Research Articles

Research Articles provide recent reports on critical topics surrounding text. In addition, numerous articles (especially those published prior to 2010) by TextProject’s founder & president, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, can be found at:

Most Recent Publications

Does One Size Fit All?

Heidi Anne Mesmer, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, James W. Cunningham, and Madhu Kapania

Readability systems have once more become prominent in policy and practice because of recommendations in the Common Core State Standards. This study revisited two features of current readability systems: their generalizability to all grade levels and to all content areas.

Mesmer, H. A., Hiebert, E. H., Cunningham, J. W., & Kapania, M. (2020). Does one size fit all? Exploring the contribution of text features, content, and grade of use on comprehension. Reading Psychology. 1-32

Download: Mesmer-Hiebert-Cunningham-and-Kapania-One-size-fit-all

The Core Vocabulary: The Foundation of Proficient Comprehension

Elfrieda H. Hiebert

Learn about three features of the word and world knowledge that underlie the core vocabulary of approximately 2,500 word families that account for the majority of words in texts.

Hiebert, E.H., (2020) The Core Vocabulary: The Foundation of Proficient Comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 73(6), pp. 757-768.

Download: Hiebert-2020-The-Core-Vocabulary-RT-May2020

Patterns of Silent Reading Rate and Comprehension as a Function of Developmental Status, Genre, and Text Position

Emily Hayden, Iowa State University Elfrieda H. Hiebert, TextProject Guy Trainin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Hayden, E., Hiebert, E.H., & Trainin, G., (in press). Patterns of Silent Reading Rate and Comprehension as a Function of Developmental Status, Genre, and Text Position. Reading Psychology.

Download: Hiebert-2019-Patterns-of-silent-reading-rate

Knowledge at the Center of English/ Language Arts Instruction

Gina N. Cervetti, & Elfrieda H. Hiebert

Building students’ knowledge is an important way to support their future reading. This article offers five practices for creating a knowledge-building classroom.

Cervetti, G.N., Hiebert, E.H. (2018). Knowledge at the center of English/language arts instruction. The Reading Teacher 72(4).

Download: Cervetti-Hiebert-2018-Knowledge-at-the-center

An Analysis of the Features of Words That Influence Vocabulary Difficulty

Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Judith A. Scott , Ruben Castaneda, and Alexandra Spichtig

The two studies reported on in this paper examine the features of words that distinguish students’ performances on vocabulary assessments as a means of understanding what contributes to the ease or difficulty of vocabulary knowledge.

Hiebert, E.H., Scott, J.A., Castaneda, R., & Spichtig, A. (2019).  An Analysis of the Features of Words That Influence Vocabulary Difficulty. Education Sciences, (9)1. Retrieved from:

Download: Hiebert-2019-An-Analysis-of-the-feature-of-Words-that-Influence-Vocab-Difficulty

Hiebert, E.H. & Daniel, M., (2018). Comprehension and rate during silent reading: Why do some students do poorly?Reading and Writing, p1-24.

Download: Hiebert-Daniel-2018-Comprehension-and-Rate-During-Silent-Reading

Investigating the Validity of Two Widely Used Quantitative Text Tools

James W. Cunningham, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, and Heidi Anne Mesmer

In recent years, readability formulas have gained new prominence as a basis for selecting texts for learning and assessment. Variables that quantitative tools count (e.g., word frequency, sentence length) provide valid measures of text complexity insofar as they accurately predict representative and high-quality criteria. 

Cunningham, J.W., Hiebert, E.H., & Mesmer, H.A., (2018). Investigating the validity of two widely used quantitative text tools. Reading and Writing, 31(4), p 813-833. 

Download: Cunningham-Hiebert-Mesmer-2018-Investigating-the-Validity-of-Two-Widely-Used-Quantitative-Text-Tools

Prologue: Becoming Becoming a Nation of Readers

Ian A. G. Wilkinson, Judith A. Scott, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, & Richard C. Anderson,

In this foreword to the special issue of the Journal of Education celebrating the 30th anniversary of the publication of Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading (BNR) (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985), we share the backstory of the making of BNR.

