James. (1996). Text design - text layout: structure and access. Handbook
of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. (chap.
27.2). Retrieved September 17, 2003, from https://www.aect.org/Intranet/Publications/edtech/27/index.html
article is intended to address paper-based documents such as textbooks
and instruction manuals, many of its findings apply to text content presented
in other media as well. The article offers both an overview of research
on the topic and specific examples from the author's research in some
areas. The section summarized here discusses structure and access for
text-based documents. The author points out that elements in the structure
of a document serve as devices to improve a reader's access to the content.
These devices include: titles, summaries, outlines, headings, boxes, questions
succinct titles may aid a reader's recall, while summaries assist in organizing
the reading. Outlines serve similar functions in more detail. The author's
research showed that headings significantly aided search and recall, but
that the type and positioning of the headings did not affect recall. Text
set in boxes can be used as a device to draw special attention to some
aspect of a subject or set apart adjunct material. Apparently use of boxes
is not without controversy and Hartley points out that some [seemingly
anal] critics find boxed text a distraction. When discussing sequencing,
Hartley contends that readers find it easier to follow instructional text
that describes events in the order that they occur and that they prefer
to see lists or numbered sequences spaced on separate bulleted or numbered
lines rather than run on in continuous prose.
Much of what
the article says is common sense, but sometimes when we get involved with
the more spectacular aspects of multimedia, common sense can be the first
victim. It would have been nice if the author had addressed how these
principles might be applied beyond the printed page.