Typographic Access Structures for Educational Texts
The term “access structure” refers to the co-ordinated use of typographically signalled structural cues that help students to read texts using selective sampling strategies. In spite of their prevalence, however, the research literature contains very few references to access devices which include contents lists, headings, glossaries, and so on. This paper suggests some reasons for this and proposes that for research to be truly actionable it must be more firmly rooted in real-world problems. Evidence for the significance of selective reading is presented and some implications for research strategies are discussed. If you were to compare an educational textbook and a novel, both in a language you do not know, you would very probably be able to tell them apart just by appearance. The novel will almost certainly consist solely of continuous prose. The text of the educational book, though, may be surrounded by additional pedagogical components, such as contents, index, glossary, summaries and so on. Why is the difference visible? It is not because the textbook has a structure and the novel has none. It is because the structure of the textbook has been typographically signalled, while the structure of the novel is signalled by linguistic means alone. So, whereas the typography of plain text can be evaluated by criteria of congeniality and legibility, the typography of textbooks clearly involves additional factors.