Text genre as a factor in the formation of scientific literacy



Learning using primary literature may be a way of developing a capacity for scientific ways of thinking among students. Since reading research articles is a difficult task for novices, we examined the possible benefits of learning using primary literature versus secondary literature, particularly with respect to their influence on the creation and formation of scientific literacy. We report on a comparison between four groups of high school students, each with differing degrees of prior knowledge in biology, who read a domain-related text written in either the scientific research article genre (adapted primary literature) or the popular-scientific genre (secondary literature). Although there was no significant difference in the students' ability to summarize the main ideas of each text, indicating that there was no eminent distinction in their content, we found that students who read adapted primary literature demonstrated better inquiry skills, whereas secondary literature readers comprehended the text better and demonstrated less negative attitudes toward the reading task. Since the scientific content of the two texts was essentially identical, we suggest that the differences in students' performances stem from the structure of the text, dictated by its genre. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 42: 403–428, 2005