Hypertext or book: which is better for answering questions?

Barbee T. Mynatt, Laura Marie Leventhal, Keith Instone, John Farhat, Diane S. Rohlman

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


An important issue in the evolution of hypertext is the design of such systems to optimally support user tasks such as asking questions. Few studies have systematically compared the use of hypertext to books in seeking information, and those that have been done have not found a consistent superiority for hypertext. In addition, designers developing hypertext books have few guidelines. In the present study, users performed information-seeking tasks and answered a variety of types of questions about Sherlock Holmes stories using either a conventional paper encyclopedia or a hypertext encyclopedia. The questions varied on the amount of information needed to derive an answer (fact or inference), the location of the question's key phrase in the hypertext (entry title or entry content), and the format of the information (text or map). Accuracy and time were recorded. The hypertext group excelled in answering fact questions where the information was embedded in a text entry. The book group excelled only in answering fact questions based on maps. In spite of having far more experience using books, the book group was not significantly faster overall and did not perform as well on an incidental learning task. Our results suggest that a hypertext book with a nonlinear structure and including a variety of navigational tools can equal or surpass conventional books as an information-seeking medium, even with minimal training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Dec 1 1992
EventACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI '92 - Monterey, CA, USA
Duration: May 3 1992May 7 1992


OtherACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI '92
CityMonterey, CA, USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

Cite this