The most important factor determining the
usability of electronic documents (e.g. hypertexts) is neither
the set of links within the material nor the structure of the
database but the availability ìhypertoolsî defined
as a vast range of electronic tools to support a diversity of
reading activities. To illustrate this point, an analysis is
undertaken of reading done for the purpose of using the information
within a document to assist in tasks involving planning, decision
making, and problem solving. Secondly, many readers start with
the goals of finding, comparing, and evaluating information.
Tools can help them realize these goals by supporting the activities
of searching, collecting, and manipulating information. Other
tools help people explore task requirements, enable them to preplan
details of their interaction with the text, enhance their use
of other tools, and optimize their screen-based working environment.
It is argued that the support available for people working with
electronic texts will not only offer many of of the functions
available to readers of printed text, but electronic tools will
also offer functionality that has no close counterpart in printed
media. Consequently, hypertools will change the way readers do
familiar tasks and facilitate tasks which are exceedingly difficult
to accomplish when working with information on paper.
The purposes of reading are as diverse as
the materials read and the activity of reading often not the end
in itself but a means to an end. The present paper focuses on
the activities that take place when readers have some goal which
the text content is helping them attain. These goals may involve
making decisions, diagnosing faults, composing new documents,
and solving problems. For convenience, such task-driven reading
will be referred to here as serious reading to distinguish
it from casual browsing or reading for relaxation or entertainment.
When people are engaged in serious reading, the actual comprehension
of the material is only one of the many activities they undertake.
Typically people use a variety of tools so that their reading
activities adequately support their reading objectives. This
is evident for printed materials where readers may use tools such
as highlighting pens, bookmarks, notes they make, dictionaries,
and indexes. The equivalents of such tools will be wanted by
those working with electronic documents. However, with computer-based
tools it is possible to provide much more powerful support for
the varied and cognitively complex tasks in which information
is both the raw input and the final product. Such tools take
advantage of the processability of electronic text.
Electronic documents are not all alike.
They include linear texts generated by word processors, databases
generated by file management applications, hypertexts generated
by architectures that facilitate the creation of links among items
of information (cf. Conklin, 1987), and hypermedia where sound
and animated graphic displays supplement the written information
(cf. Ambron & Hooper, 1988; Laurel et al., 1990). Serious
reading may engage any one of these document types, so issues
about the development of tools that support reading will apply
to a broad range of computer-based documents. Much of the following
discussion will be illustrated with reference to hypertexts for
two reasons. This is a domain where the need for tools that
support readers working with electronic documents can be clearly
seen (e.g. McAleese, 1989; McAleese and Green, 1990; Shneiderman
& Kearsley, 1989). It is also a domain where there exists
research evidence relating to some of the constituent activities
of serious reading tasks (e.g. Marchionini, 1988).
A concrete example of the kinds of serious
reading task being addressed here will help to make salient the
categories of tools that could be useful to readers. Consider
people who intend making a day trip to a large city and who have
access to a hypermedia database about the city. A visitor to
Glasgow, Scotland, for example, may access the hypermedia database
Glasgow Online (Baird & Percival, 1989). Such visitors may
have agendas that include key places they want to visit (e.g.
a museum, an art gallery, a park) and things that they want to
do which may not be totally place specific (e.g. see a play, buy
a book). There may also be highly underspecified items on the
agenda, such as the intention to have lunch but no strong preference
about what to eat or where. Converting this outline agenda into
a detailed timetable for the day may be hampered from the outset
by queries about opening times or how to get from one place to
another. The visitor's main task is to accommodate as many of
the key items as possible while satisfying the subordinate goals
appropriately. Although relevant hypertexts exist for such tasks
(e.g. Baird and Percival, 1989; Hardman, 1989), their use in decision-making
and planning tasks has yet to be adequately explored. Readers
probably begin by seeking information about these items to which
they have assigned high priorities. They may then pause to collate
these items into an interim schedule before returning to the document
to seek more information, perhaps about less important events
or perhaps information related to that already found (e.g. the
proximity of a bus stop or car park).
As iterations continue, the compiled schedule
for the day may need modification in order to accommodate new
information. Processes of comparison and sequencing of the items
found become part of the readerës problem solving activity.
The behaviour engaged in after relevant information has been
collected will here be referred to as manipulating the
information. From this example it can be seen that when planning
a day in town, readers start with the goals of finding, comparing,
and evaluating information, which they realize by engaging in
activities such as searching, collecting, and manipulating information
from one or more documents. Each of these three activities can
be cognitively very demanding if attempted without any form of
assistance. Even finding relevant information about different
destinations means keeping track of oneís progress through
a mental list of search targets and remembering the outcomes of
each search. Fortunately, for electronic documents there are
computer-based tools that can be provided to reduce the mental
load on memory and decision making processes. Table 1 lists some
of the cognitive demands of the three subtasks of serious reading,
together with some of the functionality of potential tools that
could reduce these demands.
Although planning a day in town may seem
a special and perhaps rather atypical use of electronic information,
its multivariate character gives it many of the features of other
serious reading tasks. It has been shown that most of the reading
done in the context of work is some form of "reading to do"
(Sticht, 1985). Finding, collecting, and manipulating information
are normal constituents of this kind of reading (Wright, 1983).
