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Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch. 2018 Jul 5;49(3):551-568. doi: 10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0105.

Adolescent Summaries of Narrative and Expository Discourse: Differences and Predictors.

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Department of Speech & Hearing Science, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
Division of Clinical Therapies & Inpatient Rehabilitation Program, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH.
Research Information Solutions and Innovation, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH.



Summarizing expository passages is a critical academic skill that is understudied in language research. The purpose of this study was to compare the quality of verbal summaries produced by adolescents for 3 different discourse types and to determine whether a composite measure of cognitive skill or a test of expressive syntax predicted their performance.


Fifty adolescents listened to, and then verbally summarized, 1 narrative and 2 expository lectures (compare-contrast and cause-effect). They also participated in testing that targeted expressive syntax and 5 cognitive subdomains.


Summary quality scores were significantly different across discourse types, with a medium effect size. Analyses revealed significantly higher summary quality scores for cause-effect than compare-contrast summaries. Although the composite cognitive measure contributed significantly to the prediction of quality scores for both types of expository summaries, the expressive syntax score only contributed significantly to the quality scores for narrative summaries.


These results support previous research indicating that type of expository discourse may impact student performance. These results also show, for the first time, that cognition may play a predictive role in determining summary quality for expository but not narrative passages in this population. In addition, despite the more complex syntax commonly associated with exposition versus narratives, an expressive syntax score was only predictive of performance on narrative summaries. These findings provide new information, questions, and directions for future research for those who study academic discourse and for professionals who must identify and manage the problems of students struggling with different types of academic discourse.

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