Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Computer Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Dewey Rundus, Ph.D.


Digital annotation, Reading, Cognition, Human computer interaction, User


As the World Wide Web continues to grow, more and more information is retrieved online. A person visiting a Web site has a choice of whether to skip, skim, deep read, bookmark for later revisiting, print a document, or any combination of these options. Recently, several tools have been developed to allow users to digitally annotate Web documents. These tools allow users to highlight, make text notes, and scrape information (a form of copy and paste). This dissertation introduces a new form of annotating, called context highlighting. Context highlighting is the ability to mark the text that surrounds keywords or phrases. To test the benefits and costs involved in keyword and context highlighting, a prototype browser called HighBrow was developed specifically for this dissertation that is capable of highlighting both keywords and the supporting context.

The first experiment in this dissertation addresses possible benefits of highlighting both keywords and context, with respect to improved cognition, ease of use, and likeability for the active reader. The results of this experiment showed promise incognition, however statistical significance was not achieved. Participants likedHighBrow, finding it easy to learn and use. The context/keywords highlighters produced significantly smaller keyword phrases than the keyword only highlighters and the amount of time required to do the additional highlighting was not considered detrimental. When active readers highlight keywords and phrases as well as the surrounding context, HighBrow will produce a context summary. A second experiment was conducted to show that passive readers of a context/keyword summary will be more efficient by reducing preparation time and scoring as well as readers who read the entire document or a keyword only summary.

A third experiment was conducted to determine if patterns of highlighting changed over time. The results of the third experiment were disappointing as too many students opted out, providing too little data to make any conclusions. Overall, context highlighting has potential with respect to cognition for both active and passive readers and reducing preparation time for passive readers.