The three sets of reading processes highlighted by the example
of spending a day in town are a commonplace experience both inside
and outside the workplace. These processes are called into play
by those making multi-dimensional decisions (e.g. about major
purchases such as a car or house), by many who consult reference
materials (e.g. to name an unfamiliar bird or flower), by people
engaged in planning activities (whether vacations or careers).
Finding, collecting and manipulating information from documents
are familiar activities to serious readers, even if they are not
yet a major feature of the research literature on reading.
The readerës need for supporting tools
has been recognized by some software designers. Scrolling, string
searching and sorting tools are common place in word processing
and database applications. Hypertexts have prompted the development
of tools that assist browsing, exploration, and discovery (e.g.
Allinson & Hammond, 1989). This paper seeks to show that
such tools are likely to be needed in all electronic documents
and that the potential of a vast range of other tools remains
to be exploited. Consequently hypertools refers to the
vast network of computer-based support that can be made available
to those engaged in serious reading tasks.
2.0 Navigation as a set of tools
The problems of access and traversal through
electronic documents are not trivial (cf. Nielsen, 1990; Norman,
1991; Parunak, 1989). Complaints from readers about the difficulties
of moving from place to place within computer displayed texts
have been frequent. These problems have arisen even in linear
documents, particularly if readers want to refer back to information
they have previously read (Wright and Lickorish, 1984). Word processors
and spreadsheets include GoTo commands which enable readers to
go directly to a designated page or cell. Indeed the designation
can be made either by document features (e.g. page or cell number)
or by the readerës prior assignment of a marker. Nevertheless
these kinds of navigation tools are less common in other electronic
In documents having a web structure, such
as hypertexts, the difficulties encountered when moving around
can be much worse than in linear or matrix structures. Readers
may not only be uncertain about where they are but also uncertain
where to go next. Readers complain that they get lost (e.g. Edwards
and Hardman, 1989; Simpson, 1990). In part readersë difficulties
have arisen from the use by document designers of embedded links
in the text as a tool for navigation through the material. Hypertext
links are both the implicit structural device that transforms
the text into a meaningful network and the explicit tool by which
readers access the information within that network. In principle
these two functions can be separated. The hypertext database
would thus contain the text and the links perhaps in the form
of a standard generalized markup language (SGML) and a separate
navigation tool would make the links explicitly available via
a rich diversity of access devices including tables of contents,
indexes, glossaries of terms, diagrammatic overviews of the text
structure and string searching functions. These navigation tools
differ in the functionality they offer. Some tools enable readers
to move onward from screen to screen; others help readers retrace
their steps to previously displayed information; still others
allow readers to jump from overviews or index entries directly
to the text.
The range of navigation tools that exists
suggests that what superficially appears as the same reading-related
activity, namely moving within the text, might be better seen
as a cluster of diverse activities which have not yet been clearly
articulated in contemporary models of the reading process. The
advent of electronic documents makes this aspect of readersë
behaviour more salient, and urges its incorporation within theories
of reading. Certainly in some serious reading tasks it has been
found desirable to provide a diversity of navigation options in
order to meet readersë requirements (e.g. Salomon, 1990).
The embedded links within a hypertext can
be instantiated in many ways and can have very different display
characteristics. Sometimes typographic cues, such as bold and
italic type, are stripped of their conventional meanings and reassigned
to navigation functions. For example, a phrase in bold face may
signal to readers that additional information can be seen by clicking
on this phrase (e.g. Shneiderman, 1989). On the other hand, designers
could take advantage of the conventional meanings of typographic
cues by associating their connotation with the type of link provided.
For example, parenthetic citations could be used to go to that
reference. Moreover designers are inventing new typographic cues
with new meanings such as boxes, pointers, and animated words.
Embedded links may only become apparent when requested by readers
(e.g. GUIDE). Readers might wish to create their own personal
routes through the text, routes which they could re-navigate whenever
they wanted (Chin, 1989). This might be done on either a temporary
(e.g. task specific) or a permanent basis. Such functionality
requires new tools and perhaps also new skills being made available
There are important issues about the integration
of navigation control with the display(s) of the text content.
For example, navigation options can be either embedded in the
text itself or integrated with the syntax of the screen display
surrounding the text but separate from the actual content matter,
or allocated to a completely independent window. Design differences
such as these will have psychological implications. Wright and
Lickorish (1990) showed that there were circumstances where restricting
navigation to a table of contents was not only acceptable to readers
but they preferred it to using links that were integrated with
the screen display surrounding the text. However, even for these
readers, changing the content and structure of the information
changed their preference. At present these issues can be raised
but we lack the deep understanding of serious reading that would
allow us to resolve them.
Something of the flavor of the psychological
importance of different navigation styles can be seen with reference
to the earlier example of a visitor seeking to spend a day in
town. The reader who is moving from a text location, such as
the description of a special exhibition within a museum, to check
on the opening time of that museum, may feel quite a different
transition from that made when checking what is happening at another
museum. Furthermore, both these moves may feel different to the
reader from going to an electronic map to check where the nearest
bus stop is. These feelings may derive from the orientation imposed
by the task rather than being a property inherent in the text
structure. However, it is not necessarily a low level description
of the task activities that will capture this adequately. In
procedural terms these different kinds of information may all
be the same number of clicks/choices away from the readerës
starting point, but the psychological distances can differ greatly.
