Reading on the Internet has become a common task both for students and for adults, for instance, to complete school or work assignments or to learn about conflicting socio-scientific or health-related issues. However, because of certain characteristics of the Internet, online readers are confronted with some challenges.
First, as anyone can publish almost anything online, information sources on the Web vary considerably in their credibility, with many information sources providing unqualified, one-sided, or even false information. Hence, it is important that online readers critically evaluate the source of information and qualify content by its source, which, however, often seems not to be the case.
Second, the ubiquity of hyperlinks in online texts (e.g., in Wikipedia articles) changes the nature of reading, as readers continuously have to make decisions whether to follow a link or not.
Third, the increasing availability and use of portable devices to access the Internet enable reading and information seeking on small devices – anywhere and anytime. Related to these challenges or characteristics of online reading, I’m planning to examine the following research questions: How are certain reader characteristics (e.g., Internet-specific epistemic beliefs, attitudes) related to information seeking and source evaluation on the Internet? How does the use of portable devices with smaller displays (e.g. tablets, smartphones) affect online information seeking, information evaluation, and comprehension as compared to the use of PCs or laptops? How do hyperlinks in continuous texts (e.g. Wikipedia articles) affect attention allocation (or distraction, respectively), mental load, and reading comprehension as compared to texts without hyperlinks? How does a serial visual presentation of text (as in the Spritz app) affect mental load and comprehension as compared to a traditional text presentation, when using portable devices? Apart from the analysis of questionnaire- and essay data, I’m planning to use trace-methodologies such as eye tracking and log file analyses. In addition, I would be interested to complement these measures by the use of EEG measures.