The Relationship Between Preferred Websites and Reading Motivation in College Students

Bachelor Thesis, 2014
28 Pages, Grade: A




A Brief Overview of Motivation

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Other Influences on Reading Motivation

College Students and Reading

Reading, Motivation, and Technology







Appendix A

Appendix B


This study focused on the relationship between college students’ reading motivation and their website preferences. My hypothesis was that Internet users who seek text material online will have a higher reading motivation score. Participants were asked to answer questions from Schutte and Malouff’s (2007) Adult Reading Motivation Scale, to estimate the hours they spend reading and on the Internet per week, and to rate fictional websites. Reading Motivation was greater for those who chose educational-text websites as their top preference than those who chose non-educational visual content as their top website preference. There was also a positive significant relationship between leisure hours spent reading and leisure hours spent on the Internet. Future research should investigate the relationship between time spent on the Internet and time spent reading.

Keywords: reading motivation, Internet, websites

The Internet has become a daily part of many American lives, especially those of our youth. The sight of teenagers, even children walking around engrossed by their smartphones is all too common. Most students have either their own laptop or access to a home computer with which to browse their favorite Internet websites in their free time. Some people spend their time seeking knowledge and reading the news while others choose to watch videos, look at pictures, read personal stories, and interact with other Internet users through text. The Internet has become such a large part of our lives that it is important to consider the relationship between the Internet, literacy, and reading motivation. Our daily interactions with the Internet could be taking away time that we would spend otherwise reading, but it is possible that it is increasing our motivation to read as we interact with text in an electronic and often interactive format. As children are beginning to grow up with this day to day exposure to the Internet, it is essential that teachers have access to the knowledge of whether it encourages reading motivation and skills in children. Teachers could use this information to adjust their teaching style. Also, parents could use this information in a way that will help their children to read for pleasure and learning and possibly increase their reading motivation, a combination of their self-efficacy in reading and their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to read (Schutte & Malouff, 2007). While much research has examinated in reading motivation, the interactions of media, specifically the Internet, with regard to reading motivation should be explored as technology becomes both more advanced and common.

A Brief Overview of Motivation

In the past, both biologists and psychologists agreed that motivation is a driving force behind behavior (Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2001). The body prefers to stay in a state of homeostasis, so when the body’s normal state is disrupted, we become motivated to solve the imbalance in our systems. For instance, when we feel hunger, the motivation to eat appears, assuring that the body does not deteriorate. The motivation for behavior may come from external as well as internal forces. Psychologists have studied motivation in both behavior and cognition (Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2001). Learning theory suggested that motivational processes do not control behavior; but instead, they drive innate associative tendencies and can aid in goals, persistence, and purpose in our thoughts, feelings, and at times actions (Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2001). Motivation is involved in choice making and whether or not we implement the choices we make. With new discoveries and the development of learning theory, the view of humans also shifted from a “machine-like reactive organism compelled to act by internal and/or external forces beyond our control” to beings capable of judging of their own actions (Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2001, p. 10111). Today, our view of humans and motivation has shifted once more to a “flexible strategist” (Gollwitzer & Oettingen, 2001, p. 10111).

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Recently, psychologists have researched goals and other determinants in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (De Naeghel, Van Keer, Vansteenkiste, & Rosseel, 2012). Intrinsic motivation comes from within a person. Personal beliefs and feelings are considered to be intrinsic motivators such as finding a task valuable. Motivation coming from extrinsic sources consists of rewards such as praise or attention from parents or teachers, being given points in a school reading program, or reading to gain access to other privileges. In elementary-aged students, those who were primarily intrinsically motivated are able to read at a higher level as they are more invested in reading than those who are primarily externally motivated by parents and teachers (De Naeghel, Van Keer, Vansteenkiste, & Rosseel, 2012).

Although students who are struggling with reading comprehension show a larger growth in these reading comprehension skills when they have a high intrinsic motivation to read, students who already have an average or high reading ability show little improvement because of intrinsic motivation. However, intrinsic motivation is vital to reading improvements in low ability readers (Logan, Medford, & Hughes, 2011). Intrinsic motivation is positively correlated with the student’s academic performance while extrinsic reading motivation is negatively correlated (Roy, 2011). Students with higher intrinsic motivation tend to see reading as a desirable activity and tend to develop better reading skills. Even after the shift between elementary and middle school, intrinsic motivation tends to stay constant as do reading skills, regardless of skill level (Becker, McElvany, & Kortenbruck, 2010). However, extrinsic motivation is negatively correlated with literacy. Reading in elementary school negatively predicts extrinsic motivation for the upper grades of elementary school and then middle school, meaning students’ reading motivation tends to decrease as they age (Becker, McElvany, & Kortenbruck, 2010).

