A Study of Expert Theory Formation: The Role of Different Model Types and Domain Frameworks

  • Allan CollinsEmail author
Part of the Models and Modeling in Science Education book series (MMSE, volume 6)


If we want to improve science education, it is important to understand how scientists actually go about constructing their theories and models to make sense of the world. In order to understand this process, I conducted an empirical study of three expert scientists and an historian trying to construct theories to address a set of four difficult problems posed to them. This was an exploratory study where the four experts recorded their thinking and made notes to represent their current theories. It was designed to identify the strategies and concepts they were using to construct their theories. To analyze the data, I read through the recorded comments and analyzed the notes to determine the most salient concepts and strategies they were using to construct their theories. While the concepts and strategies used clearly depended on the particular experts and problems, the protocols were very revealing as to the processes that scientists use to construct their theories.


Theory formation Model types Epistemic forms Expert protocols Domain frameworks 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education and Social PolicyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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