An Empirical Test of a Taxonomy of Responses to Anomalous Data in Science

Clark A. Chinn, William F. Brewer

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248 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to test a taxonomy of seven proposed responses to anomalous data. Our results generally supported the taxonomy but indicated that one additional type of response should be added to the taxonomy. We conclude that there are eight possible responses to anomalous data: (a) ignoring the data, (b) rejecting the data, (c) professing uncertainty about the validity of the data, (d) excluding the data from the domain of the current theory, (e) holding the data in abeyance, (f) reinterpreting the data, (g) accepting the data and making peripheral changes to the current theory, and (h) accepting the data and changing theories. We suggest that this taxonomy could help science teachers in two ways. First, science teachers could use the taxonomy to try to anticipate how students might react to anomalous data so as to make theory change more likely. Second, science teachers could use the taxonomy as a framework to guide classroom discussion about the nature of scientific rationality. In addition, the taxonomy suggests directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-654
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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