Scientific Argumentation

The primary goal of the Project Report format is to develop your skills at making a scientific argument and articulating that argument in a written format. In general, effective scientific arguments have three components: the claim, the evidence, and the rationale.

• The Claim is a conclusion, conjecture, explanation, descriptive statement, or answer to a research question.

• The Evidence consists of measurements or observations made during the investigation.

• The Rationale should be one or more statements that explain how the evidence supports the claim and why the evidence should count as legitimate support. It is permissible to include references or refer to other reasons (e.g., accepted theories, models, laws, or findings from other studies) in order to facilitate the explanation.

As the figure illustrates, the claim must be consistent with the evidence. The rationale explicitly interprets the evidence so that the reader can follow the logic of how it supports the claim. In addition, the rationale must justify the evidence as legitimate support for the claim by addressing the experimental design and any associated errors or uncertainty. The quality of a scientific argument depends upon several factors, including:

• Quality and sufficiency of the evidence

• How well the evidence fits with claim

• Predictive and/or explanatory power

• Consistency with other well-supported ideas, theories, models