Hypertext, Hyperlinks, Technology, Reading Theories, Critical Technological Literacy, Literacy, Research Strategies


Hypertext and hyperlinks are present on almost every web site or electronic document. As integral components of visual rhetoric, they are foundational to any discussion of technology and literacy. This inquiry is designed to explore first-year composition students' advances in technological literacy, specifically hypertext reading and research strategies. To accomplish this, a hypertext-reading project was designed to investigate the ways in which first-year composition students assimilate and employ hypertext information as a source from which they must extract information to use in the development of an argument. A program, designed and written specifically for this project, presented research participants, 76 students enrolled in second semester first-year composition, the components of hypertext reading as an online reading and research activity. Participants first completed a technology survey designed to reveal each participant's prior experience and self-perceived expertise with current technology, after which they completed a two-part exercise consisting of a hypertext reading assignment and a post-reading questionnaire. Participants were instructed to use their reading to inform and develop a thesis for an argument. The article selected for this study was "Illegal Immigration," accessed by navigating to The article discusses a current controversial national concern, illegal immigration. While the use of Wikipedia, an online user-edited encyclopedia, often raises credibility concerns, the site in general offers excellent examples of hypertext reading that include textual as well as graphic links. In the analysis, it is revealed that while the study group rated themselves highly proficient users of Internet search engines, email, social networking, and word processing applications, the majority initially did not recognize a relationship between the actions they take as users of those applications and hyperlinks or hypertext. Post-reading responses revealed that the majority of the group read the article from top to bottom with few to no diversions. Furthermore, while most did recognize the hyperlinks as information portals, they made conscious decisions to not access the links for a variety of stated and implied reasons. This research involved a relatively small student sample that defines the limited scope of the findings; however, the data suggests attitudes and expectations of this group that may reflect student populations with similar or shared demographics. These data are used to inform potential pedagogical application suggestions, including the usefulness of technological proficiency assessments and research using technology within the classroom as well as in external assignments.


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Graduation Date





Bell, Kathleen


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



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Length of Campus-only Access


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Masters Thesis (Open Access)