The Influence Of Context Clues In Determining The Meaning Of Low-Frequency Words In Naturally Occurring Prose (high Information Words)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Reading and Learning Disabilities


Two studies were conducted to determine the extent to which context helps students infer meanings of unknown words. In Experiment 1, students in Grades 10 and 11 were randomly assigned to either a context or a no-context condition. The no-context group read low-frequency words in isolation, and the context group read these same words embedded in passages taken from novels. Experiment 2 was a repeated measures study in which 39 students in 11th-grade read sets of words in isolation and also in passages taken from four different content areas. In both experiments the dependent variable was a multiple choice vocabulary test. In neither Experiment 1 nor Experiment 2 were there any significant effects due to context, t(99) = .552, p > .10, and F(1, 38) = .227, p > .10, respectively. Results indicated that subjects were unable to employ context as a method of inferring the meanings of unknown words. The implication is that traditional instructional strategies which prioritize context clues should be reexamined.


Education, Reading

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