This study conducted a series of content analyses of the articles published by International Journal of Science Education, Science Education, and Journal of Research in Science Teaching from 1998 to 2002. A total of 802 research papers were analyzed in terms of the authors’ nationality, research types and topics. It was found that researchers in four major English‐speaking countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada, contributed to a majority of the publications, but the researchers from other non‐English countries may have, to a certain extent, gradually played a valuable role on the published work. This probably implies that science education research may have progressively become an important field recognized by the international academic community. This study also found that most of the published articles were categorized as empirical studies, while position, theoretical and review papers were rarely presented in the journals. Although the research topic of students’ conceptions and conceptual change was the most frequently investigated one in these five years, a declining trend was observed when analyzed by year. Moreover, in 1998–2002, the research topics related to student learning contexts, and social, cultural and gender issues were also received relatively more attention among science educators.