Article

Syntactic Complexity of Reading Content Directly Impacts Complexity of Mature Students’ Writing

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Abstract

Increasingly, schools and colleges of business focus on the quality of their students' writing, reflecting complaints from business and industry about the quality of writing of entry-level employees. These concerns about student writing have led to some changes in the curricula and admittance of students into graduate programs, including analytical writing essays on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). However, research also suggests that reading content and frequency may exert more significant impacts on students' writing than writing instruction and frequency. This study surveyed a cohort of MBA students on their regular reading content and sampled their writing. We then used algorithm-based software to assess the syntactic complexity of both reading content and writing samples. Our findings reveal strong correlations between students' most common reading content and their writing on widely-used measures of writing sophistication: mean sentence length and mean clause length. Several mechanisms may account for the dramatic influence exerted by reading content on mature students' writing—including synchrony, priming, and implicit learning. But, irrespective of these mechanisms, undergraduate and graduate programs in business should emphasize ongoing reading of syntactically complex content both during and after students' schooling to address the sophistication of their writing.

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... The study used an article, -Mechanical comparison of barefoot and shod running,‖ published in International Journal of Sports Medicine (Divert, Mornieux et al., 2005) as the source of a two-paragraph paraphrase, using the length of sentences and vocabulary readers would commonly encounter in a mainstream news story (Douglas & Miller, 2016a). Study participants received a link to a survey containing one of three versions of the paraphrase. ...
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... http://dx.doi.org/10.5746/LEiA/17/V8/I2/A03/Lee_Wong almost entirely on primary and secondary students (Douglas & Miller, 2016). We were disappointed by the scarcity of published research studies that address the impact of reading habits on the writing performance of university students. ...
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... http://dx.doi.org/10.5746/LEiA/17/V8/I2/A03/Vun_Chu almost entirely on primary and secondary students (Douglas & Miller, 2016). We were disappointed by the scarcity of published research studies that address the impact of reading habits on the writing performance of university students. ...
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This paper is based on a study of American newspaper readability in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.The results indicated that there was a significant difference between front page readability level of metropolitan and non-metropolitan newspapers. There was a significant difference in readability level between metropolitan and non-metropolitan newspaper articles. With the exception of the local news, the non-metropolitan means were higher for each of these classifications.There was no significant difference between metropolitan and non-metro-politan Associated Press articles. However, there was a significant difference between United Press International metropolitan and non-metropolitan articles. United Press International articles in non-metropolitan papers were more difficult to read.
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This article presents a psycholinguistic analysis of the development of writing skill and reports a developmental study of knowledge effects in writing. A theoretical framework decomposes the requisite knowledge into three main components: (1) generalized, high-level problem-solving plans; (2) a Content component, and (3) a Discourse component. The Content component includes domain knowledge pertinent to the writer's topic, and the Discourse component includes knowledge about text and linguistic structures. The focus of the study is the interaction of the Content and Discourse components. Psycholinguistic analyses of 240 elementary school texts revealed differences related to the age of the writer, as well as to knowledge of topic. These differences are accounted for in terms of processing interactions between schema instantiation and linguistic skills from the Discourse component and the relevant knowledge base from the Content component.
Article
A series of self-paced reading time experiments was performed to assess how characteristics of noun phrases (NPs) contribute to the difference in processing difficulty between object- and subject-extracted relative clauses. Structural semantic characteristics of the NP in the embedded clause (definite vs. indefinite and definite vs. generic) did not influence the magnitude of the processing difficulty even though corpus analysis showed a strong association between these NP classes and type of relative clause. Richness of lexical semantic content in a descriptive NP also had no influence on processing difficulty. However, the difference in processing difficulty was significantly reduced when a quantified pronoun appeared as the NP in the embedded clause. Together with previous findings, these results support the conclusion that NPs with common nouns differ in representational similarity from NPs consisting of proper names and pronouns, and that similarity in the memory representation of NPs contributes to the difficulty of processing syntactically complex sentences.
Article
In four syntactic priming experiments, participants completed target fragments as “prepositional object” sentences (e.g., “The patient showed his leg to the doctor”) or “double object” sentences (e.g., “The patient showed the doctor his leg”) or used another non-ditransitive form. The syntactic form of a prime sentence affected the form of participants' target completions. Experiments 1 to 3 used written sentence completion. Experiment 1 demonstrated that priming is a two-way process by comparing “prepositional object” and “double object” priming conditions with a baseline condition containing an intransitive verb. Experiments 2 and 3 found that “shifted” primes (e.g., “The racing driver showed to the helpful mechanic the problem with the car”) did not prime the production of “prepositional object” sentences but instead behaved like baseline primes. Experiment 4 found similar results to those of Experiment 3 in spoken sentence production, where participants repeated the prime and then completed it. We interpret the results in terms of accounts that assume that constituent structure is formulated in one stage.
Article
