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Reading during writing: Using eye tracking to examine relationships between reading patterns and text quality

Beers, S.F. and Quinlan, T. (2008) Reading during writing: Using eye tracking to examine relationships between reading patterns and text quality. In: Writing Research Across Borders Conference, 22 - 24 February 2008, Santa Barbara, CA


Models of competent writing indicate the importance of reading the developing text as a part of composing (e.g. Hayes, 1996), yet we know little about the role reading plays in adolescent writing. Hayes (1996) proposed that reading "the text so far" influences cognitive processes such as text production, reflection, and text interpretation as the writer composes Empirical work has shown that reading during writing can serve text generation processes and contribute to text quality (Breetvelt et al., 1996; van den Bergh & Rijlaarsdam, 1999), but only when time is taken into account. For example, reading that occurs at the beginning of a writing session (reading the assignment/prompt) may serve different purposes and have different effects upon writer's plans than reading to evaluate previously written sentences or paragraphs.

This study uses eye tracking technology to examine adolescent students' reading processes while composing two texts, and explores relationships between reading during writing, gender, and text quality. Two groups of students (boys and girls) composed narratives and persuasive essays while their eye movements were recorded. Reading patterns were coded according to the location of eye fixations upon the text: reading at the point of inscription (rereading the most recently composed 1-3 words); local reading (rereading the recently composed sentence); global reading (reading previously composed text, not including the most recent sentence); and prompt (reading the writing prompt). Using HLM to analyze relationships between reading patterns, time, and text quality, we found that those who wrote higher quality texts engaged in more local and point of inscription, reading processes, while global reading patterns were not significantly related to text quality. Girls wrote higher quality texts and demonstrated more local reading than boys. Local reading and reading at the point of inscription may serve text quality by facilitating sentence-level and clause-level text generation processes

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