Effects of composition strategies upon the response of college students to a short story

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Reading and Learning Disabilities

First Committee Member

Charles T. II Mangrum - Committee Chair


The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of different types of composition strategies on the responses made by African-American college students to a short story as indicated by their: (1) recall comprehension of the text and (2) use of primary traits in writing about the text. The short story "Roselily" by Alice Walker was read by 130 students who then wrote a composition based on the strategy of summarizing, freely responding to, or imaginatively projecting the text. Following the writing activity, a 40-item multiple-choice comprehension test based on the short story was administered and scored. The compositions were independently evaluated by trained readers using primary trait scoring procedures. Analyses of variance were performed to examine whether the readers who wrote imaginative projections exhibited higher comprehension scores and composition ratings than those who wrote free responses or summaries and whether poor readers used as many primary traits in their written compositions as good readers did in theirs.The results of the data analysis indicated that when the effect of reading level by strategy used was analyzed for the objective test scores, reading level rather than strategy made a significant difference. Furthermore, low level readers did not use as many primary traits in their written compositions as good readers--no matter which writing strategy was assigned. Reading level had a significant effect on the primary trait scores of the compositions.This study concluded that if it were replicated with subjects from other ethnic groups, it might indicate whether significant comprehension differences exist among readers of various cultural heritages. Future research using primary trait evaluation of other types of writing strategies in the classroom may further help in determining the relationships among writing about literature, the recall of information on objective tests, and the production of primary traits in compositions.


Education, Language and Literature; Education, Reading; Literature, American

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