Reading in the digital age: what do students think and do?

Researcher: Dr Helen Hargreaves

Institution: Lancaster University

Research Year: 2020

Project aims:

An increasingly important aspect of undergraduate study is the ability to deal with reading academic texts in digital format. However, much study advice on approaches to reading and note-taking relates to printed texts (or doesn’t specify the medium used), assuming that students are able to annotate on the hard copy, or highlight/note down evaluative comments as they go. This gives the impression that the same approaches to reading apply regardless of whether print or online texts are being used.

This study will explore students’ perceptions and practices around reading academic texts electronically, with the aim of finding out how they navigate the challenges associated with this format and the reading strategies they employ. The project will involve 15 final year undergraduate students and consist of two stages: (1) focus groups to gain general insights into how students’ reading practices and (2) individual interviews in which students will be asked to demonstrate their online reading practices, allowing for a more specific understanding of students’ approaches to this aspect of their studies.

We will analyse the results to understand firstly what students do when reading digitally and the strategies they have developed, and secondly to compare students’ practices against recommended approaches to reading provided by study guides and university study advice webpages. As an outcome of this study, we will put forward recommendations for effective online reading strategies, informed by what students do in reality (rather than based on the ideal reading situation).