Students' written argumentation structure from an introductory oceanography course: Analysis and evaluation

Open Access
Diefendorf, Emily Jane
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Gregory John Kelly, Thesis Advisor
  • Scott Mc Donald, Thesis Advisor
  • Carla Zembal Saul, Thesis Advisor
  • written argumentation
  • writing
  • argumentation
  • oceanography
  • discourse
The purpose of this study was to examine ways that students create arguments derived from inscriptions, expertise, and data. The context of this study was an introductory oceanography course with an emphasis on writing that was mainly composed of non-science majors. During the course, students wrote evidence-based arguments on such issues as plate tectonics, monsoons of India, climate change, and fishery health. A random sample of fifteen students’ papers for each of the four written arguments was analyzed to evaluate the students’ construction of evidence and the overall quality of the arguments, which was used to compare across students and assignments. Results reveal students were only partially able to write plausible arguments in the scientific genre. Students used inscriptions, data, and expertise to introduce lines of reasoning, but were often unable to engage in the theoretical aspects of constructing valid scientific arguments. Additionally, average quality scores for each of the assignments improved throughout the time of the class, suggesting students were better able to construct arguments with time. Writing to learn science provides students opportunities to engage in scientific inquiry; however, more opportunities need to exist for students to practice creating arguments. An emphasis should be placed on including argumentation in schools to further the students’ development of scientific reasoning.