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Highlighting tools allow readers to add a “highlight” to a stretch of text that includes key information so that it stands out visually, while also aiding memory and comprehension.

Research spanning multiple decades supports highlighting text an effective way to improve reading comprehension. Now, new research suggests that students often have highlighting preferences that may aid their comprehension. As text becomes increasingly digitized, reading platforms should include flexible highlighting as a feature.

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research suggests that students often have highlighting preferences that may aid their comprehension

Clusive readers can highlight the text they read to mark important passages.


Decades of research shows that highlighting paper texts can aid a student’s comprehension.

There is less research concerning highlighting digital texts, and some of the results have been mixed.

Related Guidelines

The features of the CISL tools are related to existing guidelines and best practices, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines. The feature of highlighting is connected to:

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Highlighting tools are not required for accessibility. However, when adding such capabilities, designers and developers should ensure that minimum contrast requirements (WCAG 1.4.3) are preserved.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines

UDL Checkpoint 3.2: Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships

UDL Checkpoint 3.4: Maximize transfer and generalization

UDL Checkpoint 6.3: Facilitate managing information and resources

Digital Highlighting Examples

TextHelp’s Read&Write for Education allows students to use highlighting to identify and collect key information from documents including those on the internet. has compiled a list of assistive technology software that can help students who struggle with reading, including several software programs that utilize highlighting and annotation tools.

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