CCE Theses and Dissertations


Using E-Book Readers to Assist ESL College Students in Developing Their Academic Language Skills

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Timothy Ellis

Committee Member

Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Laurie Dringus


Using a dictionary is one strategy practiced by English as a Second Language (ESL) college students responsible for improving their English academic language skills. However, drawbacks to dictionary use sometimes cause ESL learners to use dictionaries as a last resort, limiting the benefits of dictionary use. This experimental research study used a pretest-posttest control group design to investigate whether the dictionary feature of e-book readers would mitigate some of the negative aspects of dictionary use and increase the effectiveness of dictionaries in improving ESL college students' vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, and reading rate. The participants were ESL college students with vocabulary levels between 2,000 and 10,000 word families.

After the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT) was used to establish participants' reading comprehension levels and reading rates, one group was trained to use an e-book reader. A posttest using reading comprehension questions from a former Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test was given with one group reading a paper version with a paper dictionary and the other group reading an e-book version with an e-book dictionary. During this posttest, observers recorded the number of dictionary consultations by members of each group. Participants then took a vocabulary test to ascertain the amount of vocabulary they acquired during the reading comprehension test.

Finally, random interviews were used to gather participants' subjective reaction to the dictionaries and e-book reader. Scores for reading comprehension, reading speed, and vocabulary acquisition were examined using a Univariate ANOVA (a = .05); and no significant difference was found between groups. However, the data for dictionary consultation, which was analyzed with binary logistic regression (a = .05), revealed that participants in the e-book group were significantly more likely to consult a dictionary than those in the paper dictionary group. In addition, dictionary users in the e-book group had spoken English for significantly fewer years than those in the paper dictionary group. The interviews, which were analyzed using the constant comparison method, revealed that the participants in the e-book group responded positively to using a dictionary in that medium. The results of this study support the use of e-book dictionaries for helping ESL college students with their assigned academic reading.

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