CCE Theses and Dissertations


Effects of Graphics and Presentation Format on Information Retention in College Students

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

John Kingsburry

Committee Member

Lesley A. Welsh


This study investigated the effects of both graphics and presentation format on information retention. An additional consideration was if the learning style of these students would also influence information retention. Subjects were selected from the "Introduction to Instructional Communications" courses at a Slate university in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The purpose of this study was to determine how college students' information retention of a reading passage would be affected by graphics supplementing text and by presentation media, which was paper copy or computer screen display.

An "Informed Consent" form, demographics form and a Kolb Learning Styles Inventory (LSI) were completed during the initial meeting. Students were then assigned to one of four treatment groups - non-graphics/paper copy, graphics/paper copy, non-graphics /computer screen display, or graphics/computer screen display. One week later students read a short passage using one of the four treatments. Students reading from computer screen display were in a different room from those reading from paper copy. A paper and pencil, multiple choice test was given to each participant at one, two, and three week intervals following the reading.

The textual material and tests for retention were materials that had been developed specifically for this study. The other instrument chosen for this study was the Learning Styles Inventory (LSI) (Kolb 1985). The graphics were developed by the investigator and were validated by experts who specializes in the design of visuals for education and instruction. Trained research assistants aided in conducting the research. A multivariate repeated measures analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to analyze the three independent variables (media, graphics and learning styles), using the subject retention scores as the dependent variable. In addition any interaction between media and graphics was examined.

There was a significant difference between the graphics and the non-graphics groups in that the non-graphics groups retained more over time than the graphics groups. The findings of this study do not support the evidence from previous research that graphics have a significant positive affect on information retention or that there is no significant difference between graphics and non-graphics for retention. In contrast to these previous studies, the mean retention scores of the graphics group were consistently lower than those of the non-graphics group.

This study indicates that the media had no effect on the retention scores, despite previous research indicating a preference for paper copy as well as poorer performance using the computer. Also, the students' learning style did not have an impact on information retention. In reviewing the results of the study the reader must remember the high attrition rate and the tendency was for those who dropped out of the study to have lower GPA's. Therefore the results of the study can only be generalized to those with the higher GPA's. In addition, these results must be reviewed as preliminary because the small number of cases in some groups may result in unstable estimates.

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