Science in the news: An evaluation of students' scientific literacy

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Science Teachers Association


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education




This article was originally published as: Murcia, K. (2009). Science in the news: An evaluation of students' scientific literacy. Teaching Science: The Journal of The Australian Science Teachers Association, 55(3). Original available here


Understanding and evaluating reports of science in the media is frequently stated as an attribute of a scientifically literate person, with some researchers suggesting it should be fundamental to any study of scientific literacy. Constructive engagement with science news briefs requires individuals to understand the terms used, take a critical stance and to make links from the report to the broader science discipline and social context. Yet the research reported in this paper indicates that more than fifty percent of the first-year university students surveyed did not demonstrate the ability to critically engage with science reported in the news. The students demonstrated minimal engagement with the reported methods and a lack of sensitivity to the fact that scientific research takes place within a social community. The findings of this study highlight the need for explicit teaching, with appropriate scaffolds and modeling to develop students' ability to critically engage with science news reports.