The University of Iowa

An Examination of Text Complexity as Characterized by Readability and Cohesion


To better understand dimensions of text complexity and their impact on the comprehension of adolescents, 103 high school seniors were randomly assigned to four groups. Each group read versions of the same two informational passages and answered comprehension test items targeting factual recall and inferences of causal content. Group A passages had a challenging readability level and high cohesion; Group B passages had an easier readability and low cohesion; Group C passages had a challenging readability level and low cohesion; and Group D passages had an easier readability and high cohesion. Students in Group D significantly outperformed students in Group C (g = 0.78). Although the effect sizes of comparisons among all groups ranged from g = 0.13 to 0.73, no other comparisons were statistically significant. Results indicate that adolescents’ reading comprehension is dually influenced by a text’s readability and cohesion. Implications for matching readers to instructional text are discussed.


Reed, D.K., & Kershaw-Herrera, (2015). An examination of text complexity as characterized by readability and cohesion. Journal of Experimental Education, 84, 75-97. doi: 10.1080/00220973.2014.963214

Age or Grade: 
IRRC Researcher: