1. Formation and Significance of Question Approved by the General Administration of Press and Publication ( ), the Chinese Institute of Publishing Science carried out the National Surveys on the Reading Situation of the Chinese Citizens for five times in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and through August 2007 to the beginning of 2008, respectively.
This “durative and large-scale fundamental research project of the state”,1 together with other surveys and studies in recent years on the reading situation of different groups of people, have evidently demonstrated that citizen’s reading situation has caught much attention in contemporary China. Most of the students currently studying at universities2 (“University Students”) were born during 1985 to 2000. They witnessed the publishing of the so-called “combo books” such as the New Concept Composition Contest Series (, the Series of Reading Materials Under the New Chinese Curriculum Standards , 100 Masterpieces of Chinese Literature in 100 Years ( ), etc.
At the same time, they have been confronted by an environment in which the internet technology is rapidly developing and the “internet literature”3 is widely spreading, hence have specific reading background compared to other groups of people.
In addition, the research on the reading situation of the University Students is of great value in terms of their diversified reading activities, the proportion and amount of their reading, and their future effects on the reading situation of all the citizens as a whole, etc. A number of research projects have been carried out in this area, often focusing on the extracurricular reading and English reading of the University Students.
However, the reading situation of the students of the Chinese Department, whose daily study involves the most intensive and extensive reading activities among the University Students, has not yet been paid close attention to. From the perspective of all the human beings, the narration in A History of Reading has described the development of reading as a gradual progress from reading aloud and collective reading to silent reading and reading privately. This is a seemingly smooth and peaceful progress of individualization, but in its essence full of the human beings’ surprise, delights, tremors and bewilderment.
Reading is at the same time inevitably affected by the historical backgrounds of different eras, for reading has been an individual but also collective activity up to present. For the students of the Chinese Department, literature reading is predominant in their reading activities because of the specific requirements of their study. In our current survey, we focus specifically on the contents, motivations and impacts of the literature reading of the students of the Chinese Department. We first use a questionnaire as a resort of data collection among the students of the Chinese Department in an extensive manner.
Then we conducted in-depth interviews with them, a group of people “living on reading”, to find out their respective “reading history” which deserves greater attention for comprehending their reading situation. Accordingly, for obtaining an image of, as well as for expressing our concerns with the reading situation of our fellow students, especially of the students of the Chinese Department of the Peking University, we carried out a survey, of which our preliminary findings are set out in this Report.
2. Literature Review The National Surveys on the Reading Situation of the Chinese Citizens (“National Surveys”) are so far the most extensive and authoritative surveys conducted in this area. The fifth National Survey, which was the most recent one, covered 56 cities and towns of 29 provinces, municipalities or autonomous regions. The total number of the people included in the survey sample of the fifth National Survey increased to 20,800 from 8,000 during the fourth National Survey.
The Guangming Daily published the report of the fifth National Survey, which revealed that most of the readers in China still chose to read newspaper, while the percentage of people who regularly read on line continued to shoot up. On the other hand, the book reading percentage ceased to be falling, which climbed up by 0. 1% compared to the result of the fourth National Survey. The above constitutes the background of our current survey. There have been books published on the reading situation of the people of a certain region.
For example, in one of the chapters of the Reading Lives of Beijingers, the author conducts a survey on the reading situation of the University Students and other groups of people with high levels of education background, which is quite representative but does not focus on the reading of literature. Additionally, some publishing houses, magazine presses and governmental departments have carried out surveys and investigations on reading situation to collect data and information mainly for commercial purposes such as making investment decisions, while very few of them are aimed at literature research.
Among the documents and materials reviewed by us, the Reports on the Esthetic Appreciation of the People of the Capital, which were the first works in literature research through surveys of reading situation and composed of more than 40 reports prepared by students of literature major of the Chinese Department, covered a wide range of topics in arts but did not specify the questions raised or further deepen their research. In 2004, Mr. Zheng Yiran, a student of the Chinese Department, has conducted a survey on the acceptance of Lu Xun’s ideas by high school students for his Master’s Degree thesis.
Mr. Zheng sent out questionnaire in both soft and hardcopies to more than 10,000 high school students across the state, collected adequate information from them, and analyzed and studied the popularity and acceptance of Lu Xun, his image and identifications perceived, the influence on the said acceptance exerted by teaching of Chinese literature and media reports, etc. , which should be considered a valid and successful survey conducted for literature research.
The abovementioned previous surveys have inspired us to carry out our own survey on the students of the Chinese Department of the Peking University, which is a very specific group of people, under the background of repeated National Surveys and for the purpose of further research in Chinese literature. Part II Research Process 1. Selection of Research Method The object of our survey is the situation of literature reading (through the reading of both books and online materials) by students of the Chinese Department of Peking University.
Considering the need for obtaining not only a complete picture but also the details regarding this matter, specifically for understanding the individualized factors in the course of literature reading, we adopted both the sample survey and the Qualitative Analysis approach as our research methods. Sample survey is the basic research method in sociology, which may draw a general and objective conclusion that may be applied to a larger entity as a whole, provided that the selection of the sample, the devising of the questionnaire and the analysis of the quantity data collected are all scientifically conducted.
