Perceptions of the nature and 'goodness' of argument among college students, science teachers, and scientists

Issam Abi-El-Mona, Fouad Abd-El-Khalick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This study aimed to elucidate college freshmen science students, secondary science teachers, and scientists' perceptions of 'scientific' argument; to compare participants' perceptions with Stephen Toulmin's analytical framework of argument; and to characterize the criteria that participants deployed when assessing the 'quality' or 'goodness' of arguments. Thirty students, teachers, and scientists-with 10 members in each group-participated in two semi-structured individual interviews. During the first interview, participants generated an argument in response to a socioscientific issue. In the second interview, each participant 'evaluated' three arguments generated by a member from each participant group without being privy to the arguer's group membership. Interview transcripts were qualitatively analyzed. The findings point to both similarities and differences between participants' conceptions of argument and those based on Toulmin's analytical framework. Participants used an array of common and idiosyncratic criteria to judge the quality or goodness of argument. Finally, contrary to expectations, participants independently agreed that the 'best' arguments were those generated by participant science teachers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-605
Number of pages33
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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