Student perceptions of reading digital texts for university study
Keywords:academic reading , digital reading, print reading, note-taking, reading preferences
An increasingly important aspect of undergraduate study is the ability to deal with reading academic texts digitally. Whilst the literature suggests that students prefer reading print texts (Foasberg, 2014; Mizrachi, 2015) and often have a deeper level of engagement with texts in this medium (Mangen et al., 2013; Delgado et al., 2018), the reality is that, for most students, digital texts are the norm. Study guides often focus on reading strategies that are considered broadly applicable to both digital and print formats. However, the differences between the two mediums are likely to impact on the strategies used, with students developing their own approaches as they gain more experience. In this paper, we present findings from a study exploring students’ perspectives and practices in relation to digital reading. We carried out focus group interviews with 20 students in their second or final year of undergraduate degree programmes. Our analysis reveals that reading texts digitally does indeed form the bulk of students’ reading activity, with ease and speed of accessibility, cost, and environmental considerations influencing this choice, and in some cases, precluding reading in print. However, despite the prominence of digital reading, some aspects of print reading – in particular the scope for more sustained focus, detailed reading and enjoyment of the experience – were highly valued by the students. Students’ approaches to reading digital texts varied depending on reading purpose, but, in general, students had developed a range of techniques to help them navigate digital reading.
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