Best Thesis - 2008

Patrick Cadwell

-Readibility and Controlled Language - Does the study of readability have merit in the field of controlled language, and is readability increased by applying controlled-language rules to texts?

Abstract: 

This study conducted a survey of text-user attitudes to discover: whether the concept of readability had merit in the field of controlled language; and whether readability increased by applying controlled-language rules to a sample of technical texts. This experiment was an attempt to provide much-needed empirical data to a neglected area of controlled-language research, and to examine the concept of readability that appears to be misunderstood, undervalued and misused. This experiment was carried out in two stages: in one stage, participants in two groups (one with domain expertise and one control) were asked to read a controlled version of a technical passage and then complete a questionnaire. Then in another stage, the same participants were required to read an uncontrolled version of the same passages and fill out a questionnaire. In this way, it was possible to examine attitude variance depending on whether a controlled or uncontrolled version of the text had been read. This study found that a majority of participants in both groups determined the controlled versions to be more readable. The participant samples in this experiment were too small to be generalised to larger populations. However, working as a pilot study, the trends identified in this paper indicate useful methodological recommendations for future research: in terms of readability formula selection; in terms of readability testing methodology; and in terms of conceptual mapping in the field of controlled language.