Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George M. Bodner

Second Advisor

Gabriela C. Weaver

Committee Chair

George M. Bodner

Committee Co-Chair

Gabriela C. Weaver

Committee Member 1

Adam Wasserman

Committee Member 2

Lyudmila Slipchenko


Despite numerous calls for improving scientific literacy, many American adults show a lack of understanding of experiments, scientific study, and scientific inquiry. News media is one important avenue for science learning, but previous research investigating health and/or environmental science news has shown that it is inconsistent in the presentation of scientific research limitations, potentially impacting reader understanding. In the first phase of this dissertation, seventeen news articles reporting on a single chemistry research article, along with associated press releases and research articles, were analyzed using move analysis to determine the structure of each type of text. It was found that the overall structure of each text genre was similar, with the main difference being that research articles start by presenting background information, while the others lead with highlighting overall research outcomes. Analysis of the steps revealed that, as seen for health and environmental science news articles, descriptions of the study limitations and methods were generally omitted in the news articles. Using these findings, a pilot study was conducted where study limitations were added to a chemistry research news article and the effect of its presence on staff members employed at a large Midwestern university (n=12) and science faculty employed at the same institution (n=6) was explored. Interviews with the participants revealed that including limitations enhanced readers' ability to identify conclusions and evaluate claims, but decreased their trust in the information. In the final part of this study, the trends seen in the previous phase were explored to determine their generalizability. Members of the public (n=232) and science faculty (n=191) read a randomly assigned news article either presenting or omitting the study limitations and research methods. Participants reading articles presenting limitations were able to evaluate the reasonableness of claims based on the article better than those who read the article omitting limitations when accounting for their views on the tentativeness of science (ToS). Presenting limitations was important in identifying unreasonable claims for both public and science faculty, while ToS views predicted ability to identify reasonable claims for the public. Including limitations also decreased readers' trust in the conclusions of the research. However, it did not impact their ability to determine the conclusions of the research and including methods did not have any effect on the measured outcomes.