DAIRSACC - Do Acronyms Influence Reading Speed and Content Comprehension?

by Beres, Tibor

Abstract (Summary)
Acronyms, initialisms and other types of abbreviations are frequently used in scientific, academic, governmental and administrative setting to shorten lengthy terminology and nomenclature. While they can make a text easier to read for people familiar with the abbreviations, they can add to the text’s inherent difficulty and impede comprehension for those who are not familiar with their meaning. The phenomenon of acronym polynymy (multiple definitions associated with the same acronym) can create confusion and add to the cognitive load associated with understanding the text. The current practice of defining acronyms only once, when introduced can result in readers scrolling back and forth in the text looking for acronym definitions, increasing the cognitive load and negatively affect reading speed and content comprehension. The purpose of this research was to study if the presence of a large number of acronyms in a text impedes reading performance. The current study also investigated if providing easy access to acronym definitions via hover text would alleviate comprehension problems caused by unknown acronyms in the text. The hypothesis was that by enabling fast acronym disambiguation, and eliminating the need to scroll for acronym definitions, the hover functionality would enhance reading speed and content comprehension. The results of the experiment are analyzed and recommendations for future investigations of the acronym problem are formulated.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Stephanie W. Haas

School:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School Location:USA - North Carolina

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:acronyms acronym disambiguation reading performance content comprehension


Date of Publication:11/10/2007

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