Other Influences on Reading Motivation

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be related to the influence of others on the student as well. While students’ intrinsic motivation is most strongly correlated to the amount they read, the perception of the instruction that they receive in their reading or language class affects their intrinsic reading motivation as well. The perception of instruction is only indirectly related to the reading amount, which is mediated through reading motivation (Lau, 2009). The better the student’s perception of the reading instruction she has received, the higher their intrinsic reading motivation will be. If the student believes the instructor is doing a good job, he will have higher intrinsic motivation; however, if he believes the instructor is under qualified and the instruction needs improvement, the student will have lower reading motivation. In elementary school, teachers increase student’s reading motivation by acting as role models for their pupils, enhancing their ability to read. In middle school, teaching reading strategies, working on student’s ability to read, and giving the readers opportunities to choose their own reading material have all been shown to increase motivation (Pečjak & Košir, 2008).

Apart from teaching strategies, grades and goal-setting may increase motivation in children (Pulfrey, Darnon, & Butera, 2012). Students who were given better grades had higher levels of task interest and continuing motivation for the task. The high levels of task interest and continuing task motivation can be explained by the increased task autonomy of the students, making them feel capable of completing the task (Pulfrey, Darnon, & Butera, 2012). The students who received higher grades also most likely felt more confident that they could sufficiently complete the task. As for goal setting, setting a goal by itself will not significantly affect reading motivation, activity, or achievement (Pulfrey, Darnon, & Butera, 2012). The number of goals met by studnts can significantly predict the growth of their curiosity and their reading ability (Pulfrey, Darnon, & Butera, 2012).

Parents and friends can also influence a student’s motivation. Perceived support from peers and family can contribute to the student’s self-reported reading motivation and even frequency of reading (Klauda, & Wigfield, 2012). Children also perceive greater reading support from their mother than their father or friends (Klauda, & Wigfield, 2012). A study performed in Latino families found that parents’ involvement in reading was significantly and positively related to their motivation in reading. Involvement in the child’s school life, such as helping her with homework, does not correlate with the child’s reading motivation (Loera, Rueda, & Nakamoto, 2011).

Some influences on reading motivation exist only because of the student’s personality or temperment. Personality characteristics were found to correlate with the level of children’s intrinsic motivation since there is variance in intrinsic reading motivation between all students, even those who have had the same type of teaching and upbringing, such as siblings growing up in the same household. Personality differences may explain these differences in motivation (Medford & McGeown, 2012). Aside from personality, dopamine levels can affect incentive-reward motivation (Luciana, Wahlstrom, Porter, & Collins, 2012).

College Students and Reading

Many studies have reported a relationship between the amount a student reads and their academic success. A recent study found that print exposure, or attempting to read any type of text, accounts for 34% of variance in oral language skills in college and university students (Mol & Bus, 2011). The same study investigated the academic success of readers, discovering a moderate association with academic success to print exposure. Even poor readers benefited from independent reading in their leisure time. Royer, Abranovic, and Sinatra (1987) found that students’ course performance could be predicted by their understanding of course-relevant reading material, though their reading comprehension of the course material did not significantly predict the students’ overall grade point average. Reading self-efficacy, a component of reading motivation, accounts for the variance in college students’ reading achievement and their writing achievement (Shell, Murphy, & Bruning, 1989). One study conducted on college students researched the effect of blogging on reading comprehension and learning motivation. Researchers investigated whether students’ reading levels would improve with the use of digital texts by integrating blogs into developmental reading courses. It was found that students who blogged had a higher retention rate than those with a more typical curriculum (Hsu & Wang, 2011).