Varying psychological distance may influence readersë willingness
to make the transition. Creating adequate interfaces for hypertexts
may require a detailed understanding of readersë information
seeking behaviour. A promising start in this direction has already
been made by Guthrie (1990) who presents a model of how users
search electronic documents.
DeRose (1989) has shown how varied the semantic
links can be within a document, and so has emphasized that not
all links are equal. Readers may find it helpful if the display
of these navigation options reflects something of the psychological
closeness of the destination. This could be done either by providing
similar tools (e.g. buttons at the side of the screen) in visually
different forms, or by providing completely different tools for
the different kinds of movement (e.g. embedded links to pop-up
displays for psychologically close destinations (Stark, 1990);
margin buttons for movements up and down the hierarchy; and either
maps or cross-reference cues as ways of reaching destinations
further afield). In time, conventions for navigating in electronic
documents may become established. At present readers are usually
faced with learning the ad hoc conventions of the document they
are trying to use. Working simultaneously with more than one
document, created by different hypertext designers, can therefore
be a taxing adventure.
The functionality of navigation tools is
likely to be reflected in the professional affiliation of those
who provide them. The author of a text may be responsible for
creating the embedded links within that text and perhaps also
providing some form of overview or table of content. In contrast,
third party vendors could provide software for generating indexes
and might supply some of the non-embedded navigation aids. SuperBook
offers one example of just such a division of labor between author
and the provider of additional navigation assistance (Remde et
al. 1987). Tools from third parties are particularly valuable
as a resource for dealing with materials which have already been
written, or which are being written primarily for printed distribution
but are available electronically.
The main purpose of navigation tools is
to allow readers to move within the document looking at information
in various locations. As such, navigation resources are one means
of finding information. However, the complexity of many search
tasks means that a range of other tools are also needed to assist
readers locate the material they seek (see below). Moreover,
as we have already noted, in serious reading searching for information
is but one of several activities that readers engage in. They
may also wish to move through the information they have collected,
and go back and forth among different organizations of this information.
So navigation support is also likely to be found within or associated
with other tools as suggested in Figure 1. Therefore the emerging
picture of the support that hypertext users need is of sets of
tools, each set clustering around the reading activities it assists.
Some of the ways in which a variety of reading aids may be linked
to each other will be considered later in the discussion of tools
that can help readers plan and co- ordinate their reading activities.
Before this, it is appropriate to examine the kinds of tools
that are needed to support readersë activities of searching,
collecting and manipulating information.
3.0 Searching for relevant material
A great deal is known about the difficulties
of formulating queries so that the information wanted is the information
found by a particular search (Dumais, 1988). Some on-line systems
respond to this problem by having a human intermediary help people
hone their queries and maximize their chances of success. Without
such help it is easy for searchers to either define the search
target so narrowly that many relevant items are missed, or define
the target so broadly that the information being sought is swamped
by a mountain of irrelevant material (cf. Lesk, 1989).
The kinds of search tools required will
depend on the specificity of the target. At one end of the specificity
continuum, it may be possible to use a string search to find the
few instances of an easily specifiable target (e.g. the whereabouts
of Picasso exhibits). However, not all targets that can be well
specified are amenable to string search (e.g. the time of the
last train home). Here readers may be able to rely on navigation
tools that allow them to go from either a table of contents or
some other map of the document structure to those parts of the
text most likely to contain the information wanted. It becomes
a natural extension of this kind of search support to enable movement
to be made directly, perhaps by selecting text locations from
a range of clickable indexes or glossaries without having to remember
and interpret intermediate text locations. Wright (1990) provides
a more detailed outline of the functionality that could be provided
within a range of search tools for use in locating different kinds
At the other end of the continuum of target
specificity readers may have little knowledge about what they
are looking for (e.g., something to do before the play starts).
When the search target is ill-defined, tools which support free
browsing and which offer overviews or content maps or even guided
tours may be very helpful. Husic (1989) has coined the phrase
goal directed browsing to describe this kind of reading
activity. The network of links within hypertexts may be a particularly
useful way of instantiating tools to support such searching.
Laurel et al. (1990) have shown how the help of a guide which
selectively highlights just some of the embedded links can improve
the quality of readersë browsing. Other kinds of tools may
help readers formulate their query more precisely. Norman and
Chin (1989) introduced the metaphor of a server as an intelligent
mediator to guide menu selection processes much as a helpful waiter
may in a restaurant. This advice might be given indirectly (e.g.,
by providing information about the document content) or more directly
by engaging readers in a preliminary dialogue about their main
task and reading objectives. Both forms of advice giving point
to the need for some intelligent tools, a feature which
will be discussed later in relation to aids that help readers
plan their interaction with the text.
Even when the search target can be clearly
specified, readers may need assistance in modifying this target.
People may need to be reminded of the importance of checking synonyms
and related words, as well as searching on root morphemes (e.g.,
communic rather than communicate or communication).
Knowing how to exclude those senses of the word not currently
wanted (e.g., avoiding train in the locomotive sense and
finding only those instances of its educational meaning) can be
even more difficult for readers. Yet the many thesauri currently
in electronic form, offer a basis for creating tools which will
respond to the readersë search command by prompting the reader
with synonyms and modified targets which can be included or not
as the reader sees fit. A sophisticated evolution of this approach
has been formally proposed as Latent Semantic Indexing (Dumais
et al., 1988). Perhaps in time the availability and use of such
tools may become as commonplace for the readers of electronic
documents as dictionaries are for those who read printed texts.
