Self-report of reading comprehension strategies: What are we measuring?


Proficient readers engage in a wide range of cognitive and metacognitive strategies, and both developmental and classroom intervention researchers are in need of high-quality measures of strategy use. Several researchers have recently called into question the validity of the most common type of measures of strategy use in reading, self-report or introspective measures (i.e., the participant must report on his or her cognitive activity while not actually engaged in the activity). We administered three parallel strategy use measures to a sample of 30 ninth-grade students: a prospective self-report measure, a concurrent multiple-choice measure which required students to apply the strategies to specific passages, and a text on which we asked students to think aloud. We also collected two measures of reading comprehension—a standardized measure and free recall scores. Consistent with Veenman’s (2005) conclusions based on a literature review, the concurrent multiple-choice and think-aloud data were both significantly correlated with both of the comprehension scores and with each other, whereas the prospective self-report data had non-significant correlations with all of the other measures. We conclude by recommending concurrent measures for researchers who wish to study strategy use in reading comprehension.

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This research was supported by funding from an AERA/Spencer Pre-Dissertation Fellowship and a Spencer Dissertation Fellowship to the first author and by funding from the National Science Foundation (REC#0133346) awarded to the second author. Portions of this research were previously presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 15, 2005, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We thank Dr. Sheila Barron, Jeffrey Greene, Dr. Andrew Ho, Dr. Lorena Llosa, and Dr. Jean-Pierre Verhaege for comments that improved the quality of this paper.

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Correspondence to Jennifer G. Cromley.


Appendix A

Major topics, sub-topics, and supporting details used for scoring the free recalls

Major topics (4 points each) Sub-topics (2 points each) Supporting details (1 point each)
To fund army   French and Indian War
need money
10,000 soldiers
Sugar Act halved/dropped [tax] 1760s
duties/tax [on molasses]  
molasses rum
  West Indies
enforce writs of assistance
non-British goods
British judges
guilty until proven innocent
No taxation without representation no representatives Parliament
   1,000s of miles away
Stamp Act buy tax stamps [not just special stamp] tax stamp
on paper legal documents
playing cards
affected more people  
disagreements in Parliament Barre
Stamp Act Congress nine colonies
New York
Protests/dislike/rebel violent
Sons of Violence
threaten/own hands
burn [effigy or paper]
hang [effigy]
[CT] tax collector
started to bury
English goods
made own
Sons and Daughters of Liberty

Appendix B

Sample items from the self-reported strategy use and multiple-choice strategy use measures

Self-reported Strategy Use (MARSI; Mokhtari & Reichard, 2002, p. 259)


‘I never or almost never do this.’


‘I do this only occasionally.’


‘I sometimes do this.’ (about 50% of the time)


‘I usually do this.’


‘I always or almost always do this.’

“6. I summarize what I read to reflect on important information in the text 1 2 3 4 5 ”

Multiple-choice strategy use

A Stamp Act Congress, representing nine colonies, met in New York City on Oct. 7, 1765. The congress declared that only the colonial assemblies should tax the colonists. The congress also petitioned the king and Parliament for repeal of the objectionable measures. When the stamped papers began to arrive, mobs seized them or forced the ships’ captains to take them back to England.

  1. 15.

    Which of the following is the best summary of the passage?

    1. I.

      The Stamp Act Congress met in 1765

    2. J.

      Mobs seized stamped papers from English ships

    3. K.

      The Stamp Act Congress met and asked Parliament to repeal the Act

    4. L.

      Nine colonies met and petitioned the King

Many wealthy merchants favored stopping all business that required the use of stamped papers. This, they said, would be perfectly legal. They also argued that it would so seriously interfere with the business of British merchants that Parliament would be forced to repeal the law.

  1. 23.

    Which sentence would it make the most sense to underline or highlight?

    1. A.

      Many wealthy merchants favored stopping all business...

    2. B.

      This, they said, would be...

    3. C.

      They also argued that it would so seriously interfere...

    4. D.

      All of the above.

Appendix C

Strategy codes for the think-aloud measure (Adapted from Azevedo & Cromley, 2004)

Code Definition Example
HYP+ Any hypothesis or prediction about events to follow in the text (could be an accurate, sensible, or even insensible hypothesis/prediction). “They might start, like, charging people for the soldiers.”
INF+ Makes an accurate within-text inference. The word “because” always signals an inference, but not all inferences include a causal word. “Because they had a lot of goods to sell.”
PKA+ Activates prior knowledge that is both accurate and relevant. “But didn’t Britain like force them to take it? Yeah.”
SQ+ Participant poses him/herself a question that might potentially be answered by the forthcoming text; not a rhetorical question; need not include a question word; not a misunderstanding of text that came before; not a statement of lack of understanding; not PKA-. “I’m thinking how big is the army then if they needed 10,000 soldiers just for North America.”
SUM+ Accurately summarizes (note that part of a summary can be accurate and part can be inaccurate—2 codes). “to make people pay for their own defenses.”
INF- Makes an inaccurate within-text inference. “So they were doing illegal acts in order to raise money.”
PKA- Activates inaccurate and/or irrelevant prior knowledge or states that he/she lacks background knowledge. “That rum was like prohibited, like in those times.”
SUM- Inaccurately summarizes (note that part of a summary can be inaccurate and part can be accurate—2 codes). Could misunderstand or over-generalize in the summary; not PKA-. “They were selling their things.”

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Cromley, J.G., Azevedo, R. Self-report of reading comprehension strategies: What are we measuring?. Metacognition Learning 1, 229–247 (2006).

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  • Measurement
  • Self-report
  • Reading
  • Comprehension
  • Strategies