Miscue analysis

Miscue analysis was originally developed by Ken Goodman for the purpose of understanding the reading process. It is a diagnostic tool that helps researchers/teachers gain insight into the reading process.

The term miscue was initiated by Ken Goodman to describe an observed response in the reading process that does not match the expected response. Goodman uses the term "miscue", rather than "error" or "mistake" to avoid value implications. He states that the departures from the text are not necessarily a negative aspect of the reading process but rather “windows on the reading process” (Goodman, 1969, p.123).


Miscue analysis procedures include the collection and examination of a single and complete oral reading experience followed by a retelling. The procedures and standards are outlined in both the Goodman Taxonomy and the Reading Miscue Inventory (Goodman, Watson, & Burke, 2005).

Miscue analysis differs significantly from other laboratory-centered or experimental diagnostic and evaluative instruments in that miscue research studies reading in as natural a condition as possible, with readers orally reading authentic and complete stories they have not been exposed to before. In this way, miscue analysis provides a naturalistic viewpoint and the resulting analysis of reading proficiency is both qualitative and quantitative.

To date, hundreds of studies on miscue analysis have been conducted from different perspectives to explore the reading process, to evaluate readers, and to improve reading instruction (Brown, Goodman, & Marek, 1996). Although their foci are different, these studies have generally confirmed Goodman’s model and theory of reading view that reading is a meaning-seeking process in which readers use graphic, phonemic, syntactic, and semantic cues to make sense of texts.


A key assumption of miscue analysis is that what readers do is neither accidental nor random. Rather, it is cued by language and personal experience (Goodman, 1973, p.93). The insights gained from miscue analysis have contributed to the development of the Goodman Reading Model—a transactional, socio-psycholinguistic theory and model of reading.

Such analysis has made an ideological shift away from a deficit-oriented view of readers’ weaknesses toward a view that appreciates the linguistic strengths that readers bring to the reading process as they construct meaning from a text. In addition, miscue analysis helps researchers/teachers evaluate reading materials, and thus provides them with an objective basis for selecting suitable texts for readers.

The most basic contribution of miscue analysis to knowledge of the reading process is its demonstration that reading is an active, receptive language process. Miscue analysis also helps researchers/teachers analyze the oral reading of individual readers.

Opposing Viewpoint

Goodman's approach has been criticized by other researchers who favor a phonics-based approach, and present research to support their viewpoint. Good readers use decoding as their primary approach to reading, and use context to confirm that what they have read makes sense. Good readers decode rapidly and automatically. Poor readers, who have not developed this fluency skill, will resort to guessing the identity of words, using such strategies as looking at the picture, or using only some of the letters in the words. Studies have shown that even good readers can correctly guess words in context only one out of ten times.

When students look at pictures as a reference, a strategy that is encouraged by whole language proponents, they will stop at the unknown word, look at the picture, then say a word that describes what the student sees in the picture, rather than use graphophonemic clues. With such an approach, a child may read "I see a bunny," when in fact the last word in the sentence might read as "rabbit." Using miscue analysis, a child would be praised for using a word that makes sense, even if such a word does not match the letters in the book. A skilled teacher would note that the child did not use letter-sound correspondence to decode the word, and instead used the picture as a way to guess at the word's identity. Such a teacher would work with this child to make sure that he is paying attention to the letter-sound correspondence.

When faced with a longer unknown word, many poor readers will use the first letter or letters to guess at the identity of the word, and then continue reading even though the sentence with the inserted word does not make sense. A good reader will realize that the sentence does not make sense and will reread the sentence and the word to make sure he is reading correctly., ,

External links


  • Brown, J. Goodman, K. & Marek, A. (Eds.) (1996) Studies in miscue analysis: An annotated bibliography. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Goodman, K & Burke, C. (1973). Theoretically based studies of patterns of miscues in oral reading performance, final report. Wayne State University, Detroit. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No, ED 179 708).
  • Goodman, K. (1969). Analysis of oral reading miscues: Applied psycholinguistics. In F. Gollasch (Ed.) Language and literacy: The selected writings of Kenneth Goodman (pp.123-134). Vol. I. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Goodman, K. (1973). Miscues: Windows on the reading process. In F. Gollasch (Ed.) Language and literacy: The selected writings of Kenneth Goodman (pp.93-102). Vol. I. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Goodman, Y., Watson, D. & C. Burke. (2005). Reading miscue inventory. Katonah, New York: Richard C. Owen Publishers, INC.
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