REAP Study on Focusing of Attention (Spring 2007)

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REAP Study on Focusing of Attention


This study examined the effect of highlighting target vocabulary words in practice readings for vocabulary practice. Previous research has examined the highlighting of words to facilitate incidental acquisition (incidental because the main task was reading comprehension). This work, however, was aimed at studying the effects of highlighting on intentional vocabulary learning. The purpose of students using the REAP tutor is to learn vocabulary words from reading materials and subsequent practice exercises.

When reading a text in REAP, students know that they should pay attention to unknown vocabulary. When words are highlighted (as they have been in previous iterations of the REAP tutor), students can simply access the definitions for highlighted words and not actually read any of the context. However, if the words are not highlighted, students must read more of the text to find the target vocabulary words. Therefore, not highlighting words might encourage students to more deeply process materials.

On the other hand, not highlighting words may lead to students not noticing the words. Conscious noticing () of unknown words has been proposed as an important component of vocabulary acquisition.

This study expands on a previous pilot study on the same topic conducted in Fall 2006. The sample size was too small and the duration of the study was too short to find adequate evidence for the findings. Please see that page (REAP Study on Focusing of Attention (Fall 2006)) for more details.


Research question

Does highlighting target words improve learning in a reading task aimed at the intentional vocabulary acquisition of vocabulary?

Dependent variables

Independent variables




Analysis of results pending.


Annotated bibliography