Why Comics – Research

Since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, illustrations, and subsequently comics, have been used as an educational and communications tools, so comics are not a new medium through which to learn. Furthermore, there is a growing academic literature to support this dating back to the 1940s.

Check out some of our collated research which supports our Why Comics? Education Charity.

According to a new study by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, comics are a better educational resource than traditional textbooks. The study investigated how the way information is presented can affect how easily it can be memorised. Dr Paul Aleixo is the lead researcher on the study and Nicola Streeten is a graphic novelist and comic scholar.

"The use of comic books actually enables students to better remember information. Our research showed that the students that read a comic book version got more memory questions correct compared to when the same information was presented in text format alone – or in a combination of random images and text. This shows that the way comic books are structured – to include a special combination of words and pictures in a certain sequence – increases students’ ability to remember information."

 - Dr Paul Aleixo, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Sheffield Hallam University

  • Abbott, L.L. (1986) Comic art: Characteristics and potentialities of a narrative medium. Journal of Popular Culture, 19(4), p.155.
  • Aleixo, P. and Baillon, M. (2008). Biological psychology: An illustrated survival guide. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Aleixo, P. & Norris, C. (2013). Planarian Worms, Shock Generators and Apathetic Witnesses: Teaching Psychology and Graphic Novels. Psychology Teaching Review, 19 (1) 36-43
  • Aleixo, P. and Norris, C. (2010). The Comic Book Textbook. Education and Health, 28 (4), 72-74.
  • Aleixo, P. and Norris, C. (2007). Comics, Reading and Primary Aged Children, Education and Health, 25, 70-73.
  • Alvermann, D.E. and Hagood, M.C., 2000. Critical media literacy: Research, theory, and practice in “New Times”. The Journal of educational research, 93(3), pp.193-205.
  • Angelotti, Michael, 2007. “Graphic Lit.” World Literature Today, Vol. 81, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 2007), p. 4.
  • Atkins, M., 2013. Cruising the Village: A Visual Ethnography of Public Sex between Men in Manchester City Centre, Ph.D. University of Manchester.
  • Aleixo, Paul and Sumner, Krystina (2016). Memory for biopsychology material presented in comic book format. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics.
  • Burmark, L., 2008. Visual Literacy: What You Get is What You See, in Frey, N. and Fisher, D. eds., Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and more to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Butcher, K.T. and Manning, M.L., 2004. Bringing graphic novels into a school's curriculum. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 78(2), pp.67-72.
  • Chun, Christian W., 2009. “Critical Literacies and Graphic Novels for English-Language Learners: Teaching Maus,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Oct., 2009), pp. 144-153.
  • Chute, Hillary and DeKoven, Marianne, 2006. “Introduction: Graphic Narrative.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Volume 52 number 4,Winter pp. 767-782.
  • Clifford, J. and Marcus, G.E., 1986. Writing culture: the poetics and politics of ethnography: a School of American Research advanced seminar. Univ of California Press.
  • Clifford, J., 1988. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature and Art, Harvard University Press.
  • Cohn, Neil and Patrick Bender. 2017. Drawing the line between constituent structure and coherence relations in visual narratives. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 43(2): 289-301
  • Cohn, Neil. 2014. The architecture of visual narrative comprehension: the interaction of narrative structure and page layout in understanding comics. Frontiers in Psychology. 5: 680
  • Cohn, Neil. 2013. The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Cohn, Neil. 2013. Beyond speech balloons and thought bubbles: The integration of text and image. Semiotica. 2013(197): 35-63.
  • Cohn, Neil, and Martin Paczynski. 2013. Prediction, events, and the advantage of Agents: The processing of semantic roles in visual narrativeCognitive Psychology. 67 (3): 73-97.
  • Cohn, Neil. 2013. Navigating comics: An empirical and theoretical approach to strategies of reading comic page layoutsFrontiers in Cognitive Science. 4: 1-15
  • Cohn, Neil. 2012. Comics, linguistics, and visual language: The past and future of a field. In Bramlett, Frank (ed). Linguistics and the Study of Comics (pp. 92-118). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Cohn, Neil. 2005. Un-defining “comics”: Separating the cultural from the structural in “comics.” International Journal of Comic Art, Vol. 7(2): 236-248.
  • Davidson, Brett, 2017. Storytelling and evidence-based policy: lessons from the grey literature. Palgrave Communications.
  • Galchinsky, M., 2012. Framing a rights ethos: artistic media and the dream of a culture without borders. Media, Mobilization, and Human Rights, Zed Books, New York, pp.67-95.
  • Hammond, Heidi Kay, 2009. “Graphic Novels and Multimodal Literacy: A Reader Response Study” PhD University of Minnesota February.
  • Jamaludin, Z., 2015. ‘DIGITAL GRAPHIC NOVELS: TECHNOLOGY ENHANCED NARRATIVE FOR LEARNING.’ Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Computing and Informatics, ICOCI 2015. 11-12 August. Istanbul, Turkey. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281319333_DIGITAL_GRAPHIC_NOVELS_TECHNOLOGY_ENHANCED_NARRATIVE_FOR_LEARNING
  • Keen, Suzanne, 2011. “Fast Track to Narrative Empathy: Anthropomorphism and Dehumanization in Graphic Narratives.”  SubStance, Volume 40, Number 1, (Issue 124), pp. 135-155.
  • Schwarz, G.E., 2002. Graphic novels for multiple literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46 (3), pp.262-265.
  • Schwarz, Gretchen E., 2002. “Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Nov., 2002), pp. 262-265.
  • Schwarz, Gretchen E., 2006. “Expanding Literacies through Graphic Novels.” The English Journal, Vol. 95, No. 6 (Jul., 2006), pp. 58-64.
  • Shipwright, S., Mallory, D., Demacio, P., and Atack, L., 2010. ‘An Online Graphic Novel: Students’ Experiences and Research Literacy Gains.’ MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 6(3): 573-584. http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no3/atack_0910.pdf (Accessed March 3, 2016).
  • Taussig, M., 2011. Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own. University of Chicago Press.
  • Wolk, D., 2007. Reading comics: How graphic novels work and what they mean. Boston: Da Capo Press.