Even when readers know precisely what they
are looking for, problems can arise if the search yields no apparent
instance of that target. For example, the visitor to town who
is seeking a pizza for lunch near a particular museum may find
no perfect match with the criteria of pizza + location.
Computer-based tools could offer content driven suggestions
about the likely consequences of relaxing criteria. Readers could
be told how many targets would be found if pizza were changed
to include other fast food places or if the location were moved.
Without such help many searchers would have to start again in
an almost blind fashion if the first search failed (Norman and
Target specificity is not the only factor
which contributes to peopleës difficulties in finding material
relevant to their reading objectives. Readers may know how to
formulate their query but lack the mental capacity to apply that
knowledge, perhaps because of other concurrent task demands.
Readersë capacity limitations are often related to memory
processes as enumerated in Table 1. Consideration of memory processes
points to a cluster of problems that readers face: (a) remembering
whether all of the intended locations within the text have been
searched, (b) remembering what was found at those locations, (c)
remembering where they have found relevant information in case
they want to check it again. Search tools can offer assistance
with the first of these problems by maintaining lists of the searches
which can be matched against actual search attempts, hits, and
locations. Assistance with the second problem, remembering what
was found, requires the development of data collection tools as
argued in the next section. Solving the third problem suggests
the need for a different category of data collection functions,
namely tools which create collections of valued locations within
the text rather than of the text content.
4.0 Collecting the information found
Search tools have both an input and an output.
So far we have considered the input problems (i.e, how readers
specify what they want to find). From the perspective of their
output, search tools fall broadly into two classes: (a) PICKERS:
these pick and extract items out of the text and present them
in storage locations outside the text (e.g. clipboards or notebooks),
(b) POINTERS: these point to items and enable readers to return
to locations in the text where relevant information was found.
Figure 2 illustrates the general nature of both types of tools.
The category of tools depicted in Figure
2a creates a collection of items found. This can be particularly
useful when readers want to compare the collected items either
with each other or with material in the source text. In a minimal
way this is what the clickable notemaking facility of Wright and
Lickorish (1990) accomplished. In that instance the information
copied from the text gave only the details of a shop and the price
being charged for a certain product. In principle the technique
can be extended to copy much longer sections of text. By enabling
serious readers to separate the activity of data collection from
subsequent considerations of the items collected, extraction tools
can reduce the load on readersë working memory.
In general, the information collected by
readers could be displayed in separate collections rather than
as a single compilation (e.g. museums, theaters, restaurants could
be separated as they were collected). Extraction tools may be
particularly useful when the information obtained from the text
needs to be integrated with other material as part of the superordinate
problem solving task. Whenever copies are made these may either
sever the dynamic links that they had within the main text or
they can retain them. Keeping the links solves the problem of
returning to the original text. Indeed the "copy" may
be a virtual window into the text itself. However, this can limit
the usefulness of the tool. On the other hand, if the extracted
information duplicates the source material, then the possibility
exists for readers to create further links within this private
workspace, and add new annotations to this copied information,
without in any way perturbing the source text.
When large amounts of information are extracted,
either in one "copy" or when numerous copies are made,
other design issues arise. Just creating a collection of items
will seldom be enough. In order to be able to use this information
to reach some decision, readers will also need navigation tools
for moving through the collected items. Navigation support is
a more immediate property of the pointer tools as shown in Figure
2b. Among the advantages of pointer tools are that the items
found can be read in context and readers can conduct further
searches from the location of any item found. Existing hypertext
systems have instantiated pointer tools in many different ways.
For example, SuperBook integrates the results of any search
with the display of the table of contents. This shows how the
targetës frequency of occurrence varies throughout the document
(Remde, et al., 1987). In contrast, HyperCard displays
the results of a search in a single window, where the location
of only one retrieved item can be seen at a time. Not even the
number of targets found is displayed for the reader, who must
therefore check through all the places in the retrieval list hoping
that the desired information will be located. NoteCards
has the potential for graphically showing the semantic relationships
among the items found, or at least the relationships of these
items to some view of the text structure (Marshall and Irish,
1989). This may well have advantages over the more conventional
table of contents, but even for fairly small documents it is not
obvious that untutored readers will have the ability to make good
use of this richer display. For larger documents, particularly
those with irregular web structures, creating a usable overview
can be very difficult.
The most familiar pointer tool is perhaps
the bookmark. This differs from the pointer tools considered so
far in that it requires deliberate placement by the reader, rather
than being an automatic output of the search activity. Bookmarks
have been included in some hypertext systems (e.g., Benest, 1990)
as well as in a range of word processing applications (from Wordstar
to Nisus). In terms of their display characteristics, electronic
bookmarks can differ in many ways. Bookmarks may all be visually
identical (this is usually the case in word processing applications),
or readers may be able to assign different typographic notations
or even different icons for different purposes. This would parallel
the functionality of extraction tools that allow separate collections
to be formed. Another way in which bookmarks can be divided into
categories by readers is through annotations. Sometimes bookmarks
are numbered, but often this numbering is determined by serial
order of assignment and readers may have no control over the numbers
used. If readers have to rely on non-informative bookmarks as
a way of moving within the information they have collected this
could be cognitively onerous, particularly for reading tasks
relating to multiattribute decision-making (e.g. remembering which
order of visiting the museum and the art gallery fits in with
having a pizza for lunch). The cognitive costs of interrupting
search activities to create more informative bookmarks are not
yet known. As we have mentioned, data gathering tools, whether
extraction or revisiting, can either be manual or automatic.
