Reasoned Writing / A Framework for Scientific Papers

Reasoned Writing and A Framework for Scientific Papers seek to use writing to support reasoning, and reasoning to improve writing.


Reasoning is necessary for strong scientific conclusions (Giere et al., 2006). Communication is necessary for broad understanding and technology development (Goldbort, 2006). Therefore, reasoning and communication are both important components of science and science education.


The overall goal of Reasoned Writing / A Framework for Scientific Papers (RW/AFSP) is to help instructors use scientific reasoning and communication for active learning in content-heavy STEM courses (i.e. courses that may not traditionally involve writing or speaking).


STEM instruction can benefit from "active learning" approaches. Active learning refers to many instructional strategies where students learn through self expression and creation (Bonwell and Elson, 1991). Active learning can contribute to conceptual understanding, and improve student performance and learning relative to more passive instructional modalities (e.g. lecture-based courses; Freeman et al., 2014; Theobald et al., 2020; Deslauriers et al., 2019; Bando et al., 2019, Eddy and Hogan, 2017, Wallace et al., 2021). One way to encourage active learning is to include written and spoken communication in coursework (Bangert-Drowns et al., 2004; Bean, 2011; Quitadamo and Kurtz, 2007). Scientific communication can contribute to learning because communication involves the active process of reasoning: analyzing information, synthesizing arguments, and evaluating conclusions (Rochford and Borchert, 2011). Moreover, learning scientific content in the context of scientific reasoning can improve content learning and retention (Cannady et al., 2019). Therefore, using reasoned writing for learning can potentially improve communication skills, conceptual understanding, AND factual knowledge simultaneously (Mayer, 2002; Biggs and Tang, 2011, Rivard, 1994).


However, most STEM courses and curricula continue to use traditional methods that do not sufficiently employ active learning (Stains et al., 2018) or scientific reasoning, methods, and communication (Brand and Huiskes, 2001; Coil et al., 2010; Turbek et al., 2016). Instead, scientific courses commonly focus on knowledge transfer, with fewer opportunities for creativity, reasoning, and judgment (Zheng et al., 2008). The potential benefits of active learning for scientific education remain unrealized for many students.


What prevents more widespread use of active learning in college-level STEM courses? One reason is that incorporating active learning or scientific communication into STEM courses may seem overwhelming and infeasible. For example, although many excellent textbooks review scientific reasoning (e.g. Cavender et al., 2018; Cleave, 2016; Giere et al., 2006; Layman, 2005; Moore, 2017) and other excellent textbooks provide useful guidance for scientific communication (primarily writing; e.g. Booth, 2016; Moriarty, 1997; Lindsay, 2011; Williams and Bizup, 2017), instructors may not have the ability to incorporate extensive new instruction, potentially using several additional textbooks, into their content-focused science courses. Therefore, it seems that a concise, open-access resource to help review some fundamentals of scientific reasoning and communication could be useful to help instructors implement active-learning activities in their courses.


Reasoned Writing/A Framework for Scientific Papers hopes to provide some relatively simple tools to help include scientific reasoning and writing into science courses (and provide ideas to help people improve their writing in many situations).


RW/AFSP seeks to help courses and curricula use active learning through reasoned communication by concisely reviewing fundamental approaches to scientific reasoning and writing together. RW/AFSP uses an "explicit instruction" approach that seeks to be unambiguous, structured, systematic, and scaffolded (Hughes et al., 2017; Ping and Osman, 2020).


Specifically, the first module (Reasoned Writing) presents foundational arguments for the importance of structure, simplicity, and specificity for effective communication. Reasoned Writing is based on the observation that clear writing (and speaking) can naturally flow from strongly-reasoned frameworks.


The second module (A Framework for Scientific Papers) applies the principles of Reasoned Writing to the specific objective of clearly communicating hypothesis-based scientific studies.


The scientific principles reviewed in this website are consistent with Inquiry-Based and Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) approaches to scientific education (Auchincloss et al., 2014; Corwin et al., 2015; Dolan, 2016). Scientific reasoning and communication are essential scientific practices, and potentially necessary for student success in experiences that involve research. Providing students with specific guidance for reasoning and communication is (in my experience) essential to strive for research experiences and assessments that are equitable.


To navigate the site, use the buttons at the bottom of each page to go forward and the buttons at the top of the page to go back. Alternatively, you can access an outline of the site using the button at the upper left of the page, or through the text outline below.


Please send feedback/comments to Devin Jindrich, djindrich@csusm.edu


UPDATE! (2020 Fall) I have also developed a companion module on statistics and research methods. Only a very brief description of module is included on this website... please contact me for more information.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (text version)

REASONED WRITING




SOME ACTIVITIES FOR REASONED WRITING


A FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENTIFIC PAPERS





SOME ACTIVITIES FOR A FRAMEWORK FOR SCIENTIFIC PAPERS


SOME EXAMPLES OF CLASS ACTIVITIES


PREQUEL: STATISTICS AND RESEARCH METHODS


"BOOK" VERSION: STATISTICAL RESEARCH METHODS (using spreadsheets) AND REASONED WRITING


Reasoned Writing / A Framework for Scientific Papers

A free website for scientific writing.

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© 2018, Devin Jindrich

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