Book Report - Practitioners of Science

This activity was co-developed by Dr. Sandra Abell, University of Missouri - Columbia, and Dr. David Eichinger, Purdue University.
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Initial Publication Date: June 30, 2009


In a graduate level course on the nature of science and science teaching, students read about and discuss a variety of philosophical and theoretical ideas about the nature of science. It is helpful for students to have an opportunity to relate these ideas to real-life examples of the practice of science.

Students read a book-length account of the practice of the scientific enterprise (e.g., The Double Helix or A Feeling for the Organism). They compare the account to course ideas, making connections, finding examples, and discovering discrepancies. They write a short (1-2 pages) report of their findings.

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Learning Goals

This activity is designed to help students see real-world applications of issues related to the nature of science as they are portrayed in the accounts of practitioners of science.

Context for Use

The activity is part of a graduate level course for Master's and Ph.D. students in science education and the sciences. The usual course enrollment is 15-20 students. Students are given a list of possible books in the second week of the semester, and are required to turn in the written book report 10 weeks later. This activity could be easily adapted for secondary and undergraduate students.

Description and Teaching Materials

Attached is the list of suggested books. Students are free to either use titles from this list or to find others of personal interest. Titles not found on this list are reviewed by the instructor to ensure appropriate content and focus. Each year that the course is taught, the new titles are added to the list, resulting is a constantly growing resource.
List of possible books for book report assignment (Microsoft Word 39kB Jun30 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The written book report is only designed to be 1-2 pages long. Elements to be included are:
  • a brief description of the book, written to entice others to read the book
  • explicit discussion of a few connections between the practitioner's experiences in science and general issues related to the history, philosophy, and sociology of science being discussed in the course
  • a complete bibliographic citation
Students submit electronic versions of their individual reports and the instructor compiles these into a single document that is then shared with all students.


Assessment is based on appropriately including all three components mentioned above.

References and Resources