My name is Gemma Fitzsimmons and I am a Web Science PhD student based in Psychology at the University of Southampton. The nature of my research lends itself be in interdisciplinary covering both Psychology and the HCI section of Computer Science. PHD Comics has a relevant comic for my situation.
My PhD will focus on Reading on the Web.
During reading we move our eyes in order to bring new information into our fovea where the highest visual acuity is present. By measuring eye movements we can gain insights into the online cognitive processing that is occurring during a task. Eye movements have been used extensively to help us to understand the cognitive processing that occurs during reading, but there has been very little research into how our reading differs when we read information on the Web to for instance reading a novel. One of the main differences between reading plain text and reading on the Web could be the presence of hyperlinks. Web pages often contain hyperlinks on single words, a string of words or a phrase and these links are related to a Web page or online resource. Hyperlinks are usually denoted by making the hyperlinked text blue.
I will explore if and how hyperlinks affect reading on the Web. It will examine whether the increased saliency of hyperlinks has any effect on how people read and when and where they move their eyes. It will also investigate how reading is affected by the various tasks that we engage in while reading on the Web. For example while on the Web we may be reading for comprehension, searching or skimming for relevant information or navigating the information space. We also have to make numerous decisions about whether to follow a hyperlink or continue reading the information on the current Webpage.
The methodology to be used during this PhD will be eye tracking and other relevant methodologies such as qualitative and quantitative surveys and content analysis. By utilising eye tracking technology such as the Eyelink 1000 eye tracker we can observe the online cognitive processes of users while they read and engage with Webpages. By determining how users process the content on Webpages the results of this research will be used to inform Web design and how information can be best organised on the Web for users.