Readers vary the attention they give to explicitly stated information in the text.92,93 Some ideas in the text may elicit particular focus and others may not. For example, readers may focus on ideas that confirm or contradict predictions they have made about the text’s meaning or that relate to their general purpose for reading. In addition, readers often need to retrieve information explicitly stated in the text to answer a question they bring to the reading task, or to check their developing understanding of some aspect of the text’s meaning.

As summarized from Kintsch and Kintsch,94 retrieval results in a sequence of idea units that can be interrelated to form the microstructure of part or all of a text. In addition, there are relations among various sections of a text called the macrostructure. The microstructure and macrostructure form the textbase, which is very close to the text but an important foundation to developing real understanding. The ability to focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information is key to constructing the textbase (even though inferences often are necessary for coherence). Typically, this type of text processing requires the reader to focus on the text at the word, phrase, and sentence level in order to construct meaning.95,96 Also, constructing the textbase macrostructure may require the reader to retrieve pieces of information from several pertinent locations in the text to construct the organizing feature of how information is being presented or the summary of a narrative.

Successful retrieval requires fairly immediate or automatic understanding of the words, phrases, or sentences,97 in combination with the recognition that they are relevant to the information sought. Interestingly, printed texts are likely to be initially read and processed at micro-level, whereas online search strategies may benefit from initial macro-processing before the reader can focus on the sentence, phrase, or part of the graphic that has the information.98,99

In classifying items, it is essential to examine the item stem and correct response in relation to the text. If the item stem and the correct response both use exact words from the text and are located with a sentence or two of each other, the item is classified as “Focus and Retrieve.” If some synonyms are used, the item still is “Focus and Retrieve.”

Reading tasks that may exemplify this type of text processing include the following:

  • Identifying and retrieving information that is relevant to the specific goal of reading;
  • Looking for specific ideas;
  • Searching for definitions of words or phrases;
  • Identifying the setting of a story (e.g., time and place);
  • Finding the topic sentence or main idea (when explicitly stated); and
  • Identifying specific information in a graphic (e.g., graph, table, or map).