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Rivard, L. P. 1994. A review of writing to learn in science: Implications for practice and research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 31: 969 - 983. (Rivard, 1994) 

This review suggests that writing can enhance science learning, but that this outcome is not automatic. In fact, Howard (1988) states that science tends to emphasize writing as “communication” but often does not take advantage of writing as “articulation” (what he has called “thinking on paper”). Science teachers should therefore tailor tasks to attain meaningful curricular goals, help learners attain the necessary metacognitive knowledge, and embrace the view of scientific literacy as deep conceptual understandings rather than encyclopedic knowledge (Rutherford & Ahlgren, 1989). Rivard calls for carefully designed studies, both qualitative and quantitative, to provide data from a variety of perspectives, as well as research to generalize the findings across a variety of science classrooms and to elucidate principles for guiding effective teacher use of writing-to-learn strategies.


Klein, P. D. 1999. Reopening inquiry into cognitive processes in writing-to-learn. Educational Psychology Review 11: 203-270. (Klein, 1999) 

Writing produces generally positive, but inconsistent, effects on learning. The reasons for this inconsistency are unknown. This review examines four hypotheses about writing-to-learn: Writers spontaneously generate knowledge "at the point of utterance" (Britton, 1980/1982); writers externalize ideas in text, then reread them to generate new inferences (Young and Sullivan, 1984); writers use genre structures to organize relationships among elements of text, and thereby among elements of knowledge (Newell, 1984); and writers set rhetorical goals, then solve content problems to achieve these goals (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987; Flower and Hayes, 1980a). These four hypotheses invoke different aspects of writing, and so are mutually compatible. The genre hypothesis has been supported by empirical research; the other three hypotheses have been tentatively supported by research concerning writing-to-learn, or indirectly supported by other research concerning learning or writing. Further investigation is needed concerning: the empirical validity of the four hypotheses and interactions among the processes that they identify; the declarative and procedural knowledge that underpins writing-to-learn; and the educational effectiveness of applying cognitive strategy instruction to learning through writing.


Yeoman, Kay H. and Barbara Zamorski.  2008.  Investigating the Impact on Skill Development of an Undergraduate Scientific Research Skills Course.  Bioscience Education eJournal 11 (Yeoman & Zamorski, 2008) 

This paper used a pre- and post-course survey of students’ self assessments about their knowledge and skills related to scientific research.  The survey asked questions (using a likert scale) ranging from “I know how to find research papers” to “I know how to write a scientific paper.” Not surprisingly, students who took the course on research methods significantly improved their understanding of the research process.  What I found most interesting about this paper was the increase in students’ self assessment for the question “I know how to write scientifically.”  As far as I can tell, students spent only one class period on scientific writing, yet their confidence at the end of their course in their abilities to write a scientific paper contradict what I have read in other papers.  Kardash (2000), for example, found that when students participated in undergraduate research, their confidence in writing a scientific paper still remained very low.  My guess is that “knowing how” to write a scientific paper does not mean student can necessarily do it well.   


Rudd, James A., Thomas J. Greenbowe, Brian M. Hand. 2007.  Using the Science Writing Heuristic To Improve Students’ Understanding of General Equilibrium.  Journal of Chemical Education 84 (12) (Rudd, Greenbowe, & Hand, 2007) 

The Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) is an alternate format to the traditional format of chemistry lab reports (Title; Purpose; Outline of Procedure; Data and Observations; Balanced Equations; and Calculations, Graphs, and Discussion sections).  The SWH format promotes enquiry-based learning, and consisted of Beginning Questions or Ideas; Tests and Procedures; Observations, Claims, Evidence; and Reflection sections.  This study examined how well students performed on multiple-choice midterm questions (on the topic of equilibrium) based on what they learned in a lab using the traditional format vs the SWH format.  Interestingly, although the SWH students had better conceptual understanding of equilibrium, the traditional group was much better at writing an acceptable equilibrium equation.  This is not surprising, given that students learn best from high-quality practice of skills and the study of models (van Gelder, 2000).  


Locke, David. Science as Writing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.  

The principle argument of the chemist David Locke’s book is that "every scientific text must be read, that it is writing, not some privileged verbal shorthand that conveys a pure and unvarnished scientific truth" (ix). Within this text, he looks at the history of science writing and its development and through this examination problematizes the use of language in scientific discourse. His argument implies a need for critical attention to the rhetorical uses of language in scientific literature and the ways in which this language creates accepted knowledge.


Additional references 

Kardash, C. M. (2000). Evaluation of an undergraduate research experience: Perceptions of undergraduate interns and their faculty mentors. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 92(1), 191-201.

van Gelder, T. J. (2000). Learning to reason: A Reason!-Able approach. In C. Davis, T. J. van Gelder & R. Wales (Eds.), Cognitive Science in Australia: Proceedings of the Fifth Australasian Cognitive Science Society Conference. Adelaide, Causal.

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