Two experiments were carried out to investigate the role of referential continuity in understanding discourse. In experiment 1, a group of university students listened to stories and descriptive passages presented in three different versions: the original passages, versions in which the sentences occured in a random order, and randomised versions in which referential continuity had been restored primarily by replacing pronouns and other terms with fuller and more appropriate noun phrases. The original stories were remembered better, and rated as more comprehensible, than the random versions, but the restoration of referential continuity ameliorated the effects of randomisation. The descriptive passages had little referential continuity from one sentence to the next, and as expected the effects of randomisation on comprehensibility and memory were negligible. In experiment 2, a group of skilled comprehenders and a group of less skilled comprehenders were selected from a population of 7-8-year-old children. The difference between the groups was known to be largely their inferential ability in reading texts. Both groups read a series of short stories presented in the same three versions as used in the previous experiment. As predicted, the ameliorating effects on memory of restoring referential continuity in a randomised story were confined to the skilled group. The results are discussed in relation to the theories of story grammar, text microstructure, and mental models of discourse.
Conference Paper
Reading procienc y is a fundamen- tal component of language competency. However, nding topical texts at an appro- priate reading level for foreign and sec- ond language learners is a challenge for teachers. This task can be addressed with natural language processing technology to assess reading level. Existing measures of reading level are not well suited to this task, but previous work and our own pilot experiments have shown the bene- t of using statistical language models. In this paper, we also use support vector machines to combine features from tradi- tional reading level measures, statistical language models, and other language pro- cessing tools to produce a better method of assessing reading level.
Article
This article reviews research on the use of situation models in language comprehension and memory retrieval over the past 15 years. Situation models are integrated mental representations of a described state of affairs. Significant progress has been made in the scientific understanding of how situation models are involved in language comprehension and memory retrieval. Much of this research focuses on establishing the existence of situation models, often by using tasks that assess one dimension of a situation model. However, the authors argue that the time has now come for researchers to begin to take the multidimensionality of situation models seriously. The authors offer a theoretical framework and some methodological observations that may help researchers to tackle this issue.
Article
The human papillomavirus vaccine (Gardasil) is a significant advancement in women's health. We compared the reporting of fear-inducing messages about human papillomavirus, cervical cancer, and the human papillomavirus vaccine in Canadian and U.S. national newspapers between January 2006 and December 2007. Significant differences between countries were found in the number of articles containing fear messages about human papillomavirus, cervical cancer, and the human papillomavirus vaccine. Educational level of readability was higher than recommended for the public, and the emotional tone of the articles became progressively negative over time. Our findings suggest that public discussion of some elements of the human papillomavirus vaccine message that could cause alarm or worry for women may need to be addressed within political and cultural contexts.
Article
Thesis (Ed. D.)--East Texas State University, 1980. Vita. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 99-103).
Article
In contrast to expectation-based, predictive views of discourse comprehension, a model is developed in which the initial processing is strictly bottom-up. Word meanings are activated, propositions are formed, and inferences and elaborations are produced without regard to the discourse context. However, a network of interrelated items is created in this manner, which can be integrated into a coherent structure through a spreading activation process. Data concerning the time course of word identification in a discourse context are examined. A simulation of arithmetic word-problem understanding provides a plausible account for some well-known phenomena in this area.
Article
Structural priming reflects a tendency to generalize recently spoken or heard syntactic structures to different utterances. We propose that it is a form of implicit learning. To explore this hypothesis, we developed and tested a connectionist model of language production that incorporated mechanisms previously used to simulate implicit learning. In the model, the mechanism that learned to produce structured sequences of phrases from messages also exhibited structural priming. The ability of the model to account for structural priming depended on representational assumptions about the nature of messages and the relationship between comprehension and production. Modeling experiments showed that comprehension-based representations were important for the model's generalizations in production and that nonatomic message representations allowed a better fit to existing data on structural priming than traditional thematic-role representations.
Article
To examine the relationship between syntactic processes in language comprehension and language production, we compared structural persistence from sentence primes that speakers heard to persistence from primes that speakers produced. [Bock, J. K., & Griffin, Z. M. (2000). The persistence of structural priming: transient activation or implicit learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 177-192.] showed that the production of target priming structures increased the probability of spontaneously using the same structures to describe events in subsequent pictures that were semantically unrelated to the primes. These priming effects persisted across as many as ten intervening filler trials. The present studies replicated these results using auditorily presented primes to which participants only listened. The results indicated persistence of priming across all lags, with relative magnitudes of priming as large as those observed by Bock and Griffin. The implication is that structural priming is persistent regardless of the modality in which language structures are experienced, underscoring the power of priming as an implicit learning mechanism.
Students struggle for words: Business schools put more emphasis on writing amid employer complaints
  • D Middleton
Middleton, D. (2011). Students struggle for words: Business schools put more emphasis on writing amid employer complaints. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703409904576174651780110970
The relationship between the reading and writing of syntactic structures
  • R V Evans
Evans, R. V. (1979). The relationship between the reading and writing of syntactic structures. Research in the Teaching of English, 13(2), 129-135.
Toward a new readability: A mixed model approach
  • S A Crossley
  • D F Dufty
  • P M Mccarthy
  • D S Mcnamara
Crossley, S. A., Dufty, D. F., McCarthy, P. M., & McNamara, D. S. (2007). Toward a new readability: A mixed model approach. Paper presented at the The 29th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Nashville, TN.
Linguistic synchrony in social interaction
  • K G Niederhoffer
  • J W Pennebaker
Niederhoffer, K. G., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2002). Linguistic synchrony in social interaction. J. Lang. Soc. Psychol, 21(4), 337-360. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/026192702237953