Novices’ performance using hypertext materials: Shedding light on disorientation


  • Álvaro Jáñez University of Salamanca
  • Javier Rosales University of Salamanca



Hypertext, Web navigation, Reading comprehension


Many researchers have proposed a causal link between low domain knowledge and disorientation in hypertext. Our objective was to challenge this hypothesis, examining other variables that might have an influence, such as design, reading instructions, or working memory capacity. We analysed navigation patterns and comprehension scores in a sample of low topic knowledge undergraduate students (N = 45) who were assigned to one of three hypertext conditions: reading for a test, reading to write a summary, and elaborative interrogation. Another sample (N = 45) of low knowledgeable undergraduate students were used as a control group, performing the same tasks using printed texts. Regarding disorientation, and contrasting with previous research, only a minority of students became disoriented in hypertext. Neither reading instructions nor working memory capacity had the expected impact on readers’ behaviour or outcomes, so hypertext design might be a key aspect on explaining disorientation. Implications for hypertext design and education are discussed.


Implications for practice or policy:

  • The general assumption of low prior knowledge readers becoming disoriented in hypertext is falsified.
  • Educational hypertext designers should always consider hypertext structure, graphical overviews, and usability elements.
  • Educators must be aware that novices may show difficulties to adapt their learning behaviour to different reading goals.


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How to Cite

Jáñez, Álvaro, & Rosales, J. (2020). Novices’ performance using hypertext materials: Shedding light on disorientation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 36(4), 189–205.