If they are manual, they require readers to explicitly "collect"
the data or leave a bookmark each time a relevant item is found.
In contrast, sophisticated tools would enable the data to be
picked up automatically and routed to prescribed storage locations.
Such tools free readers from having to remember to copy information
every time an item is found, but they require people to understand
their data collection needs well enough to be able to plan their
data gathering in detail from the outset. Ill-defined tasks,
such as planning a day in town, may not be able to benefit from
the more powerful automatic tools.
Path tools which kept track of places visited
in the hypertext network can also be used as pointer tools. For
example, in HyperCard the ìrecentî option displays
up to 42 of the last cards visited and allows the user to go directly
to any one. Such tools create collections of found data. Path
tools can also be used to manage collections of data by providing
tours through the data that has been found. For example, in Glasgow
Online a visitor to the city could use a path tool to create a
tour through the places that he or she is planning to visit during
the day. Multiple paths could be generated as sets of packaged
tours. Visitors to the city could explore these tours and decide
on the one that they liked best.
Data collection tools are particularly
important when several targets are involved. Readers need support
in gathering the desired information and discarding that which
is not needed as a preliminary part of the decision making process.
Data collection tools will also help even when only a few targets
are involved if each target results in several "finds",
any number of which may be relevant to the current task. In some
instances it may be hard to tell whether a particular item of
information is going to be wanted or not. For example, in scanning
a list of restaurants for somewhere to eat there may be several
"possibles," some "definitely nots," but no
"definite yeses". This emphasises that collecting the
information is not the end of the reading activity. After several
items have been collected readers may want to perform additional
operations on this data, or on the pointers to it.
Not all forms of serious reading will involve
data gathering operations. When the reading objective requires
finding only a single target (e.g. the telephone number of the
theatre) and a single match to that target is found in the text,
then the information may not need to be "collected"
in any tool-intensive sense. However, if the information is to
be combined with other computer- based functionality (e.g. a dial-up
modem) then the ability to transfer the information across applications
will be needed. Furthermore, such data may serve as the input
to other applications such as spreadsheets that manipulate the
information and combine it with other information.
5.0 Data Manipulation
Many of the tasks that give rise to serious
reading require analysis, synthesis, restructuring, or evaluation
of the information collected. Readers who access texts for the
purpose of making decisions and solving problems will be collecting
information about what alternatives are available, what attributes
are relevant, what the consequences will be of various courses
of action, what obstacles must be overcome, and what constraints
exist. A number of sophisticated computer-based tools for decision
making and problem solving exist (e.g. MacLean and Sol, 1986)
and their relevance to serious reading will be considered below.
But the kinds of data manipulation that could be useful to readers
include many simpler tools. Readers may want to sort the collected
information in various ways. For example, the visitor to town
may want to bin items into categories such as museums, theaters,
and restaurants. Here attributes of the text semantics can be
easily used to automate the process. This is less easy when readers
want to rank order items on composite or subjective criteria such
as cost, distance, and attractiveness. Such sorting will often
require manual intervention by readers after the data have been
Tools for sorting and classifying by user-defined
criteria may be essential for managing large data sets where the
amount of information collected is beyond the capacity of the
reader to either remember or process without assistance. At present
such functionality is missing from most hypertexts. The assumption
seems to be that readers will take their collected information
and go elsewhere to make their decisions. The current foreshortening
of the range of reading activities that are possible within the
hypertext is unfortunate because, during the course of manipulation,
readers may discover that insufficient information has been gathered.
If additional material needs to be located, readers will want
to be able to return to the original text easily. For electronic
documents read on multitasking operating systems this may not
be a problem. The development of so called hot links between
applications may offer another solution for some tasks. The point
is that serious reading may involve repeated iterations of the
activities of searching, collecting and manipulating information.
For convenience the present paper will deal only with a single
In discussing different categories of tools
for manipulating the collected information (simple tools for categorizing
and displaying groups of items; aggregation and decision support
tools; reauthoring tools), it becomes evident that the output
from these categories differ from each other. This is shown in
Figure 3, where the variation in output serves to emphasize that
these different tools support the different goals that serious
Although computer-based support for decision
making and problem solving already exists, few of these tools
are available to the readers of electronic documents in an integrated,
seamless way. Indeed this paperës theme concerns the need
for tools that support diverse reading activities. This theme
is consonant with other suggestions that the slow spread of information
in hypertext form has been partly due to the failure to integrate
hypertexts with the other computer-based applications that readers
may be working with to achieve their superordinate task goals
(Meyrowitz,1989). Hypertext documents provide readers with access
to relevant information but they do not help readers collect and
manipulate that information easily, nor do they facilitate its
integration with other software. As a start, making available
to readers a toolkit of data manipulation functions would greatly
reduce the cognitive effort required in using analytic methods.
