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Bioscholar Research Residency Annotated Bibliography

Jay Hosler

Note: Research that specifically applies to using comic books and comic book stories in the classroom is somewhat limited and what does exist focuses primarily on English literacy. Consequently, my references focus on one or both of the components of comics: images and narratives. Thus, my bibliography contains references that address relevant, non-comics related mediums.


Janit, A., Hammock, G. and Richardson, D. (2011). The Power of Fiction: Reading Stories in Abnormal Psychology. Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 5, No. 1


This authors of this article hypothesized that stories about psychological disorders were a more effective pedagogical tool than textbook excerpts about the same disorders. Their results indicate that students who read the stories performed better on assessments and that they had better long-term recall of the material after 3 weeks when compared to the students who only read the textbook excerpt. When students read both the story and the textbook their performance was even better.  The researchers used a simple recall test and quiz scores to assess differences between the groups. Their sample size was large and the results seem convincing. I hypothesize the comic stories will help students in a similar fashion and that the visualization of material my make them even more effective. I also imagine comics being used in conjunction with a traditional text.


Karen L. Gunther (2011). The Use of “Non-Fiction Novels” in a Sensation and Perception Course. The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education 10, A14-A23

Gunther hypothesizes that using non-fiction novels will be a more effective way to make the material in her Sensation and Perception course more clearly connected to students everyday lives. She ran the experiment twice. The first time she used the non-fiction novels for the first half of the semester and a textbook for the second half. In the second test, she used the novels exclusively. The effectiveness of these approaches was assessed by having students retake the cumulative final a year after taking the course. Students in the all-novel group reported missing the textbook but out performed the half-and-half group on the retake test. As in the previous reference, I think the results suggest that narratives and be tremendously useful or instruction. The sample sizes were small (less than 10 students for each semester). Given year to year variation and the influence an instructor can have on such a small class, I would like to see this done on a larger scale.


Houts, P.S., Doak, C.C., Doak, L.G., Loscalzo, M.J. (2006). The Role of Pictures in Improving Health Communication: A Review of Research on Attention, Comprehension, Recall, and Adherence. Patient Education and Counseling, 61, 173-190

The stated objective of this research was to “assess the effects of pictures on health communications.” They did so by pairing images with relevant text describing, for example, things such as wound care for emergency room patients. They found that patients receiving instructions that contained words and text together were significantly more likely to understand the instructions, follow them and recall them on a later assessment. They posit that the images provide patients with spatial cues and relationships that make wound care more effective. They also outline basic practice implications that can guide the production of similar materials. This approach was especially useful for those will lower literacy skills. Given that many students in biology have low “biology” literacy, I believe this reference will be very useful for my study. Especially since I hypothesize that comic story images will help provide a sense of the spatial relationships critical to understanding biology at the molecular level.


Mayer, R. E., Bove, W., Bryman, A., Mars, R., and Tapangco,  L (1996). When Less is More: Meaningful Learning From Visual and Verbal Summaries of Science Textbook Lessons. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 64-73.

This experiment examined the effectiveness of text summaries that included words and images versus summaries containing text alone. Their results indicate that student receiving text and images together recalled more and were better at solving transfer problems than students receiving text-only summaries. Images and captions were only effective in combination. These image/caption summaries are, in a very real sense, comics (i.e. sequential art). As such this is a compelling example of how comics can play an effective role in long-term retention of material. They also play a role in scaffolding information is such a way as to make transfer problem solving more effective.


Leiner, M., Handal, G., Williams, D. (2004). Patient communication: a multi-disciplinary approach using animated cartoons. Health Education Research, 19, 591–595

In this study, researchers compared a printed information about polio vaccinations with an animated cartoon containing the same information. Using a pre and post test strategy, their results indicate that the cartoon was more effective means of communication. Since animated cartoons employ similar visual strategies as comics these results are highly relevant to my work. However, they did not compare the animated cartoon to a printed comic with the same information.

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