In the past, I’ve written about the differences in learning from printed materials versus on-screen (e.g., monitor, tablet) and that for a number of reasons printed materials were better. But, a question kept gnawing at me – and was also posed to me a few times too – namely if it made a difference if the printed materials were print-outs or actual materials (textbooks, magazines, etc.). Just today I came across an article in Contemporary Educational Psychology which throws a little light on the question.
Ladislao Salmerón, Laura Gil, and Ivar Bråten did a study which investigated the extent to which students’ sourcing )i.e., citing sources) and comprehension can be supported by the reading of real, as opposed to print-out versions of multiple documents. They write in the abstract:
It was found that the reading of real rather than print-out versions of multiple documents on the issue of climate change increased students’ memory for source information and made them include more specific references to document sources in argument essays that they wrote about the issue. In turn, such increased sourcing in essays mediated the positive effect of reading real versus print-out versions of documents on students’ construction of coherent representations of the documents’ content information. Theoretical and instructional implications of the findings are discussed, and directions for future research are provided.
The reasons why are comparable to the reasons why printed is better than on screen. They state:
Presumably, reading real versus print-out versions of the documents offered participants a number of multisensory cues that helped them perceive documents as entities, characterized by different document types or genres, written by particular authors, disseminated by different publishers, and so forth. Examples of such cues are visually salient source information on the cover of the documents, the size, weight, and texture of the documents, and the position of the arms while holding the documents. Such cues may demarcate document boundaries and facilitate the creation of source nodes that can be incorporated into readers’ documents model representations. In the current study, this was reflected in better memory for the sources of the documents and more specific references to document sources in essays for those who read real documents, compared to those who read print-out versions of the same documents.
This article is, unfortunately, behind the paywall but Ivar (the corresponding author) will hopefully send you a copy if you mail him. Also, if you’re in Academia.edu you might be able to get a copy here.
Salmerón, L., Gil, L., & Bråten, I. (2018). Effects of reading real versus print-out versions of multiple documents on students’ sourcing and integrated understanding. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 52, 25-35. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2017.12.002