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Analysis of Nature of Science Included in Recent Popular Writing Using Text Mining Techniques

Abstract

This study examined the inclusion of nature of science (NOS) in popular science writing to determine whether it could serve supplementary resource for teaching NOS and to evaluate the accuracy of text mining and classification as a viable research tool in science education research. Four groups of documents published from 2001 to 2010 were analyzed: Scientific American, Discover magazine, winners of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, and books from NSTA’s list of Outstanding Science Trade Books. Computer analysis categorized passages in the selected documents based on their inclusions of NOS. Human analysis assessed the frequency, context, coverage, and accuracy of the inclusions of NOS within computer identified NOS passages. NOS was rarely addressed in selected document sets but somewhat more frequently addressed in the letters section of the two magazines. This result suggests that readers seem interested in the discussion of NOS-related themes. In the popular science books analyzed, NOS presentations were found more likely to be aggregated in the beginning and the end of the book, rather than scattered throughout. The most commonly addressed NOS elements in the analyzed documents are science and society and empiricism in science. Only one inaccurate presentation of NOS were identified in all analyzed documents. The text mining technique demonstrated exciting performance, which invites more applications of the technique to analyze other aspects of science textbooks, popular science writing, or other materials involved in science teaching and learning.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. See for example Abd-El-Khalick and Lederman (2000), Akerson and Hanuscin (2007), Scharmann et al. (2005), Schwartz et al. (2004).

  2. See for example Chiappetta and Fillman (2007), Chiappetta et al. (1991, 1993), Lumpe and Beck (1996), Wilkinson (1999).

  3. See for example Abd-El-Khalick (2002), Abd-El-Khalick et al. (2008), Alshamrani (2008), Brooks (2008), Irez (2009), Lee (2007), McComas (2003), Phillips (2006).

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Correspondence to Feng Jiang.

Appendix: List of Analyzed Popular Science Books

Appendix: List of Analyzed Popular Science Books

List of Winton Prize Winner Books from 2002 to 2011:

  1. 1.

    Ball, P. (2005). Critical mass: How one thing leads to another. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

  2. 2.

    Bodanis, D. (2006). Electric universe: How electricity switched on the modern world. Broadway.

  3. 3.

    Bryson, B. (2003). A short history of nearly everything. New York, NY: Broadway.

  4. 4.

    Gilbert, D. (2007). Stumbling on happiness. Vintage.

  5. 5.

    Hawking, S. W. (2001). The universe in a nutshell. Bantam.

  6. 6.

    Holmes, R. (2009). The age of wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science. Pantheon.

  7. 7.

    Lane, N. (2010). Life ascending: The ten great inventions of evolution. W. W. Norton & Company.

  8. 8.

    Lynas, M. (2008). Six degrees: Our future on a hotter planet. National Geographic.

  9. 9.

    McManus, C. (2004). Right hand, left hand: The origins of asymmetry in brains, bodies, atoms and cultures. Harvard University Press.

  10. 10.

    Pretor-Pinney, G. (2010). The wave watcher’s companion: From ocean waves to light waves via shock waves, stadium waves, and all the rest of life’s undulations. Perigee Trade.

List of Analyzed NSTA Recommend Science Trade Books from 2002 to 2011:

  1. 1.

    Aronson, M. (2010). If stones could speak: Unlocking the secrets of stonehenge. National Geographic Children’s Books.

  2. 2.

    Bankston, J. (2005). Stephen Hawking: Breaking the boundaries of time and space. Enslow Publishers.

  3. 3.

    Batten, M. (2001). Anthropologist: Scientist of the people. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

  4. 4.

    Buchmann, S. (2010). Honey bees: Letters from the hive. Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

  5. 5.

    Castner, J. L. (2002). Rainforest researchers. Benchmark Books/Marshall Cavendish.

  6. 6.

    Collier, M. (2007). Over the mountains: An aerial view of geology. Mikaya Press.

  7. 7.

    Collier, M. (2009). Over the coasts: An aerial view of geology. Mikaya Press.

  8. 8.

    Cooney, C. B. (2007). Code orange. Laurel Leaf.

  9. 9.

    Deem, J. M. (2008). Bodies from the ice: Melting glaciers and the recovery of the past. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

  10. 10.

    Delano, M. F., & Sloane, D. E. E. (2002). Inventing the future: A photobiography of Thomas Alva Edison. National Geographic Children’s Books.

  11. 11.

    Farr, R. (2008). Emperors of the ice: A true story of disaster and survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

  12. 12.

    Favor, L. J. P. D. (2007). Food as foe: Nutrition and eating disorders. Tarrytown, New York, U.S.A.: Benchmark Books.

