Print VS Digital: Planning


My report aims to see if students at the University of Wollongong have any preference over print or digital material in their academic life. I plan to find this out by conducting a survey and a focus group with fellow communication and media students.


When I first began my research into student’s preference on digital and print material I was not actually that curious about the topic. As I delved deeper and deeper into the topic though my curiosity rapidly increased, and the reason for this increased curiosity was my own stance towards the topic.

Hertz (1997), urges researchers to be aware of their own positions and interests and to explicitly situate themselves within the research. She argues that researchers are … imposed at all stages of  the research process – from the questions they ask to those  they  ignore,  from  who  they  study  to  who  they  ignore,  from  problem  formulation to analysis, representation and writing – in order to produce less distorted accounts of  the social world.

Taking Hertz’ views into account with a bit of self-reflection I discovered that I much prefer print over digital material in almost every context. Whether it be reading for leisure or reading for study I will always choose the printed copy, in fact I have found myself printing off the PDF readings I’m given from my university classes because I found it is much easier for me to study from, and that I’m more likely to remember what I’ve read. I am aware then that going into the practical part of my research that I mustn’t let my preference influence the people participating in either my survey or focus group.

My curiosity and own personal stance on my research topic has cemented my belief that the research needs to be done. My own experience with finding it easier to study off print instead digital is backed up by some of the research that is being done. Naomi S. Barron, the author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World writes, “The ways we use technologies lead us to develop particular habits of mind. With print, even though we might skim and scan, the default mindset is continuous reading.” My findings, though small will be able to suggest whether or not the libraries move towards digital material is the right one as well as finding whether it could be beneficial for students to receive physical copies of readings.


Reviewing my Sources

Hewlett Packard Survey

Hewlett Packard conducted a survey at San Jose State University to measure student preference for e-textbooks and printed version. The survey results were used in the promotion of the HP Hybrid learning solution. This means that Hewlett Packard has vested interest in the results of the survey as it promotes the HP Hybrid learning solution which in summary equates to use our products to help students learn.  Despite this vested interest I do still believe the results are valid as they line up with a number of similar reports. Like,


Huffington Post Article by Naomi S. Baron

Naomi S. Baron is a professor of linguistics at the Department of Language and Foreign Studies, at American University. Her areas of research and interest include computer-mediated communication, writing and technology, language in social context, language acquisition and the history of English. Baron is an academic that has published numerous papers and research findings; including 8 books therefore we can assume that the work that she publishes is to a high standard. Baron would also want to know the findings as a professor to allow her students to study to the best of their ability.


James Madison University(JMU) Article by Drs. David Daniel and Krisztina Jakobsen

Professor David Daniel and associate professor Krisztina Jakobson both work at James Madison University in the field of Psychology. Daniel and Jakobson had to go through JMU to be able to carry out their research and get funding. We can assume then that the research is to a high standard. It is also evident by the way they both write that they have the student’s wellbeing in mind. “Publishers can’t change the way people read online,” Daniel said, “but they can find new ways to format e-textbooks to make them more effective for how students learn best and prefer to interact with the product. We believe that science can help guide this process toward the development of more effective learning tools for all students.”





Consent to Participate in Focus Group

You have been asked to participate in a focus group being conducted by Hayden Carlton.

The purpose of the group is to try and understand why people prefer print over digital material, or vice versa. The information learned in the focus groups will be used in a research report to find if UNI students prefer to use digital or print material and the reasons as to why.

You can choose whether or not to participate in the focus group and stop at any time.  Although the focus group will be recorded, your responses will remain anonymous and no names will be mentioned in the report.

There are no right or wrong answers to the focus group questions.  We want to hear many different viewpoints and would like to hear from everyone.  We hope you can be honest even when your responses may not be in agreement with the rest of the group. In respect for each other, we ask that only one individual speak at a time in the group and that responses made by all participants be kept confidential.

I understand this information and agree to participate fully under the conditions stated above:_______________


Respect for my participants

To try and be as respectful as possible to the students that will be participating in my survey or focus group I have tried to implement the lean Research Framework in all the places where possible. This means at all times I have had these four principles in mind: 1) rigorous, regardless of methodologies employed; b2) respectful towards research subjects, implementing partners, and others engaged in the research process; 3) relevant to research subjects, partners, and decision-makers; and 4) right-sized, in terms of protocols and costs compared to the potential usefulness and impact of the study.


Time Table


By keeping this time table in mind throughout my research I will not only be able to see where I should be up to but also be able to see when I might have to change something  or simply move on to the next step so that I make sure I have enough time to complete my report.


Risk assessment




Naomi S. Baron. (2015). Why Reading On A Screen Is Bad For Critical Thinking. Available: Last accessed 25/4/16.

Teri Tan. (2014 ). College Students Still Prefer Print Textbooks . Available: Last accessed 25/4/16.

Dr.David Daniel, Dr.Krisztina Jakobsen. (2016). E-textbooks Effectiveness Studied. Available: Last accessed 25/4/16.

Elizabeth Hoffecker Moreno, Kendra Leith, Kim Wilson. (2015). The Lean Research Framework Principles for Human-Centered Field Research. Available: Last accessed 25/4/16

Link to survey:





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