Effect of hypertext highlighting on browsing, reading, and navigational performance

Liang Yi Li*, Shu Ting Tseng, Gwo Dong Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Reading hypertext documents is more difficult than reading traditional linear text. Text highlighting plays the role of encoding for reading comprehension and may play the roles of contextual cues and landmarks for hypertext navigation. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of text highlight and organizing highlighted text into a hierarchical structure on browsing, reading, and navigation performance in a network hypertext system. A randomized experiment was conducted. Ninety participants were randomly assigned to three conditions: a reading system with text highlighting, with text highlighting and organizing highlighted text, and without any aids. Dependent variables included browsing performance: time spent and the length of navigational path for reading; reading performance: recall and inference scores, navigational performance: scores of landmark and route knowledge and time spent and the length of navigational path for completing nine navigational tasks. The results showed that text highlight did not improve reading and navigational performance. By contrast, organizing highlighted text yielded significantly worst performance in reading and navigation. According to the results, we propose several suggestions for the design of reading instruction and digital highlighters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-325
Number of pages8
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jan 29
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive map
  • Hypertext reading
  • Navigation
  • Text highlight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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