This in turn should enhance the quality of the decisions reached.
The nature and amount of data manipulation
required will be specific to particular tasks. Consequently,
readers will have to customize the manipulation tools. For those
inexperienced at serious reading it will probably be beneficial
to provide templates for reformatting or manipulating the information.
For example, a town visitor wishing to make a historical tour
may collect information about historic events and the dates of
buildings or famous inhabitants, and may want the collected information
displayed in a way that shows these collected items relative to
landmark historical events (e.g. age of historical buildings relative
to the Protestant Reformation). While the availability of customizable
displays of this kind is undoubtedly an asset, programming such
data formatting tools places an added burden on readers. They
now have to understand not only the rationale for manipulating
the data but they must also be able to operate the method(s) for
sophisticated analysis of the data. It seems likely that skills
in using tools that support reading activities will become a hallmark
of serious readers.
When readers carry out several searches
they will sometimes want to integrate the results of these separate
search activities, whether they were conducted on the same or
on different texts. Moreover, it may not be the collected information
itself which is of interest, no matter how it is displayed, but
rather the readerës decision making may relate to the product
of some operation performed upon this information. Perhaps total
cost of the day in town is a constraint on what can be done.
So data aggregation tools are needed. In some instances, e.g.
where the information found is quantitative, these aggregation
tools might be able to combine the outcomes of separate searches
to produce an overall picture. The increasing potential for providing
the output of aggregation operations in graphic and pictorial
forms may facilitate the use of information resources by those
who otherwise find multiattribute decision making very difficult.
Certainly calculating averages or finding modal values when the
data are numerical is trivial for the computer and can be very
helpful for the serious reader.
It has been mentioned that there already
exist powerful decision support systems and problem solving aids.
These fall into three broad classes. In order of increasing
complexity these are: decision analysis, multiattribute decision
making, expert system problem solving. All systems are based
on processing of the information deemed relevant according to
a theoretical approach or a standard analytic procedure. In decision
analysis, for example, alternative courses of action (e.g., to
visit X or to visit Y), possible states of the world (e.g., X
may be closed or Y is nearby), and an associated set of probabilities
and payoffs are analyzed and searched for the optimal choice on
the basis of Bayesian and expected utility theory (Edwards, 1961).
In multiattribute decision making, a set of available alternatives
is listed with their associated attributes and the utility of
having those attributes. The information about each alternative
is aggregated according to multiattribute utility theory and the
alternatives are subsequently ranked according to their overall
weighted utilities (Slovic and Lichtenstein, 1971). Finally,
in expert problem solving, such as fault diagnosis and anomaly
resolution, information collected may be a set of possible states,
actions, and goals (Schank and Riesbeck, 1981). The expert system
would act on this information to search for a possible solution
and/or to request additional information. Because expert systems
require domain specific knowledge, they will be developed for
subgroups of serious readers rather than being widely available.
However, the other two categories of decision support (decision
analysis and multiattribute decision making) could be made generally
available, once it was appreciated that much serious reading
is done for the purpose of decision-making. Indeed it is worth
noting that from the standpoint of the needs of the serious reader,
the separate psychological domains of problem solving and decision
making become very blurred. This affords another example of how
the focus on human-computer interaction can suggest that new perspectives
are sometimes needed on traditional psychological issues (cf.
One important aspect of the activity of
information manipulation can be the readersë need to keep
track of which manipulations have been considered and which still
have to be implemented. For some kinds of problem solving there
can be intermediate solutions which, even though unsatisfactory
and abandoned, can contain fragments that will form part of the
final solution. It can be one of the disadvantages of an electronic
medium that the problem solver may over-write these early incomplete
and unsatisfactory solutions. When doing a similar task using
paper, people will tend to start afresh on a new sheet of paper
when one line of attack looks unpromising. As a consequence,
the earlier solution attempts are preserved, without any deliberate
effort on the part of the problem solver. Work by Black (1990)
suggests that this record of prior problem solving activity can
be very important in supporting the creative performance of typography
students creating a page layout. Tools have been built that
address this problem, tools such as the Designerís Notepad
(Sommerville, et al, 1990) which allow users to designate any
partial solution as a node from which they can then branch
out in one or more directions. The benefits of such manipulation
tools are likely to extend beyond information which can be thought
of as design history. Records of the manipulations made
and the products of those manipulations are likely to be found
advantageous in many multiattribute decision making tasks where
iterations are required before a final solution is found. Iterative
problem solving, with changed parameters, can be seen even in
tasks as simple as planning to spend a day in town. Each attempt
to plan the day requires an adjustment of what one is willing
to give up in order to do something else.