Wilkinson, I.A.G., Scott, J.A., Hiebert, E.H., & Anderson, R.C. (2016).  Prologue:  Becoming Becoming a Nation of Readers. Journal of Education, 196(3), 1-5.

Download: Wilkinson-et-all-2016-Prologue-Becoming-Becoming-a-Nation-of-Readers

Hiebert, E.H., Goodwin, A.P., & Cervetti, G.N., (in press). Core Vocabulary: Its Morphological Content and Presence in Exemplar Texts. Reading Research Quarterly.

Download: Hiebert-Goodwin-Cervetti-2017-Core-Vocabulary

The Decline of Comprehension-Based Silent Reading Efficiency in the United States: A Comparison of Current Data With Performance in 1960

Alexandra Spichtig, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Christian Vorstius, Jeffrey P. Pascoe, P. David Pearson, and Ralph Radach

Spichtig, A. N., Hiebert, E. H., Vorstius, C., Pascoe, J. P., David Pearson, P., & Radach, R. (2016). The Decline of Comprehension‐Based Silent Reading Efficiency in the United States: A Comparison of Current Data With Performance in 1960. Reading Research Quarterly, 51(2), 239-259.

Download: Spichtig-et-al-2016-The-Decline-of-Comprehension-Based-Silent-Reading-Efficiency-in-the-United-States

An Analysis of the Text Complexity of Leveled Passages in Four Popular Classroom Reading Assessments

Yukie Toyama, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, and P. David Pearson

This is the version of an article accepted at Educational Assessment on December 11, 2016. Please note that this is neither the copy-edited nor published version.This study investigated the complexity of leveled passages used in four classroom reading assessments. A total of 167 passages leveled for Grades 1–6 from these assessments were analyzed using four analytical tools of text complexity. More traditional, two-factor measures of text complexity found a general trend of fairly consistent across-grade progression of average complexity among the four assessments. However, considerable cross-assessment variability was observed in terms of the size of increase in complexity from grade to grade, the overall range of complexity, and the within-grade text complexity. These cross-assessment differences were less pronounced with newer, multi-factor analytical tools. The four assessments also differed in the extent to which their passages met the text complexity guidelines of the Common Core State Standards. The authors discuss implications of the differences found among and within the classroom assessment systems, on one hand, and among the measures of text complexity, on the other.

Toyama, Y., Hiebert, E.H., & Pearson, P.D. (2017).  An analysis of the text complexity of leveled passages in four popular classroom reading assessments. Educational Assessment, 22(3), 193-170.

Download: Toyama-Hiebert-Pearson-2018-An-Analysis-of-the-Text-Complexity-of-Leveled-Passages-in-Four-Popular-Classroom-Reading-Assessments

Features of Known and Unknown Words for First Graders of Different Proficiency Levels in Winter and Spring

Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Yukie Toyama, & Robin Irey

This study describes the features of words known and unknown by first graders of different proficiency levels in six instances of an oral reading fluency assessment: three in winter and three in spring. A sample of 411 students was placed into four groups (very high, high, middle, and low) based on their median correct words per minute in spring. Each word in the assessment was coded on 11 features: numbers of phonemes, letters, syllables, blends, morphemes, percentages of multisyllabic and of morphologically complex words, concreteness, age of acquisition, decodability, and U function. Words were classified as known if more than 50% of the students within a group were able to correctly read those words. Features of known and unknown words were contrasted for all but the highest group, which made no errors, at each point in time. An analysis of the patterns of known words across groups from winter to spring shows that students followed a similar general progression in the number and type of words recognized. The most prominent feature of unknown words in winter and spring for the middle group of students was the presence of multiple syllables. The lowest-performing group of students continued to be limited by word length and frequency in their recognition of words, but on both features, their proficiency increased from winter to spring. The discussion addresses several critical issues, most notably the relationship of words in oral reading assessments to the word recognition curriculum of many beginning reading programs. Keywords: word recognition development; assessment texts

Hiebert, E. H., Toyama, Y., & Irey, R. (2020). Features of known and unknown words for first graders of different proficiency levels in winter and spring. Education Sciences, 10(12), 389.

Download: Known-Unknown-Words-Hiebert-et-al2.