It is easy to under-appreciate how much you read on a screen each day – hey, look you’re doing it right now – and this ease and availability of content is one great benefit of the Internet. But, it seems most technological advancements have a flip side and what researchers from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, have found definitely affects you as students or researchers!
As the average student is faced with weekly readings reaching double digits each week, it stands to reason that you’re attempting to read many of these on screen wherever possible. However, in their paper ‘Is Google making us stupid? The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour’ authors Val Hooper and Channa Herath reveal that unfortunately, online reading appears to have negative effects on our cognition. Concentration, comprehension, recall and absorption rates all scored lower when reading online compared to paper-based reading. It appears that this offline/paper-based reading allows for ‘deep reading’ and the ability to annotate papers further assisted in information absorption and retention in both the short and long term.
All these benefits, of course, have to weighed up against the dollar cost of printing out every item you have to read and the environmental impact of doing so as well. But being aware from the outset that reading online may be putting you behind-the-eightball then you can employ some strategies to help get the most out of your readings on the screen and to counter this possible screen-nesia. QUT Library’s Studywell has some strategies and resources for effective reading and notetaking.
There is an element of irony in this post being published in an online medium so do your best and try to remember what you’ve learned here today – may I suggest taking some notes by hand to assist in you in your retention?