The focus on a visitor making a day trip
to a city emphasizes the uses of information where the final goal
is independent of the originating source. However, if two people
in different locations were planning this trip together, an important
intermediate goal would be the creation of a new document, whether
in electronic or printed media, that afforded the means of communication
between them. When material is being read in order to write, then
further categories of tools for manipulating the collected information
will be needed. Information in the form of whole articles, portions
of text, selections of graphics, and links between objects can,
in principle, be collected and reworked. Sometimes the original
information provider may have had subsequent multiple uses in
mind. For example, a technical reference manual may yield much
of the core information around which a training manual is later
created. Where the output of information manipulation is an electronic
document, the operations involved may include cutting and pasting,
reorganizing and relinking, and even writing new material. The
kinds of tools required will include authoring tools, particularly
hypertext authoring tools, where concepts can be freely linked
to serve some current purpose. User adaptations of hypertexts
have been studied by Chin (1989) whose work suggests that sometimes
it can be better to create new links rather than use multiple
copies of sections from the source material. Again the ability
to integrate the data collected with other computer-based applications
(e.g. word processors or spreadsheets) will be a necessary functionality
for some re-authoring tools. There are many issues, both cognitive
and legal, that have yet to be addressed when it comes to recycling
the information gleaned from electronic documents.
6.0 Tools for Planning
Serious reading tasks require that people
start out with some kind of plan concerning how to accomplish
the task. These plans may not be very explicit, and not necessarily
detailed, but they have to include notions about what information
is being sought, how it will be found, and what will be done
with it once it has been found. Sometimes previous plans can
be rerun if tasks of a broadly similar nature are repeated.
Sometimes the hasty problem solver may use default plans (e.g.
a default plan for finding and collecting information may be to
browse, noting down items of interest). However, there will be
tasks for which new plans must be devised. Planning tools share
with navigation tools the potential for being either completely
separate from other reading tools or being highly integrated with
In order to formulate a detailed plan, readers
must understand the task, know the resources (e.g. tools) available,
and evaluate alternative methods of attack. Among the less sophisticated
forms of support for planning activities, hypertexts can provide
users with information about (a) the structure of the database,
(b) the range of available tools, and (c) a set of general guidelines
or principles for approaching the problem. Such assistance has
its parallel in printed materials - e.g. student textbooks that
advise on how they may best be used. However, computer-based
tools can enhance readersë planning behaviour in much more
powerful ways. In particular, planning tools can act as intelligent
assistants which help readers transform their goals of finding,
comparing and deciding into the activities of searching, collecting
and applying criteria (cf. Carlson and Ram, 1990). Although
there already exist demonstrations of intelligent support for
navigation within hypertexts (Boyle and Snell, 1990), the major
advantage of an intelligent planning assistant is that it can
suggest how to do the task as well as provide tools for actually
carrying out the plans once made. These two aspects of planning
are depicted in Figure 4. For example, people who infrequently
use large information resources do not necessarily know how to
use them well. They may even be unaware that certain tools exist.
Consequently, readers may welcome several kinds of advice about
(a) how to search (e.g., even the Yellow Pages give see also
advice), (b) what information to collect, and (c) how to manipulate
information collected from the text.
Giving readers advice on where to look for
a well- specified target is relatively straightforward and was
discussed earlier in connection with search tools. Helping people
structure their tasks and refine their goals so that they make
best use of the information resource can be much harder, although
inroads are being made into such problems (e.g. Pavlin, 1990).
The need for guidance in doing the task is apparent when considering
visitors to town who first decide where to have lunch and then
discover that they are too far from the museum to get there before
it closes. Helping readers understand the implications of relaxing
criteria, or resequencing the order of their decision making,
may call for advice-giving aids which can use a knowledge of the
text as a basis for their advice, rather than offering context-free
general solutions. Before such intelligent assistants can give
powerful advice about ways of doing the task , it may be necessary
for readers and planning assistants to develop a common language
for discussing tasks, hopefully with a greater capacity for Doing
What I Mean than is evident with many software tools at present.
As well as helping readers structure their
task at the level of goals and subgoals, planning tools can also
help readers cope with the constituent reading activities themselves,
i.e. the details of their interaction with the text. For tasks
that have been done many times previously, the nature of this
support can be unobtrusive. Once the reader has specified the
plan to be used, the planning device may change the tools subsequently
available for certain activities. For example, if a timetable
is being planned then the data collection and manipulation options
may be only those relating to the organization of information
on a time line. The unobtrusiveness of this kind of support can
reduce the cognitive complexity of the task by removing some of
the elements of choice. Nevertheless, there may be cognitive
costs in learning how to set up such plans and in understanding
when it is most appropriate to use them. For less familiar tasks,
planning tools can provide readers with insights into the document
content and its structure. Moreover, this can be done in a way
that is sensitive to the context of the readerës current
objectives. Such insights may help people understand what can
and cannot be found easily and so modify their way of searching
the text. At times there may be a need to tailor the advice to
individual differences in readersë knowledge. For example,
the planning tools may advise readers with certain experience
that they have no need to read a particular section. In other
instances generic information about the content will suffice.
This would correspond to the kind of advice that might be found
in the introduction to a printed document, (e.g., this material
will help readers choose a suitable training course, find somewhere
to live, discover local musical events).
Once readers know which sections of the
text they want to look in, they could have a destination planner
which allowed them to predesignate these locations of interest
and then hop from one to the other. Such a tool would reduce
the memory load, in that readers do not have to remember where
to go or even check where they have already looked. Work currently
being done by Wright and Lickorish suggests that inexperienced
readers of electronic texts welcome such a tool and have no difficulties
in using it selectively, i.e. just for problems making heavy demands
on their working memories. In printed documents there is no
counterpart to this task specific hopping functionality.
When the problem solving involves iterative
cycles of searching, collecting and manipulating, then deciding
where to go may depend on knowing where one has already been.