  13. 13.

    Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

  14. 14.

    Fleisher, P. (2005). The Big Bang. Twenty-First Century Books (CT).

  15. 15.

    Goldenberg, L. (2006). Little people and a lost world: An anthropological mystery. Twenty-First Century Books (CT).

  16. 16.

    Goldsmith, C. (2006). Influenza: The next pandemic? Twenty-First Century Books (CT).

  17. 17.

    Goldsmith, C. (2007). Superbugs strike back: When antibiotics fail. Twenty-First Century Books (CT).

  18. 18.

    Hakim, J. (2007). The story of science: Einstein adds a new dimension. Smithsonian Books.

  19. 19.

    Harris, J., & Goodall, J. (2005). The least of these: Rescue and rehabilitation of wild baby birds. Westwiinds Press.

  20. 20.

    Hobbs, W. (2003). Wild man island. HarperCollins.

  21. 21.

    Hobbs, W. (2004). Jackie’s wild seattle. HarperCollins.

  22. 22.

    Holtz Jr., T. R. (2007). Dinosaurs: The most complete, up-to-date encyclopedia for dinosaur lovers of all ages. Random House Books for Young Readers.

  23. 23.

    Hoose, P. M. (2004). The race to save the Lord God Bird. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

  24. 24.

    Johnson, J. (2008). Animal tracks and signs: Track over 400 animals from big cats to backyard birds. National Geographic Children’s Books.

  25. 25.

    Kent, D. (2003). Snake pits, talking cures and magic bullets: A history of mental illness. 21st Century.

  26. 26.

    Koppes, S. N. (2003). Killer rocks from outer space: Asteroids, comets, and meteorite. Lerner Pub Group (L).

  27. 27.

    Kowalski, K. M. (2005). Attack of the superbugs: The crisis of drug-resistant diseases. Enslow Publishers.

  28. 28.

    Krull, K. (2009). Marie Curie: The woman who changed the course of science. Puffin.

  29. 29.

    LeVert, S. (2006). The facts about cocaine. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.

  30. 30.

    Malnor, C. L., & Malnor, B. (2010). Earth heroes: Champions of wild animals. Dawn Pubns.

  31. 31.

    McClafferty, C. K. (2001). The head bone’s connected to the neck bone: The weird, wacky, and wonderful X-Ray. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

  32. 32.

    Miller, R. (2007). Rockets. Twenty-First Century Books (CT).

  33. 33.

    Pasachoff, N. (2003). Niels Bohr: Physicist and humanitarian. Enslow Publishers.

  34. 34.

    Pasachoff, N. (2004). Linus Pauling: Advancing science, advocating peace. Enslow Publishers.

  35. 35.

    Patent, D. H. (2001). Charles Darwin: The life of a revolutionary thinker. Holiday House.

  36. 36.

    Rubalcaba, J., & Robertshaw, P. (2010). Every bone tells a story: Hominin discoveries, deductions, and debates. Charlesbridge Publishing.

  37. 37.

    Sandler, M. W. (2009). Secret subway: The fascinating tale of an amazing feat of engineering. National Geographic Children’s Books.

  38. 38.

    Simpson, K. (2008). Genetics: From DNA to designer dogs. National Geographic Children’s Books.

  39. 39.

    Stefoff, R. (2006). Microscopes and telescopes. Benchmark Books (NY).

  40. 40.

    Tagliaferro, L. (2000). Galapagos Islands: Nature’s delicate balance at risk. Lerner Publications.

  41. 41.

    Thimmesh, C. (2009). Lucy long ago: Uncovering the mystery of where we came from. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

  42. 42.

    Turner, P. S. (2008). Life on earthand beyond: An astrobiologist’s quest. Charlesbridge Publishing.

  43. 43.

    Vogel, C. G., & Vogel, C. G. (2001). Breast cancer: Questions and answers for young woman. 21st Century.

  44. 44.

    Walker, S. M. (2002). Fossil fish found alive: Discovering the coelacanth. Carolrhoda Books.

  45. 45.

    Walker, S. M. (2009). Written in bone: Buried lives of Jamestown and colonial Maryland. Carolrhoda Books.

  46. 46.

    Winner, C. (2007). Circulating life: Blood transfusion from ancient superstition to modern medicine. Twenty-First Century Books (CT).

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Jiang, F., McComas, W.F. Analysis of Nature of Science Included in Recent Popular Writing Using Text Mining Techniques. Sci & Educ 23, 1785–1809 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-014-9703-0

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Keywords

  • Text Mining
  • Science Textbook
  • Popular Science
  • National Science Teacher Association
  • Text Mining Technique