All Three R's in Science

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Science  23 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5977, pp. 407
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5977.407-b

Writing and argumentation skills are critical to the successful scientist, yet they are often overlooked in science curricula. Do such abilities transfer well from classes in more literacy-focused disciplines? Part of a recent study by Adams et al. investigates whether undergraduate students revising scientific texts are able to recognize and address discrepancies in structure and argument or whether they focus mainly on spelling and grammar. The study assessed vocabulary, content knowledge, and verbal memory of 48 students in the first year of a psychology degree program. Students were asked to analyze scientific texts containing errors in three categories: language, structure (i.e., lack of conclusion), and argument (i.e., lack of evidence). The results showed that students were better able to identify errors of language and structure than of argument, and topic knowledge and verbal working memory seemed to be less important than verbal short-term memory. Although this study highlights the importance of teaching literacy skills specifically attuned to science classes, further research is needed to assess whether a lack of genre knowledge accounts for the lack of identification of argument errors.

J. Res. Reading 33, 54 (2010).

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