A comparison of errors detected: video display terminals vs. hardcopy

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Information processing has altered the structure of the traditional office. Typewriters are no longer a necessity to prepare written business communication. As a result of a metamorphosis from manual data manipulation to electronic data processing, microcomputers and their related peripheral equipment are becoming the key link in the information system.

Increased usage of microcomputers and word processing software has been linked to decreased proficiency in detecting errors and in turn to decreased office productivity. Thus a number of questions arise including: Is it better to proofread from a hardcopy or a softcopy document? Does the color and contrast configuration of a video display terminal affect the operator's ability to proofread? The effect on the operator's ability to accurately detect errors in keyboarded text from different media has not been previously determined. This study was therefore completed to ascertain if a difference does exist.

Seventy-two individuals enrolled in four word processing classes at a western North Carolina community college comprised the individuals participating in this study. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, a pretest instrument, and one of four error detection instruments. The error detection instruments were presented in either a hardcopy or softcopy format. The softcopy format consisted of three video display terminal configurations. Analyses of covariance with pretest scores used as the covariate were used to compare the quantity and types of errors detected by error detection environment configurations.

Based on the findings from the analyses of data the following conclusions were derived.

  1. Postsecondary word processing students have difficulty in finding errors in hardcopy and softcopy documents.

  2. Postsecondary word processing students' abilities to detect errors in keyboarded text were not affected by the error detection environment–hardcopy or softcopy–during a ten-minute error detection process. Therefore, the printing of a hardcopy of keyboarded text when detecting errors for a short time period is not necessary.

  3. Postsecondary word processing students' abilities to detect errors in keyboarded text were not affected by the video display terminal configurations examined in this study. A video display terminal’s color configuration is not a factor in the error detecting process for a short time period-ten minutes. Therefore, the color configuration of a video display terminal should not be a major consideration when purchasing new video display terminals for instructional use.

  4. As the spelling Verification feature of word processing software does not detect all types of errors, instruction is needed in detecting errors that cannot be detected by the software’s spelling Verification feature.