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Study Materials


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There will be a weekly reading assignment of up to about 80 pages and requiring about four hours. The reading assignments will come from several sources. Readings are listed by session below. The texts with an abbreviation preceeding the citation are recommended for purchase and are referenced in the table using their abbreviation. Additional texts and articles are referenced in the table by author and year. Not all sessions will have additional readings.


HP97 - Amazon logo Hatton, J., and P. B. Plouffe. Science and Its Ways of Knowing. Princeton, NJ: Benjamin Cummings; 1 edition, 1996. ISBN: 9780132055765.

M79 - Amazon logo Medawar, P. Advice to a Young Scientist. New York, NY: Harpercollins Childrens Books; 1st ed edition, 1979. ISBN: 9780060130299.

Amazon logo NAS95 - National Academy of Sciences. On Being a Scientist, Responsible Conduct in Research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780309051965.

C99 - Amazon logo Chalmers, A. What is This Thing Called Science? New York, NY: Open University Press; 3rd edition, 1999. ISBN: 9780335201099.

Amazon logo Anholt, R. Dazzle'em With Style, the Art of Scientific Presentation. Burlington, MA: Academic Press; 2 edition, 2005. ISBN: 9780123694522.

Amazon logo Bishop, C. How to Edit a Scientific Journal. Philadelphia, PA: ISI Press, 1984. ISBN: 9780894950339.

Bronowski, J. "The creative process." Scientific American 1995 (1958): 4-11.

Amazon logo Dodd, J. The ACS Style Guide. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1997. ISBN: 9780841234628.

Amazon logo Kuhn, T. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780226458083.

Amazon logo Klemke, E., R. Hollinger, D. Rudge, and A. Kline. Introductory Readings in the Philosophy of Science. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998. ISBN: 9781573922401.

Amazon logo Miller, D. Popper Selections. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985. ISBN: 9780691020310.

Woodward, J., and D. Goodstein. "Conduct, misconduct and the structure of science." American Scientist 84 (1996): 479-490.

Amazon logo Zucker, A. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995. ISBN: 9780024321046.

In most cases the readings are one or a few chapters extracted from a long monograph. Even well written chapters taken out of their context will lose some clarity and some of their meaning, and, for example, it would be much better to read Medawar's Advice to a Young Scientist straight through rather than in bits and pieces as is indicated in this syllabus. Because the reading selections come from a wide range of sources you will often notice a significant and sometimes jarring difference in style and perspective from one piece to the next. This can make the articles a good deal harder to assimilate on first reading than they would be if we could take the time to read the full volume from which they are taken.

Readings by Session

Part 1: What Is Science, and How Does It Work?
1-3The Goals and Institutions of Natural Science

The Goals and Institutions of Natural Science

  • How does natural science differ from fine arts, mathematics or engineering and technology?
  • Varieties of science.
  • What is the character of the science you are pursuing?

Scientific Knowledge

  • Discovery or justification?
  • Science as a social process.
  • What is the goal of your thesis research?

Scientific Progress and Change

  • Is the history of science a steady progression or an occasional revolution?
  • Is there a change taking place in your field/discipline today?
  • Can you characterize the paradigm of your field? Of your thesis research?

Session 1: Required

Bronowski. 1995, pp. 5-11.

Popper. In HP97. pp. 81-87.

Bauer. In HP97. pp. 25-37.

Session 1: Additional Readings

M79. Preface and chapters 1-4.

Popper. In Miller. 1985, pp. 25-32.

Session 2: Required

Ziman. In Klemke, et al. 1998, pp. 48-53.

Popper. In Miller. 1985, pp. 163-179.

C99. Introduction and chapter 1.

Session 2: Additional Readings

M79. Chapters 5-7.

Root-Bernstein. In HP97. pp. 107-118.

Session 3: Required

Kuhn. 1996, chapter 9.

C99. Chapter 8.

4-8The Process of Scientific Research

Theory and Observation

  • What are the roles of theory and observation in science?
  • Are decisive experiments possible?
  • Can experiment proceed and succeed in the absence of a comprehensive theory?

