First-Year Students Benefit From Reading Primary Research Articlesby: Laura Wenk and Loel Tronsky

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Primary research articles discuss aspects of scientific inquiry that are important in understanding the nature of science. Yet, most introductory science courses use textbooks that ignore the scientific process; opportunities for explicit discussion of the nature of science are lost. In Hampshire College’s science program, students read current primary research articles throughout their college careers. This article describes the pedagogy used and demonstrates that first-year students can make considerable progress in critically evaluating the research literature. A sample of 41 students in introductory natural science courses made statistically significant improvements in their abilities to explain the experimental design, data collection methods, and results sections of primary research articles over the course of their first semester. As Hampshire is a small liberal arts college, this article includes ideas for incorporating primary literature into many types of college science courses, large and small.

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