Measures of Macroproposition Construction in EFL Reading: Summary Writing Task vs. the Meaning Identification Technique

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The summary writing task has been widely used in order to examine how well readers comprehend texts (Alderson, 2000). As a scoring criterion of summary protocols, previous studies have considered whether or not a reader can effectively use macrorules, which reflect the process of readers' construction of their mental representation (e.g., Johns & Mayes, 1990; Kim, 2001). In fact, the use of macrorules is assumed to be closely related to the process of how readers construct their mental representation of a passage (van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983). However, summary task has a methodological problem in that readers' performance in the use of macrorules reflects not only the process of reading comprehension but also their writing skills (Cohen, 1993). Therefore, we have used another psycholinguistic measure for reading comprehension that suppressed the influence of writing skills: the Meaning Identification Technique (MIT). The present study examined English as a foreign language (EFL) learners' macrorule use with the MIT as well as in a summary writing task. Focusing on three types of macrorules (i.e., deletion, generalization, and construction rules), Experimental Study 1 showed that EFL students used all three types of macrorules when they did summary writing. In Experimental Study 2 using the MIT, the generalization and construction rules were more difficult for learners to use than the deletion rule. These two rules required learners to generate inferences for constructing the implicit main ideas of texts, whereas the deletion rule simply required learners to select explicit main ideas from texts. Comparison of the two series of experimental studies indicated that summary writing encouraged the participants to use the generalization and construction rules by requiring them to integrate pieces of information for making the summary. Therefore, macrorule use measured by the summary protocol should be interpreted carefully, taking the effects of the summary task itself into account in terms of promoted strategic macrorule use. Furthermore, it was implied that the MIT could be superior to a summary writing task as a reading comprehension test, as far as macrorule use under natural reading conditions reflected pure comprehension of a text.


  • JLTA Journal

    JLTA Journal 16(0), 185-204, 2013

    Japan Language Testing Association


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