Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In reading, text-external inferences are made when the reader integrates schemata with text information. Because inference generation occurs within the reader, background knowledge and reading skill affect inferential comprehension. This research consists of two studies to determine, first, whether college developmental and non-developmental readers activate prior knowledge when reading and making inferences (Experiment One) and, second, if direct instruction in semantic mapping increases activation of prior knowledge by developmental readers. The results of Experiment One indicated non-developmental readers with high prior knowledge use prior knowledge more than developmental subjects and that developmental subjects with high prior knowledge use that knowledge to compensate for lesser reading ability. Experiment Two indicated that semantic mapping did not increase the degree to which developmental readers activate prior knowledge, at least when measured by the methods of this study. Findings indicate that developmental educators need to place increased efforts in adding to students' pool of available background knowledge and on teaching them to activate prior knowledge before reading. Further research with semantic mapping is warranted.