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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reading foreign language websites : a qualitative investigation of students' reading strategies in German Tallowitz, Ulrike


In this qualitative study based on constructivist learning theory, nine intermediate level university students of German were observed as they read foreign language texts on the Internet. Through observations, as well as think-aloud protocols and semi-structured interviews, the study identified Internet reading strategies the students used, and determined the difficulties they encountered in Internet reading activities. The observed strategies were related to four different types of reading tasks the students had to complete and to the language levels of the students. The four task types included: (a) scanning for specific information, (b) skimming and summary writing, (c) detailed reading and text comparison, and (d) observing linguistic phenomena in a text. The research questions arose from the observation that, while the Internet has a positive influence on motivation, independent learning and cultural understanding (Alm-Lequeux, 2001; Brandl, 2002; Chapelle, 2000; Lee, 1997), the literature also talks of frustration on the part of the students, and of students being overwhelmed by foreign language Internet pages (Kubota, 1999; Rüschoff & Wolff, 1999; Shetzer & Warschauer, 2000). This frustration is hypothesized to be due to the fact that Internet texts are authentic texts written for readers in the target culture, and have not been adjusted to the linguistic and cultural knowledge level of foreign language students. There is still little empirical research on the specific ways students deal with these difficulties while completing Internet reading tasks. The present study was carried out with the aim of shedding light on the Internet reading process for pedagogical purposes. The think-aloud technique of data collection permitted a deeper understanding and a more precise description of this special type of reading than would have been possible with interviews alone. The data analysis revealed eight key factors playing a role in foreign language Internet reading: course performance level, background knowledge, motivation, strategic reading, computer skills, problem-solving style, hypertext structure, and type of task. These factors lead to pedagogical implications for designing suitable Internet tasks for foreign language students, and for scaffolding the foreign language Internet reading process.

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