Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study examined several factors that may be involved in the writing of summaries and the impact of these factors on the use of summaries for reading comprehension assessment. Fifty-three seventh-grade subjects of average to above-average reading ability participated in the study. Data collection took place in four sessions over a one-week duration. Levels of prior knowledge and interest in a topic, as well as general writing ability, were assessed before subjects read the target passage. Subjects read a novel passage consisting of a five-page section of a chapter in their regularly-assigned American history text. After reading, subjects wrote, in counterbalanced order, both a free recall and a summary of the passage. After a second reading, subjects answered 15 passage-dependent, multiple-choice questions. In addition, recent scores on a standardized test of reading comprehension were obtained for each subject. Data from the free recalls and summaries were analyzed in three ways. First, a multivariate analysis of variance, with repeated measures on free recalls and summaries, was performed. Next, a standard regression analysis was undertaken, using scores from the prior knowledge, topic interest, and writing ability measures as predictor variables for the free recall and summary scores. Finally, Pearson product-moment correlations coefficients were calculated for both free recalls and summaries with multiple-choice questions scores and scores on the standardized reading comprehension test. MANOVA results revealed a significant main effect for Task, and follow-up univariate tests indicated significant differences between free recalls and summaries for number of idea units and proportion of important idea units included. The regression analysis revealed that prior knowledge, topic interest, and writing ability may play at least a partial role in the writing of summaries. Finally, correlation analyses indicated that summaries measure at least some of the same aspects of reading comprehension as multiple-choice questions and standardized tests. Implications for instruction and direction for further research are cited.