Different from the sample survey method, which is based on the accurate analysis of quantity, the Qualitative Analysis method has a distinguishing feature – it cares for the individuals being surveyed and hence has a strong grass root flavor. Hence, the Qualitative Analysis method can facilitate the interchange between the researchers and the persons being surveyed, and contribute to the further understanding of the target of the survey through interview with a relatively small group of the persons included in the sample. 2. Process of Research (1) Devising of Questionnaire.
The devising of the questionnaire is based on the review of the existing literature. Feedback is obtained from the small scale testing survey and the comments of professors and fellow students on the preliminarily questionnaire. The questionnaire was then finalized after several rounds of modifications. (2) Distribution of Questionnaires The sample of this survey includes mainly the undergraduate students of the Chinese Department, but also a few graduate students. We randomly distribute the questionnaires by visiting the dormitory rooms of students in different years.
The sample covers the students of the Chinese Department in all years, except for those in their graduating years. Besides, to ensure the representation of the sample, the percentage of the questionnaires distributed to the students of each gender is in accordance with the actual percentage of the students of the Chinese Department by gender. (3) In-depth Interviews By using the Qualitative Analysis approach, and based on the replies to the questionnaires, we have interviewed the students who have left their contact information on the retrieved questionnaires and are considered representative in literature reading.
The topics of the said interviews are the questions on the questionnaire and the interviewee’s reading experience since childhood till present. The purpose the interviews is to find the common characteristics or the general trends in the literature reading situation of students with different reading habits, and to supplement the findings based on the analysis of the data collected from the retrieved questionnaires. We have conducted the interviews in either the form of individual or group interview.
During an individual interview, two researchers discuss with one interviewee on the contents, the mentality, the affecting factors of reading and other related matters, focusing on the interviewee’s individual experience and details in reading. By holding a group interview, four or five persons (including the interviewer) usually have a free discussion on several topics with regard to reading situation. For the students who are off campus, we have conducted interviews with them via internet.
All the interviews have been recorded and the contents of the discussion are taken notes of. The notes are then summarized for further analysis. During the course of the data processing and report drafting, we sometimes revisit the interviewees and request further clarifications on certain important matters. (4) Gathering of Data All the questionnaires are in hard copy. The data are gathered by hand. (5) Drafting of Report.
Based on the data gathered from the questionnaires and the information collected during the in-depth interviews, we separately drafted different parts of this Report according to the facts we obtained during the survey, for reflecting the reading situation of the students of the Chinese Department, and analyzing the motives of reading, the mentalities during reading, and other influencing factors. 3. Relevant Statistics The total number of the questionnaires distributed is 150, of which 142 are retrieved and 136 are valid replies.
The response rate is 94. 7%, while the valid response rate is 90. 7%. The numbers and percentages of students being surveyed are set forth in the following tables by year or major. Table 1 Number of students by Year 05′ 06′ 07′ Total of Undergraduates 06′ Graduates 07′ Graduates Total of Graduates Females .
Applied Linguistics Chinese Linguistics Philology Female 26 14 3 1 9 Mail 9 6 1 2 4 Total 35 20 4 3 13 Percentages 25. 7% 14. 7% 2. 9% 2. 2% 9. 6% Since the undergraduate students in their first year (07′) have not been allocated to classes of different majors, only the undergraduates of 05′ and 06′ are required to fill in the “major” blank in the questionnaires during our survey. Table 3 Distribution of Interviewees of In-depth Interviews. 07′ 06′ 05′ Graduate Total Female 1 4 6 1 12 Male 2 1 5 8 Total 1 6 7 6 20.
To make the sample distribution of this survey as extensive and balanced as possible, and to render the final result of the survey as a representative one that can be applied to the students of the Chinese Department as a whole, all the above percentages of students by gender are maintained in accordance with the actual percentage of the students by gender, and the sample has included students of the Chinese Department in all different years. Part ? Research Outcome Chapter 1 Overview This chapter is mainly an overview of literature reading, including reading hours per week, personal reading habits, and accesses to literature books, etc.
The first question with 4 options is about literature reading hours per week. There are 34. 1% of all interviewee spent more than 7 hours on reading per week, namely on average more than one hour a day. This is also the largest group. The second largest group is 1-3 hours per week. With several percentage less, 4-7 hours per week is the third largest group. There’s much less interviewee chose the option “Rarely any”, and only one interviewee chose “Uncertain”. How long do you read literature works per week? A Rarely any 5. 2% B 1-3 hours 32. 6% C 4-7 hours 27. 4% D More than 7 hours.34. 1% E Uncertain 0. 7%.
The second question is about the way to read, and also an indication of the depth of reading. How do you read those literature works? A Skimming 36. 8% B Perusing 41. 9% C Perusing with postil 11. 0% D Taking notes 17. 6% E Others 5. 1% 41. 9% of the interviewee chose “Perusing”; the second popular choice is “Skimming”, which occupied 36. 8%. As for literature works, the students from Chinese Department have different purpose and access, therefore they made different choices on what and how they read. We had discussed this in in-depth interview.
Some students did mention the importance of taking notes in order to understand the work properly. But however, different literature works contains different connotations. As for internet literature, people always skim it over quickly. One student described it as “fossicking gold in desert”. Therefore, it is nature to choose different way to read different literature works with different purpose. Students who chose “Others” always read in different ways rather than a certain one. The following question is aimed at the access to literature works. It requires choosing top 3 accesses and ranking them.