Reading, Motivation, and Technology

Young people today are resorting to cell phones, television, video games, and the Internet to entertain themselves rather than using their time to pick up a book. These technologies can be both a positive tool and a distraction to readers. For instance, those who text tend to have greater reading comprehension than those who talk on the phone and even the use of “text talk” or the shortening of words in text messages increases the phonological skills, or the skills that help readers to systematically organize the sounds in language, that are required for reading (Hofferth & Moon, 2012). It seems that being exposed to text of any kind tends to increase reading ability (Plester & Wood, 2009). As for television, the relationship with reading ability depends on whether the program is educational or simply entertaining. Educational programs were positively correlated with reading achievement while entertainment programs were generally negatively correlated with achievement (Ennemoser & Schneider, 2007). Television’s inhibitory effect on a student’s reading comprehension depends on what type of programs that he watches (Ennemoser & Schneider, 2007). Those who spend more than an hour viewing television per day showed lower progress in reading than those who only viewed an hour or less (Ennemoser & Schneider, 2007). One potential reason that students’ comprehension drops with television use is a reduction in leisure-time reading. Subtitled foreign films seem to be the exception and do not have the same effect on reading comprehension as other categories of television. Watching subtitled foreign television programs stimulates the development of decoding skills, or the ability to recognize a printed word and connect it to the spoken word it represents (Koolstra, Van der Voort, & Van der Kamp, 1997). One should consider the possibility that those who view subtitled foreign television might have higher reading motivation to begin with. Television tends to decrease not only attitudes towards reading but also the reader’s ability to concentrate while reading (Koolstra & Van der Voort, 1996). Television captions, like subtitles in a foreign film, do help children focus on the central story elements and to not be distracted by unnecessary information such as sound and visual effects (Linebarger, 2001). The captions’ being an exposure to print also helps with developing reading abilities.

The relationship between video games and reading is not as clear as with television. A study of the reading and media habits in college students found that students who participated I remedial reading courses reported a higher amount of time spent playing video games while those who did not take a remedial reading course reported a greater amount of time reading (Burgess & Jones, 2010). While parents at times encourage children to use educational video games, they are not always an effective way to teach young readers. Children who used the Reading Blaster™ computer games had no significant improvement in reading achievement (Reed, 2010). Not every educational video game is effective in teaching students reading skills. Children’s reading skills should be recorded before and after playing educational reading games for analysis to test if games actually improve reading skills. Children with dyslexia can benefit from playing action video games (Franceschini, Gori, Ruffino, Viola, Molteni, & Facoetti, 2013). Dyslexic children who played 12 hours of action video game 80 minutes per day showed an improved reading speed comparable to more traditional, highly demanding reading treatments. This study by Franceschini et al. also found that action video games improved attention abilities, which can translate into improved reading ability.

Unlike television and some video games, the Internet does not seem to be displacing reading since Internet users spend just as much time reading as those who do not use computers (Griswold, McDonnel, & Wright, 2005). Education is strongly associated with reading and the Internet, and it even appears that Internet users are also some of the heaviest readers. An explanation could be that some people are simply more interested in learning and thus participate in more learning activities. It could be these people have just added the Internet to their list of activities without subtracting time from other activities. Internet users seem to be different than other readers (Griswold, McDonnell, & Wright, 2005).

The study attempted to answer four main questions. First, what is the relationship between reading motivation and the preference in website type? Second, is there a relationship between overall reading motivation scores and the time participants read each week? Third, is there a relationship between the participant’s reading motivation score and how much time was spent on the internet? And fourth, is there a relationship between participant’s leisure Internet time and leisure reading time?

For my main research question, I hypothesized that Internet users who frequently visit websites for the purpose of reading text will have a higher reading motivation than those who frequently visit websites for the purpose of viewing visual media. Viewing any sort of text increases reading ability (Plester & Wood, 2009), and increased autonomy for a task contributes to an increased motivation and a higher level of interest in that task (Pulfrey et al., 2012). A study by Pečjak and Košir (2009) shows that when readers have the opportunity to choose their own reading material, their reading motivation is increased. Using the Internet as a leisure activity means that users are choosing their own text material to view that pertains to their interests and possibly leading to increased reading motivation.



Participants were students at the University of Central Arkansas. The participants were students taking a psychology course that either required students to be involved in research for credit or awarded extra credit for participating. They signed up for the study on their account on University of Central Arkansas’ Sona Systems or were provided a direct link to the survey on social media such as Facebook . There were 132 participants with ages ranging from 18 - 51 years. In the survey, 101 participants identified as female while 31 participants identified as male. All participants were required to be a college student of at least 18 years of age. Thirty-two participants’ data was discarded. Twenty-two participants’ data had to be discarded since they did not complete the survey, two participants’ data were discarded because took the survey even though they were under the age of 18, and eight participants were college graduates. To encourage participation, they had the option to receive class credit in their undergraduate psychology courses.


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The Relationship Between Preferred Websites and Reading Motivation in College Students
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reading, motivation, internet, psychology, thesis
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Ashlyn Palmer (Author), 2014, The Relationship Between Preferred Websites and Reading Motivation in College Students, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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