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Running Head: Critical Analysis of a Scholarly Article

Critical Analysis of a Scholarly Article:

“Reading Online in Foreign Languages: A Study of Strategy Use”

Team 4 (Askar, Cunha, Emanuelson, Sanad Shah)

California State University Monterey Bay

IST 520

Dr. Donald Fischer

April 7, 2018

Tsan Jui- Cheng’s (2016) article, “Reading Online in Foreign Languages: A

Study of Strategy Use” attempts to describe what strategies language learners uses

most often when accessing online language materials. This non-experimental,

descriptive research (Salkind,2009) was a study of existing phenomena that could

serve as a basis for other research. Tsan Jui-Cheng (2016) quantitatively studied

what strategies language learners employed most and least when engaging in online

reading in the target language. The learning theories studied were behaviorism and

cognitivism, as the researcher was stressing the use of think-aloud as an

instructional technique that teachers could demonstrate to students, then students

reciprocate and implement.

The four explicitly stated research questions:

1. What strategies will an online language learner use for reading target

language material?

2. Which strategies are used more frequently used?

3. Is there a relationship between language proficiency and strategy use?

4. What role do language teachers provide in broadening students’ repertoire of

reading strategies?

The research was aimed at identifying commonly used strategies by foreign

language learners when reading the target language online. Determining which

strategies were used most often would help language educators support or scaffold

learners by demonstrating different strategies to enhance reading comprehension.

The study objectives were clearly addressed by the survey questions.

The researchers were neutral and allowed for all types of online reading

activities which were “broadly defined including but not limited to reading,

searching, and communicating on the Internet” (Tsan-Jui Cheng, 2016). In addition,

online reading was not delineated to any particular kind of reading materials or for

any specific reading goals or purposes. Participation in the survey was voluntary.

Research Procedure

The Survey of Online Reading Strategies (SORS) questionnaire was originally

created by Mokhtari and Sheorey (2001), and modified by Anderson (2003). In its

current version it is referred to as the Online Survey of Reading Strategies or OSORS

and was employed for this study. The OSORS was structured to quantify each

language learner’s assessment of their own reading strategy using a Likert Scale.

Employing a Likert Scale survey provided a method for summarizing a large data set

in simple terms. The reliability of the OSORS is implied by a Cronbach alpha of.92

which indicates that the questionnaire is a sound method for determining what the

language learners use during online reading (Anderson, 2003).

The researcher selected the 32 study participants by using an online

questionnaire sent to a diverse pool of language learners of East Asian, Germanic,

Slavic, and Spanish and Portuguese languages. Random selection eliminates any

influence of a specific language in choosing the strategy. Demographic data collected

included: gender, age, hours per week spent online reading foreign language

materials, years of learning or using a foreign language, foreign language

proficiency, and the foreign language studied. Study participants were mostly males

learning Japanese.

Research subjects were recruited in a replicable manner, however allowing

subjects to choose the study could introduce a bias, as will be discussed below.

Additionally, the gender bias of males over females could influence results as will be

discussed below.

Research Results

The most common assessment and statistical techniques used in

instructional technology include Likert Scale Assessment, T-test, analysis of

variance (ANOVA), and Chi-square. The Statistical Package for the Social Science

(SPSS) was used for data analysis: paired-samples T-tests for analysis of the most

and least used strategies; and one-way ANOVA for analysis into the frequencies of

the strategies used. Results highlighted that study participants did employ some

online strategies more than others (p<0.001), but those different strategies were

not employed more or less by varying levels of language proficiency (p=0.18).

Discussion of Results

The results of this study revealed a significant difference in the strategies

used for online reading such as utilizing context clues, adjusting reading speed, and

filtering or skimming content. Additionally, no significant correlation between the

proficiency level and the type of strategy used by language learners was found. This

study found five “usual” or “almost always” used strategies by language learners:

1. Draw attention to pertinent information through context clues, prior

knowledge of student, and utilizing reference materials.

2. Clarify the purpose of the reading prior to starting.

3. Identify the importance of reading passages.

4. When distracted, take corrective measures such as adjusting reading speed.

5. Recover from distractions.

The strategies highlighted in this study as used most often by language learners are

similar to those mentioned by Brown (1980):

1. Knowing the purpose of the reading.

2. Identifying the important aspects.

3. Locating the relevant information.

4. Monitoring the activities to determine comprehension.

5. Engaging in self-testing (asking oneself questions).

6. Taking corrective measures.

7. Recovering from distractions.

Results of this study indicate that participants were less likely to use strategies

such as think-aloud (reading aloud or asking questions aloud), and live chatting.

This could have been be due to participants not relating the chat as an enhancement

for reading skills or recognizing it as an enhancement for speaking skills.

However, while the sampling design and implementation were effective,

there were issues with the study that should be discussed: language proficiency

assessment, sample size, gender bias, and survey tool.

First, the target audience selection was restricted in terms of knowledge

about participant’s foreign language proficiency:

1. Language proficiency was only self-evaluated.

2. The study did not include self reported novice language learners, there were

no “beginners”.

It is possible that some of the survey participants were beginners but did not

identify themselves as such, and without a formal assessment, language proficiency

cannot be determined for any level. As with all survey takers self-identifying at a

level of language proficiency, a true an assessment of what each specific level of

language learners employed most and least often was lost. Therefore, there was a

limit in generalizing the results of the survey to all language learning levels.

Providing a standardized test that all participants took in order to determine what

their true level of language proficiency was could have divided the study

participants into accurate levels of proficiency.

Second, this study had a fairly small sample size. At only 32 participants, the

potential for false positives was magnified. Increasing the sample size could have

eliminated issues with the study.

Third, 69% of the study participants were male. According to a 2015 Brookings

Institute report, males are less proficient in reading abilities than females, a trend

seen across the country and internationally as well (Brookings, 2015). Because

males are less proficient, use of reading strategies will be different from those of

females. Gender differences were not highlighted or discussed as part of the study,

but must be considered especially since more study participants were male. Having

an equal number of male and female participants could have alleviated this bias, as

well as an assessment of reading comprehension since more proficient readers will

employ reading strategies differently.

Last, the researcher used the OSORS to determine which strategies the subjects

used most often. In the OSORS, reading strategies were already identified and

supplied to the participants, and study participants could not include others than

the ones supplied. This could limit the study’s assessment into the most and least

used strategies if participants could not add to the list of strategies assessed.


This study of the strategies used for online reading suggested that there were

specific online reading strategies (context clues, what to read and what to ignore,

adjusting one’s own reading speed), that foreign language learners tended to use

significantly more than other strategies (live chats, printing out online texts, taking

notes, and asking oneself questions).

The study had limitations that hindered generalizations, such as lack of foreign

language proficiency assessment, sample size, gender bias, lack of a reading

comprehension tool, and use of an assessment tool with already identified

strategies. Future research might involve other research methodologies to

overcome these limitations including quantitative methods to assess reading and

language proficiency, increased sample size, separation of female and male strategy

use, and allowing participants to include other strategies within the assessment tool.

Also a consideration should be given to qualitative instruments such as direct

interviews that evaluate the proficiency level of the participants.



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