Article authored by Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour appears in Teaching of Psychology journal

Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour, Ph.D., associate professor in and coordinator of the Psychology program, is the lead author of an article about the effects of American Psychological Association (APA)-style in-text citations on reading comprehension.

The article, “APA-Style Citations Can Create a Roadblock to Textbook Comprehension for Less Skilled Readers,” was published in the latest issue of Teaching of Psychology, an international journal that explores research on teaching and learning.

Together with her co-authors from James Madison University and Merrimack College, Stiegler-Balfour examined whether using APA-style citations within expository, or informational, text influenced participants’ comprehension of the text.

The researchers measured reading comprehension by the participants’ ability to answer questions about key details of the texts. The results demonstrated that the inclusion of in-text APA-style citations in tests inhibits comprehension and reading fluency compared to when no in-text citations are present, especially for less-skilled readers.

Higher-skilled readers were able to maintain high comprehension levels in the APA-style conditions, but they had to decrease their reading speed in order to do so.

According to Stiegler-Balfour, the results challenge the wisdom of traditional preferences and learning goals with regard to textbook format. This has implications for college courses that include large percentages of non-majors and those serving less-skilled readers.

“Improving our understanding of the impact of text distractors, such as APA-style citations, is important because they can negatively impact the comprehension process,” Stiegler-Balfour said. “The ability to read and comprehend text has been identified as one of the most important predictors of academic success.”

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