The purpose of this study is to explore how Lakatos' scientific research programmes might serve as a theoretical framework for representing and evaluating informal argumentation about socio-scientific issues. Seventy undergraduate science and non-science majors were asked to make written arguments about four socio-scientific issues. Our analysis showed that the science majors' informal arguments were significantly better than the non-science majors' arguments. In terms of the resources for supporting reasons, we find that personal experience and scientific belief are the two categories that are generated most often in both groups of the participants. Besides, science majors made significantly greater use of analogies, while non-science majors made significantly greater use of authority. In addition, both science majors and non-science majors had a harder time changing their arguments after participating in a group discussion. In the study of argumentation in science, scholars have often used Toulmin's framework of data, warrant, backing, qualifiers, claims, and rebuttal. Our work demonstrates that Lakatos' work is also a viable perspective, especially when warrant and backing are difficult to discern, and when students' arguments are resistant to change. Our use of Lakatos' framework highlights how the 'hard core' of students' arguments about socio-scientific issues does, indeed, seem to be protected by a 'protective belt' and, thus, is difficult to alter. From these insights, we make specific implications for further research and teaching.
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