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Improving text recall with multiple summaries


Correspondence should be addressed to Hans van der Meij, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands (e-mail:


Background. QuikScan (QS) is an innovative design that aims to improve accessibility, comprehensibility, and subsequent recall of expository text by means of frequent within-document summaries that are formatted as numbered list items. The numbers in the QS summaries correspond to numbers placed in the body of the document where the summarized ideas are discussed in full.

Aim. To examine the influence of QS summaries on participants’ perceptions of text quality (i.e., comprehensibility, structure, and interest) and recall, an experimental – control group design compared the effects of a QS text with a structured abstract (SA) text.

Sample. Forty psychology students participated voluntarily or received course credits.

Method. Students first read a control (SA) or experimental (QS) text on flashbulb memory (FBM). Next, their perceptions of text quality were measured through a questionnaire. Recall was assessed with an open answer test with items for facts, comprehension and higher order information.

Results. Perceptions of text quality did not vary across conditions. But QS did lead to significantly and substantially (d= 1.57) higher overall recall scores. Participants with the QS text performed significantly better on all item types than participants with the SA text.

Conclusion. Studying a QS text led to a substantial improvement in recall compared to an SA text. Further research is needed to examine how readers study QS texts and whether a text model hypothesis or a repetition effect hypothesis accounts for the effectiveness. The first hypothesis posits that the QS summaries support the reader in constructing a text schema. The second attributes the effects of these summaries to their repetition of text topics.