female in processing verbal and diagrammatic representations.