Date of Award

1-1-2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Faculty

Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Advisor

Victoria Wilson

Second Advisor

Gullen Wagner

Third Advisor

Graham McKay

Abstract

The increases in commercial documentation over the past 50 years and the permeation of computers into all areas of business has led to a major increase in the individual's reading load. This thesis proposes a method of writing procedural documentation to enable rapid appreciation of the 'aboutness' of such material, thus making the reading task more efficient. The method is derived from a document structure which is used as a basis for the development of rules to construct a hierarchy of in-text headings which encapsulates the 'aboutness' of the text. Reading efficiency is achieved through needing to only interpret the headings to understand what the document is about. The method was tested by having control and experimental groups complete the same series of questions, answers to which were derived from a set of documents. The set used by participants in the experimental group contained headings structured according to the proposed method; the set used by participants in the control group contained headings which were not structured according to the proposed method. All variables other than headings were negated or neutralised. Answer accuracy and completion times of the groups were compared. On average the experimental group, who used documents containing headings structured according to the proposed method, had 7.5% better accuracy and completed the questions in 13.5% less time overall. These improvements are assumed to be due to the differences in heading effects.

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