Academic Reading Format International Study (ARFIS)
The ARFIS study has been taken up by 33 countries and is being led by Joumana Boustany and Serap Kurbanoglu, (one of the organiser of the ECIL conference).
Print versus electronic preferences study
Current discussions in popular culture as well as many educators and administrators often assume that digital technology will soon replace paper-based media in a continuance of progression from clay tablets, papyrus, and parchment. However, several studies of students’ reading format preferences show that most of them still prefer print format over digital for their academic readings. They feel their comprehension and retention is greater when they read their assignments in print, but they like the convenience and accessibility of electronic.
This topic has special relevance to librarians as we search for the correct balance of electronic and print items in our collections. It also carries relevance for instructors who wish to make readings as accessible as possible, but question the pedagogical effectiveness of digital format.
The main research question of this study is:
What are students’ format preferences when engaging with their academic readings?
Secondary questions ask:
a) What factors impact their preferences and behaviors; and
b) How do these factors impact their behaviors?
Most research previously published on this topic was performed in English speaking environments. This study will take a broader perspective to produce comparative results and to see whether students’ reading format preferences vary or maintain consistency across multi-national student populations.
Except for one question on electronic textbooks, this study does not consider specific types of readings – monographs, journal articles, course readers – because with today’s technology that distinction is almost artificial to the end user. More important to them is length, complexity, importance of a text to their course work, as well as cost and convenience. Results from this study will highlight these factors and provide stimulation for further discussions on the broader implications.
Overview of Instrument
The Academic Reading Questionnaire (ARQ) is an online survey of 25 questions – 17 Likert-style statements about reading format preferences, behaviors and attitudes based on student comments and findings from earlier studies, one question about devices used to read electronic texts, six demographic questions, and a prompt for open-ended responses.
The original ARQ used in the U.S. study underwent an approval process by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Internal Review Board (IRB) for methodological and ethical soundness before being certified for distribution. It has been slightly modified for international use to include queries on how the language of a reading may impact format preference, a question on gender, and broader student status choices. An original question on grade point average (GPA, a reflection of academic achievement) was dropped. In the U.S. study, which only queried undergraduates, students’ discipline or major was not found to be a factor of format preference. The international study will include students of all levels, enabling the investigation of preference differences by discipline among advanced students who are more immersed in the culture of their chosen fields.