Legibility research, and the perils of citing just the URL

During a recent discussion on EAE the question of the “readability” of two spaces came up. Naturally, since I originally planned to do my thesis in graphic design but failed to find relevant research, I was deeply skeptical.

At the end I was asked if I would be interested in learning about the “science” of readability and, of course, I said yes. Today the person got back to me, and this is the list she gave me, in its entirety:

  1. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6392140/?reload=true
  2. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1470357211434029
  3. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/stc/tc/2005/00000052/00000004/art00006#expand/collapse
  4. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/stc/tc/2000/00000047/00000003/art00009
  5. Lewenstein, M., et al. "Poynter Eyetrack Study." (2000).
  6. Quinn S., Stark P., Edmonds R. (2007) Eyetracking the News: A Study of Print and Online Reading. New York: The Poynter Institute.

I’ll leave aside my pet peeves about URL abuses for now; but when I checked the URL’s I found only a third of the list still accessible: [3] and [4] are 404’s. And [5] and [6] could not be located. Not even Google knows where [5] and [6] are: Poynter has “reorganized” their site and they haven’t placed redirects for their old links, even though there’s no way they’re not aware they have been widely cited.

When all the unlocatable citations are thrown out, the entire reference list contains only two citations.

Both of these ([1] and [2]) are behind a paywall, and I couldn’t read them at my home university. I can track them down, which I will do, and comment later when I’m better informed, but I’m already less than hopeful: [1]’s abstract shows suspicious terminology (such as “font size”) that casts doubts on the study’s methodology.

What does this mean? I don’t know, as I’m not really well informed at this point yet, but the terseness of the list still seems to suggest I wasn’t totally crazy when I tried tracking down research papers but failed.