Science & Education

, 18:985 | Cite as

Understanding Scientific Methodology in the Historical and Experimental Sciences via Language Analysis

  • Jeff DodickEmail author
  • Shlomo Argamon
  • Paul Chase


A key focus of current science education reforms involves developing inquiry-based learning materials. However, without an understanding of how working scientists actually do science, such learning materials cannot be properly developed. Until now, research on scientific reasoning has focused on cognitive studies of individual scientific fields. However, the question remains as to whether scientists in different fields fundamentally rely on different methodologies. Although many philosophers and historians of science do indeed assert that there is no single monolithic scientific method, this has never been tested empirically. We therefore approach this problem by analyzing patterns of language used by scientists in their published work. Our results demonstrate systematic variation in language use between types of science that are thought to differ in their characteristic methodologies. The features of language use that were found correspond closely to a proposed distinction between Experimental Sciences (e.g., chemistry) and Historical Sciences (e.g., paleontology); thus, different underlying rhetorical and conceptual mechanisms likely operate for scientific reasoning and communication in different contexts.


Scientific method Historical science Experimental science Language Computational linguistics Scientific reasoning Cognition 



Thanks to Martha Evens, Peter Greene, Richard Schultz, and the late Nambury Raju for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science TeachingThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA

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