Improving Visual Communication in Nanotechnology

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This research tests the hypothesis that students who receive training in visual communication (i.e., thinking about the intended audience of graphic and disciplinary goals of the creator) can be better interdisciplinary communicators. In the service of testing this hypothesis, we have designed a series of experiments that evaluate how explicitly thinking about the intended audience and creator’s disciplinary goals may aid in creating and comprehending nanotechnology graphics. The data obtained from the experiments will also provide insights into the graphical norms and disciplinary differences across two of the sub-disciplines of nanotechnology (chemistry and EE).

Research Design: 

This project is using a cross-sectional research design and will generate evidence that is both descriptive [think aloud, think after, written, and drawing protocols] and causal [experimental]. Original data will be collected from graduate students engaged in nanotechnology research using assessments of learning and observation [videography].

We have developed a set of written prompts that ask participants to draw common structures, phenomena, and processes that exist at the nanoscale. The second set of instruments consists of graphics that depict a variety of structures, phenomena, and processes at the nanoscale.

Think aloud, written, and drawing protocols will be analyzed using standard protocol analysis techniques to evaluate the extent to which students use disciplinary knowledge, consideration of audience, and creator's intention when producing and comprehending science graphics.


Findings will be posted as they become available.