In printed materials the serial order of the pages and visual
landmarks within the text may provide cues that remind readers
where they have looked. Peoplesë non-linear progress through
electronic documents often lacks many of these cues. So hypertext
users require the support of tools that may be unnecessary for
printed materials; but hypertexts also offer users the potential
of bringing to bear powerful tools which have no counterpart for
paper-based information. The extent to which the use of such
novel and powerful tools may have important consequences for human
problem-solving and decision making cannot even be conjectured
at this stage (cf. Engelbart et al, 1973).
Planning tools can assist not only with
structuring the task and with finding relevant information, but
also with the collection and manipulation of that information.
For example, readers who wanted to know about eating places within
half a mile of a particular location could preplan that the results
of such a search would be displayed in a particular way. In this
sense, preplanning appears to be an antithesis of the direct
manipulation interface. This is not necessarily the case. In
direct manipulation, users manipulate representations of objects
rather than the objects themselves. Similarly the activity of
creating the plan may, given a graphical user interface, feel
as direct a form of interaction as does manipulating the collected
As the categories of tools that may be needed
for serious reading increase, so the interface for displaying
the texts being searched, the sets of information collected and
the products of manipulation is likely to involve windowing environments.
Given the increasing complexity of multiwindowing systems, the
issues about how window displays of private workspaces are related
to each other and how they relate to the display of the source
material becomes a nontrivial matter. Norman, Weldon, and Shneiderman
(1986) suggest that the surface layout of inter-related windows
be made congruent with readers' mental models of their tasks or
with other cognitive processing systems. Thus, the spatial arrangement
of windows (e.g., left to right, overlapping top to bottom) might
helpfully reflect the inferred relation of information sets (e.g.,
first to last, temporary workspace to long term results). Extending
this idea, an intelligent planning assistant could offer its
services in tidying up a cluttered screen. Of course the reader
may need to have advised the assistant on a suitable scheme for
tidying up (clearing away everything into the trash, or shrinking
all windows that have not been accessed for 5 minutes may not
fit the readerës preferred way of working). But the point
is that planning ahead includes planning the use of the working
environment as well as the use of the text itself. This underscores
the way in which the concept of hypertools is derived from a careful
consideration of serious reading. Hypertools are not just a collection
of miscellaneous aids for using electronic documents.
Computer-based interaction with electronic documents represents a significant advance in reading technology. The economic advantages of mass storage in an electronic medium will increase the number of electronic documents available, but availability is not enough. The information within those documents needs to be accessible and easy to use. This paper has introduced the concept of Hypertools to denote a vast network of powerful, computer-based tools whose function is to facilitate the use of electronic information in serious reading tasks. It has examined the constituent activities that arise when people undertake serious reading and shown that readers can be given assistance in many, perhaps all, of these activities.
Undoubtedly readers can experience difficulties
when using information from an electronic document in support
of problem solving or decision making tasks. Many of these problems
relate to moving around within the material. Although navigation
has been the major problem addressed by researchers concerned
with hypertexts it is but one of the tools within a much broader
repertoire that can support the cognitive activities of the serious
reader. People interact with texts because of goals they are
trying to achieve. Their interaction will typically involve reading
activities such as finding, gathering, and manipulating information
from one or more texts. Printed materials have few tools that
are integrated with the text to assist readers in such tasks.
This perhaps accounts for why the absence of adequate support
has not been missed by the readers of electronic documents. But
many of these tools already exist within some computer application
packages and could be made more widely available. The importance
of providing such assistance has seldom been apparent either to
those developing hypertext architectures or to authors using these
architectures in order to make information resources available
to readers. The need for a wide range of support tools becomes
apparent when the constituents of serious reading are examined
in detail. Moreover, as people become more familiar with materials
in a variety of electronic forms (word processors, spreadsheets,
databases) they will begin to expect that computer-based tools
available in one working environment are also present in another.
There is no reason why this expectation should not be met. However,
it lies beyond the scope of this paper to examine the issues relating
to where the onus lies in providing these tools (e.g. the information
providers, the designers of databases and hypertext architectures,
independent software developers). Economic and political factors
will undoubtedly play a part in determining who seizes the opportunity
to meet the needs of serious readers for adequate support.
The present discussion of tools for enhancing
the use of electronic documents has been illustrative rather than
exhaustive. For multimedia information resources, there will
exist other tools and other categories of tools for supporting
serious reading. In particular there is scope for the development
of intelligent tools which can help readers structure their task
and their working environment, as well as helping them exploit
the potential of simpler tools. It will be the existence of these
powerful tools that will make hypertexts and other forms of electronic
documents such a valuable resource for the serious reader. Undoubtedly
readers will need to acquire skills in using these tools, and
in understanding the demands and potential of multimedia databases.
This is what Laurel et al (1990, p139) call "a new kind
of information literacy". Perhaps the advent of hypertools
for hypertexts may in time lead to new insights into serious reading.
This work was completed in part while the first author was a Visiting Fellow at the MRC- Applied Psychological Unit, Cambridge, England and was supported in part by a grant from AT&T to the University of Maryland. The authors wish to thank the following people for their insightful and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper: Thomas Green, John Lowson, Gary Marchionini, Ben Shneiderman, and Heather Stark.
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