QuikScan: Facilitating Document Use Through Innovative Formatting
Reading and seeking information in documents are among the crucial literacies of our time. Our ability to carry out these activities successfully is due to a long series of innovations in information design that go back thousands of years. Such innovations are increasingly valuable today. This dissertation introduces an innovative format for print and online documents that I call “QuikScan.” QuikScan employs summaries and highlighting to spotlight the superordinate ideas (or gist) of a document. It uses multiple within-document summaries to synthesize each section of a document. The summaries are typically formatted as numbered list items that correspond to the “target numbers” in the main body of text where the summarized items are elaborated fully. QuikScan enables readers to grasp the gist of a document and locate specific information efficiently. Drawing upon the literature on information design, reading and reading signals, and summaries, this research presents the design of QuikScan, a design that can be applied to different document genres, different reader populations, and different contexts of document use. Two empirical studies are reported to demonstrate QuikScan’s effectiveness on reading. The first study shows that QuikScan significantly improves reading comprehension and potentially enhances retention. The second study reveals that QuikScan significantly improves the efficiency of information seeking. The main analysis of QuikScan centers on its rhetorical implications. Grounded on the rhetorical theories of author-reader relationships, this dissertation presents a multi-faceted view of the QuikScanner, the reader, and the QuikScan process. It demonstrates the rhetorical dynamics of QuikScan, frames QuikScan as a document intermediary, and discusses complex relationships facilitated by the document intermediary. Using QuikScan as a test bed, this research extends our understanding of author-reader relationships. Additionally, this dissertation explores a number of special circumstances where QuikScan can be especially desirable, including assisting business meeting attendees, visually impaired readers, and RSS feed users. It describes the process of QuikScanning documents and presents important guidelines. In concluding, the dissertation highlights its major contributions to technical communication and discusses ideas for future research.