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The effects of coherence and *relevance on levels of text comprehension

Stephen Mark Lehman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Text comprehension involves a number of variables that influence the depth at which text is processed. This study investigated the relationship between two of these variables, coherence and relevance. Two experiments were conducted in which participants were separated into four groups in 2 x 2 factorial design. Each group contained either high- or low-coherence text as one factor and high- or low-relevance text for the other factor. In Experiment 1, text was presented in printed form, whereas Experiment 2 presented the text sentence-by-sentence on a computer screen so that reading times could be gathered. Data from Experiment 1 revealed that relevance increased deeper processing but had no effect on shallow processing. Experiment 2 did not replicate Experiment 1, in that no effects were found for relevance or coherence on readers' deep or shallow processing. It is possible that this failure to replicate resulted from the sentence-by-sentence presentation of text, which may have inhibited readers' ability to strategically process text. Coherence x Relevance interactions on reading time indicate that a compensatory relationship may exist between relevance and coherence, wherein relevance may compensate for coherence difficulties in text. Taken together, these experiments suggest that the relationship between coherence and relevance might be used to improve ability of reader to learn from text. The need for further research to replicate these findings is discussed. ^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Reading

Recommended Citation

Lehman, Stephen Mark, "The effects of coherence and *relevance on levels of text comprehension" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9991995.