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  • Ide Haghi, Lecturer, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Glasgow, UK
  • Ian Tuersley, Warwick Manufacturing Group, UK


This case study investigated the interaction between text features of academic journal articles in engineering subjects and two cohorts of students’ (i.e., young undergraduates and post-experience, company-based, mature, students: N=40) comprehension of these articles. To this end, different sections of a sample journal article selected from the reading list provided to these students were modified in terms of three textual features — syntax, lexis and cohesion. The student participants’ comprehension of these sections was measured using an experimental reading test. Their perceptions regarding the accessibility of the different sections of the text were sought using an exit questionnaire.

The results showed that, improving textual features of those amended parts of the article could have positively contributed to the participants’ performance in the reading test used. However, relatively high comprehension seemed to have occurred in relation to modification to syntactic and organizational (cohesion) features of the text with lexical modification showing no major impact on facilitating students’ comprehension. Such results were also reiterated in students’ responses to the post-experiment questionnaire where their perceptions regarding the perceived difficulty of the text different parts were sought.

The findings of this study can provide useful guidelines for academics on what factors to consider when selecting reading materials in order to include scaffolding and differentiation in their teaching approach.