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Project 1: Towards a New Model of Readability

This research project was carried out by Dahlia Janan and reported fully in her successful PhD thesis.

Research Aims:

In this research Dahlia explored issues related to the concept of readability. The aims were:

  • To explore the concept of readability from two different research paradigms.
  • To investigate the factors that influence such a concept from the perspectives of two different research paradigms.
  • To develop a new definition of readability by employing these different research paradigms.

Research Outcomes:

The main findings of the research are outlined below:

  • Readability research is still largely conducted within the positivist paradigm. There are problems, however, in the reliability and validity of the formulae used to assess readability. Findings suggest that various readability formulae tend to produce significantly different results on the same text and are inconsistent.
  • Paradigm shifts in research on reading and reading comprehension have suggested that meaning construction is an interactive process, whereby the reader transacts with the text in a certain context. In other words, the meaning no longer lies within the text, and hence text difficulty can no longer be estimated objectively only. Research into reading and reading comprehension has moved to the interpretive paradigm. As such, it is suggested that readability research needs to take this shift into account, and needs to be framed within both the positivist and the interpretivist paradigm.
  • This study concludes that the concept of readability is the process of matching the interaction between reader characteristics and text factors. This interaction is a dynamic phenomenon, as it can change depending on different contexts.
  • Reader factors refer to a complex relationship of nine embedded elements within the reader, namely interest, prior knowledge, attitudes, reading ability, motivation, purpose of reading, definition of reading, age, and gender.
  • Text factors include eight elements, namely physical features of the text, genre, content, author’s style, linguistic difficulties, legibility, illustrations, and text organization.
  • The term context refers to a variety of contexts that can influence the reader during reading, such as current reading trend, environment, location, cultural and social background, social economic background, school policy, and government policy.
  • Therefore, readability needs to be conceived as a complex matching process involving the dynamic interaction between reader and text factors bounded by a certain context.


  • Janan, D., Wray, D. & Pope, M. (2009) ‘Paradigms in Readability Research’, paper presented at 2009 International Conference On Literature, Languages & Linguistics, Athens, Greece
  • Janan, D., Wray, D. & Pope, M. (2010) ‘Paradigms in Readability Research’, International Journal of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 3 (17), pp. 19-29
  • Janan, D., Wray, D. & Pope, M. (2010) ‘Paradigms in Readability’, paper presented at 2010 International Conference for Academic Disciplines, Bad Hofgastein, Austria
  • Janan, D., Wray, D. and Pope, M. (2010) ‘Towards a New Model of Readability’, paper presented at 2010 British Educational Research Association conference, Warwick University
  • Janan, D., Wray, D. & Pope, M. (2011) ‘Paradigms in Readability Research’, in Socarrás, G. & Medina, A. (Eds) Philological Research Athens: Athens Institute for Educational Research. Pp. 91-102
  • Janan, D. & Wray, D. (2011) ‘Readability: A New Model’. Paper presented at 2011 United Kingdom Literacy Association conference, Chester University.
  • Janan, D., and Wray, D. (2011) ‘A New Model of Readability’, paper presented at 2011 Asian Literacy Conference, Penang, Malaysia.
  • Janan, D. & Wray, D. (2012) ‘Readability: The limitations of an approach through formulae’, paper presented at 2012 British Educational Research Association conference, Manchester University.
  • Janan, D. & Wray, D. (2013) ‘Research into readability: Paradigms and possibilities’. In Pandian, A., Liew Ching Ling, C., Tan Ai Lin, D., Muniandy, J., Bee Choo, L. & Chwee Hiang, T. (Eds) New Literacies: Reconstructing Language and Education. Newcastle UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 296-303

Stop Press

The thesis written by Dahlia Janan for her PhD was judged to be the best research student thesis on literacy in the UK in 2011-12, by the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA). Dahlia was awarded the UKLA Student Research Prize for the year 2012 at a ceremony at the University of Leicester on 7th July, 2012.