Engaging in Argument from Evidence



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Fig. 1. Scientists presenting a poster on mercury in the Gulf of Mexico at the 2014 Ocean Sciences conference in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

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Image by Kanesa Seraphin

Both scientists and engineers must use available evidence to construct explanations and design solutions. In addition, they must be able to use reasoning to support their interpretations and analyze others’ interpretations. In science and engineering, argument is not necessarily an angry exchange. Rather, argument is a set of reasons given with the purpose of convincing someone else about an interpretation. Reasoning and argumentation allow scientists to critically analyze their own work and the work of other scientists. Engineers use argumentation to arrive at the best design solution. In engineering, argumentation often considers aspects of design solutions including costs versus benefits, risks, aesthetics, and market demand. Historically, scientific ideas that withstand scrutiny through the process of argumentation persist. Marine and aquatic scientists and engineers engage in argumentation in a similar manner as scientists and engineers in other disciplines. For example, marine scientists may attend a conference with their peers from around the world (Fig. 1) to discuss ideas about the effects of trace metals on the environment. Aquatic engineers may develop different computer models for an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), then discuss, evaluate, and compare designs before selecting one to build.


According to the framework, learning argumentation through science is essential not just for scientists, but for all careful consumers of scientific information. Students should be able to construct scientific arguments using data and critique their own arguments, as well as those of others. Additionally, students should understand what constitutes a scientific argument, how scientific knowledge is judged by the scientific community, and how scientific arguments are presented, both by scientists and by the media. In the classroom, students should be expected to present and defend their scientific explanations, using data to support their reasoning. Students should also be given the opportunity to question and critique scientific explanations, including their own, their peers’, historical explanations, and modern scientific understandings.


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Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawai?i, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.