experts’ analaysis of cell-biology—some observations on the representation of scientific knowledge

As part of my research work, I have been analyzing the experts’ way of representing scientific knowledge, the domain of cell-biology. The experts are authors/editors of three books which are followed widely at the international level as textbooks for biology as a subject. These are DeRobertis, Campbell, Soper (Ed.). To be consistent with the knowledge domain (which also I am comparing for the textbook and students), I have narrowed down to analyze the topics on ‘The Structure and Function of Nucleus and Mitochondria’. We want to find out what are the different kinds of linking words (aka relation types) used by the experts. How do the experts use the linking words –do they use them consistently, and unambiguously to represent the domain, and how many linking words are used to represent a given domain.

The following are the observations on the relations depicted of the domain by the three experts:

1. A first and direct observation is that DeRobertis is consistent, unambiguous and economical in using the linking words

2. In all the three experts’ lists, there are more number of (6-10) of spatial inclusion kind of linking words used than the other kinds of linking words

3. In all the three experts’ lists, there is no usage of instance of/ for example linking word

4. DeRobertis explains mitochondria into a hierarchical form and also uses the anchoring of subordinate concepts to the new concepts

5. DeRobertis explains nucleus in an easy to understand

6. Campbell has used a very accurate linking word ‘organized into’ in the context of DNA and Chromosomes

7. Campbell uses the linking word ‘is a’ ambiguously i.e. to mean the part-whole, class inclusion and attributes

8. Campbell explains the structure and mitochondria from only one level of representation. The explanation is not intricate, hierarchical, or anchored to subordinate concepts. But it uses the complex level of concepts for the domain

9. Campbell explains nucleus in quite an intricate way, but has a better way of representation

10. Soper’s mitochondria explanation is just like a school or college level textbook

11. Soper explains nucleus quite intrictely but after some level the mapping of concepts becomes only linear

12. Soper also used the linkig word ‘is/are’ ambiguously i.e. to mean the class inclusion and attributes

Further in continuation, I am comparing the above with the textbook and students’ representation of the same domain which also depicts the knowledge using a constrained set of linking words.

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