Elements of Scientific Method

  • What are the limitations characteristic of inductive and deductive methods?
  • Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying that scientific thinking is no more than good common sense.
  • Is that true of you and your thesis research, or is something more required?
  • What logical scheme characterizes your thesis research?

The Practice of Scientific Method

  • When is a falsification (or a confirmation) interesting/important?
  • Is there a scientific method or not?
  • Which of the common NSF proposal errors are related to scientific method?

Explanation in the Physical Sciences

  • What constitutes a useful scientific explanation?
  • When does (or must) explanation stop?
  • What would you mean if you were to say that you understood a phenomenon?

Explanation in the Life Sciences

  • Is biology an autonomous science?
  • Can a teleological explanation ever be valid?
  • Explanation of complex events, with no clear laws.

Session 4: Required

C99. Chapters 2, 3, and 13.

Collins and Pinch. In HP97. pp. 37-45.

Session 4: Additional Readings

M79. Chapter 9.

Scudder. In HP97. pp. 143-146.

Session 5: Required

C99. Chapters 4 and 5.

M79. Chapter 11.

Session 6: Required

C99. Chapters 6,7,10, and 11.

Feyerabend. In Zucker. pp. 186-189. Generic Proposal Problems, NSF.

Session 7: Required

Salmon. 1992, pp. 7-41.

Weinberg. In Best American Science Writing. 2002, pp. 258-272.

Session 8: Required

Mayr, E. Toward a New Philosophy of Biology. 1988, essays 1 and 2, pp. 8-37.

Jenkins, S. H. How Science Works? 2004, chapter 4, pp. 53-72.

9-10Ethics of Scientific Research

Free and Open Communication?

  • What are the obligations of a scientist?
  • To whom or to what do you owe your highest loyalty?
  • What constitutes intellectual property?
  • When is it appropriate to withhold data and other information?

The Reward System in Science

  • What are society's motives for sponsoring scientific research?
  • Are these consistent with your personal motives for being a scientist?
  • How do you expect to be rewarded for your efforts as a scientist?
  • On what basis do we choose or agree to become a coauthor?
  • Are science ethics undergoing a change?

Session 9: Required

NAS95. pp. 1-12.

M79. Chapter 6.

Sayre. In HP97. pp. 124-131.

Session 10: Required

NAS95. pp. 12-28.

Bishop. 1984, chapter 6.

Woodward and Goodstein. 1996.

Part 2: Communication
11Scientific Publication

Scientific Publication

  • What is the role of written communication?
    What constitutes 'scientific publication'?
  • How much should we publish and when is a research project at the right stage for publication?
  • How is a paper judged by referees and editors?
  • What constitutes a conflict of interest and what should you do if you have one?
  • What makes a good scientific paper?
    What are your favorite scientific papers, and most of all, why?

Session 11: Required

M79. Chapter 8.

Dodd. 1986, chapter 1.

Medawar. 1990, pp. 228-233.

12Oral Communication

Oral Communication

  • What is the role of seminars?
  • In what ways might the content of a seminar be different from that of a scientific paper?
  • How do you plan and prepare for a seminar?
  • What qualities make for a good seminar?

Session 12: Required

M79. Chapter 8.

Anholt. 1994, chapter 1 and 2.

13-16The Practice of Scientific Communication

In the remainder of the semester the participants will have a chance to give a short oral report of their thesis research (or of a paper they find interesting) to a critical but sympathetic audience, their classmates.
Each class member will give the presenter a written evaluation.

Our goal in these short seminars is to emphasize the beginning and the end
parts of the research story, while largely omitting the technical details
of the middle (which are, of course, crucially important but you deal with that at length elsewhere).
This seminar will have been successful if the participants find that they are even slightly more comfortable writing and talking about the goals,
the logical structure and the interpretation of their research.
Are the goals, as you write them down now, any different than at the time of the first class, Question 1(a)?


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