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The process of integrating information from multiple texts is not a merely additive task. Considerable effort must be expended to build an integrated representation. In situations requiring research, it will be necessary to judge which texts are worth reading; to scan many texts looking for relevant information; and thus to create what Perfetti, Rouet, and Britt (1999) termed a documents model (cf., also Goldman, 2004).

A documents model requires the reader to explicitly represent not only the information present in each text, but also the relationships between texts. It requires the reader not just to compare and contrast texts, but to synthesize his or her own deeper understanding of the material based upon judgments that deal in part with gaps and inconsistencies (Britt, Goldman, & Perfetti, 1999).

Research on integration of material from multiple documents suggests that it yields better comprehension than more surface processing (Britt & Sommer, 2004). For instance, active construction such as summary yields better comprehension over multiple documents than answering multiple-choice questions. Similarly, having to answer deeper questions (why? how?) yielded better comprehension than answering questions focusing on details.

Integration across multiple documents appears to be challenging for younger readers (Fritch & Cromwell, 2002; Metzger, Flanagin, Eyal, Lemus, & McCann, 2003) and is not automatically performed even at the high school and college levels (Britt & Sommer, 2004; Graesser et al., 2007). However, students do appear able to acquire document integration strategies even at relatively young ages (Graesser, McNamara, & Vanlehn, 2005; Graesser et al., 2007), though some researchers have argued that adolescence is a more appropriate age to focus on integrating information from multiple documents (Azevedo & Freebody, 1981).

Azevedo, R. C., & Freebody, P. (1981). Vocabulary knowledge. In J. T. Guthrie (Ed.), Comprehension and teaching (pp. 77-117). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Britt, M. A., Goldman, S. R., & Perfetti, C. A. (1999, August). Content integration in learning from multiple texts. Paper presented at the meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Britt, M. A., & Sommer, J. (2004). Facilitating textual integration with macro-structure focusing tasks. Reading Psychology, 25(4), 313-339.

Fritch, J. W., & Cromwell, R. L. (2002). Delving deeper into evaluation: Exploring cognitive authority on the Internet. Reference Services Review, 30(3), 242-254.

Goldman, S. R. (2004). Cognitive aspects of constructing meaning through and across multiple texts. In N. Shuart-Faris & D. Bloome (Eds.), Uses of intertextuality in classroom and educational research (pp. 317-351). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Graesser, A. C., McNamara, D. S., & Vanlehn, K. (2005). Scaffolding deep comprehension strategies through Point&Query, Autotutor, and iSTART. Educational Psychologist, 40, 225-234.

Graesser, A. C., Wiley, J., Goldman, S. R., O'Reilly, T., Jeon, M., & McDaniel, B. (2007). SEEK Web tutor: Fostering a critical stance while exploring the causes of volcanic eruption. Metacognition and Learning, 2, 89-105.

Metzger, M. J., Flanagin, A. J., Eyal, K., Lemus, D., & McCann, R. (2003). Bringing the concept of credibility into the 21st century: Integrating perspectives on source, message and media credibility in the contemporary media environment. Communication Yearbook, 27, 293-335.

Perfetti, C. A., Rouet, J., & Britt, M. A. (1999). Toward a theory of documents representation. In H. van Oostendorp & S. Goldman (Eds.), The construction of mental representations during reading (pp. 88-108). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

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