• The Influence of Newspaper Prose Organization on Core Proposition Recall and Reader Proposition Production

      Smith, Arthur; Parker, Jean Alvord; The College at Brockport (1980-08-01)
      This research study asked whether journalistic writing, as found in daily newswriting, facilitated or hindered the recall of main ideas and the recall of ideas developed by the reader. Comparisons were made to the recall of main ideas and the recall of reader developed ideas after reading condensed versions of the same materials. The questions asked by the study are based on a review of literature that identified overall prose passage organization as a readability factor important to reader retention of main ideas. A review of current research based on theories of story and prose passage structures and on memory structures was made. The development of techniques for observing the results of reader interaction with material read was noted. Study subjects read two short daily news articles, similar in length, prose organization, numbers of core propositions, and numbers of overall propositions in their original form or in a condensed form that utilized only core propositions (i.e., main ideas). Twenty-five high school seniors read and responded to two tasks by recalling passage ideas and their own ideas. A practice day preceded two days of testing. Results identified no significant differences in the recall of main ideas after reading an original news story or after reading a condensed news story. However, using a ratio of ideas generated by the reader to ideas read, idea production was significantly greater after reading the condensed material. Incidental findings identified order of response as making a significant difference in the number of main ideas recalled. A greater number of passage ideas was retained when recall of main ideas was the first task. Avenues for continued research include: exploration of the limits of this study's findings; identification of the relationship of recall error to prose organization; the refinement of observation techniques; understanding of atypical organization in reader recall; the relationship of prose structure to quality of reader-developed ideas; and understanding idea development as a process. Skilled readers should be able to utilize daily news articles for retention of factual ideas. However, within the organization of this study, the condensed material produced the same recall in fewer words. If the reader's goal is to remember what is read, recall of text ideas should precede the reader's production of ideas that are his own. Observation of retellings enable the teacher to closely observe the reader's retention resulting from interaction with the text. Observation will be less channeled by external influences such as questions, workbook tasks or teacher assignments.