You are here:

The impact of the presence or absence of organizational devices on the construction of a coherent mental representation of hypertext content by intermediate ESL readers

, University of Pittsburgh, United States

University of Pittsburgh . Awarded


The current electronic text format is inherent to the problem of text integration or cohesion deficit, which greatly affects reading comprehension. The question remains as to whether well-structured hypertext would enable L2 readers, particularly ESL readers, to overcome potential difficulties in integrating information and building a unified representation of text content delivered by computer.

This study examined the efficacy of embedding microstructural devices (headings reviews and logical connectives statements) and macrostructural devices (a graphical overview map of text content) on the construction and organization of computer hypertext presentations. The study also investigated the interaction between the effect of L2 readers' reading proficiency and the degree of structure in hypertext (structured vs. less-structured) on ESL learners' development of coherent mental representations of hypertext content. Moreover, it explored the perceptions of ESL readers about reading in well-structured and less-structured hypertext environments.

The participants, 40 ESL students, were introduced to two hypertext reading programs. The first was considered well-structured hypertext because it included organizational devices and declared its underlying hypertext structure. The second was considered less-structured because it included no organizational devices and did not indicate the underlying structure of its hypertext.

A repeated measures design was used in this study. Forty participants were measured under two conditions: well-structured and less-structured hypertexts. They were identified as intermediate ESL learners based on their TOEFL scores and were classified as proficient or less-proficient readers based on their scores on the reading section of the TOEFL. To assess the efficacy of each type of hypertext, multiple choice and mapping main ideas and details tests were developed and administered to participants after they had read both hypertexts. In addition, semistructured interviews were conducted. Results of both tests were analyzed using a paired-samples t-test to compare performance in the two hypertext reading programs and a two-way (proficiency level by hypertext reading program) mixed model ANOVA. The qualitative data obtained from the semistructured interviews were analyzed by identifying and categorizing emergent themes.

The investigation yielded findings showing that well-structured hypertext aided ESL readers in developing a more coherent mental representation of the hypertext content, increasing their reading comprehension. The results also indicated that well-structured hypertext was more helpful to less proficient readers than it was to more proficient readers. Additionally, ESL learners unanimously favored reading well-structured over less-structured hypertext and maintained its usefulness of showing the underlying structure of hypertext and how its information is organized, interrelated, and thus helpful in showing the main idea of the hypertext in question, resulting in better understanding. These results offer theoretical, pedagogical, and technological implications for L2 reading instructors and instructional designers.


Al-Seghayer, K. The impact of the presence or absence of organizational devices on the construction of a coherent mental representation of hypertext content by intermediate ESL readers. Ph.D. thesis, University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved April 22, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or