Critical Analysis of Roth and Bowen’s Paper: “When Are Graphs Worth Ten Thousand Words? An Expert-Expert Study”

Purpose and Question of the Research

The authors present the research purpose very explicitly in the paper. It can be found on the page 430, second paragraph, in which they state that: “this study was conducted to better understand graphing expertise. We were particularly interested in understanding the contributions of experience (content represented, laboratory experience, and understanding of conceptual frameworks) to the particular readings provided by scientists”. The research purpose is also written explicitly in the discussion (see p. 466, first line of the first paragraph): “… to better understand readings of familiar and unfamiliar graphs by professional scientists”.

The research question is not formulated explicitly in the paper. As the reader, I do not know exactly whether the authors forgot to mention the research question intentionally or not. But, the title of the paper is written in the form of a question, when are graphs worth ten thousand words. Later, in the conclusion (see p. 470, the last paragraph), the authors say that this title is their initial question, but not the research question. In my perspective, this initial question cannot be categorized as the research question or even as a good research question. Although it is researchable, this initial question does not provide any clear explanation about the things that the study wants to investigate. There is no any explanation in the question about the kinds of graphs that are going to be used. The word ‘when’ is also somewhat ambiguous. What does the term when means? Does it mean the time of presenting the graphs, or the kinds of graphs? But, this initial question is worthwhile to investigate. The researchers formulate the reason for it (see p. 430, paragraph one): “… there is little work on the actual use of graphs in everyday science, or on scientists’ reading of unfamiliar graphs”. Continue reading