Argumenting Science

Lecturers: Benedetto Lepori & Andrea Rocci

Week 2 (23 - 27 August 2021).

Workshop objectives and content

This workshop aims to provide PhD student and young researchers with a deeper understanding of how novel ideas in science are communicated to peers in order to convince them of their validity. The workshop has both a theoretical orientation – i.e. better understanding communication practices within science – and a practical goal, i.e. helping prospective researchers to devise suitable argumentative strategies in order to defend their ideas.

The course will build on two main pillars. On the one hand, an understanding of science as a community of practice, where scholars discuss their ideas in front of peers and engage in discussions about their validity, whose outcome determines whether these ideas are included as part of the accepted realm of knowledge. In such a perspective, activities such as presenting at conferences, writing scientific articles, submitting grant proposals are central to the development of science, as well as to the career of individual researchers. Scientific communication takes place largely through texts, which obey to specific literary conventions, but are also constructed in order to convince the reader and to refute objections using elements such as past authority (citations), logical argumentation, data, statistical analyses etc.

On the other hand, the course will be build on theories of human communication, which extensively analyzed how argumentation can be used effectively to bring interlocutors, such as other scientists, to your side through strategic maneuvering. These theories lead to an understanding of scientific communication as a critical discussion, in which scientists advance and defend their ideas by respective a code of conduct that, for example, obliges them to take seriously the objection of peers and to respond through new valid arguments. In such a perspective, researchers are highly strategic in engaging in scientific debates and pursue multiple objectives, such as improving their work, getting their ideas accepted and enhancing the status in scientific communities. Conceptualizing scientific communication in these terms will help students to better understand how to manage their communication activities and how to avoid mistakes that might lead to a refusal of their ideas or results or to jeopardize their position within the community.

The workshop will be organized in face-to-face lectures and in practical exercises, in which students will analyze scientific texts for their argumentative content and simulate scientific debates playing both the proponent and opponent role. It will focus in this respect on two major forms of scientific communication, i.e. the scientific paper and the grant proposal.

Workshop contents

Part 1. Science as an argumentative practice

  • Communities of practice and the scientific truth.

  • Genres of scientific communication.

  • Critical discussions in science.

  • Argumentation and strategic maneuvering.

  • How to engage in scientific debates: tips and tricks.

Part 2. The writing of scientific papers

  • The literary genre of the scientific paper.

  • Scientific papers as argumentative documents: defending your truth.

  • Disciplinary differences and discipline-specific arguments.

  • How to write effective papers: tips and tricks.

Part 3. Grant proposal writing

  • Grant proposal writing as a dialogue with funding agencies and peers.

  • Telling a convincing story: levels of strategic manoeuvring.

  • A core tension: embedding in a community vs identity.

  • The art of getting funded: tips and tricks.


Bazerman, C. (1988). Shaping written knowledge: The genre and activity of the experimental article in science (Vol. 356). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Keith, W., & Rehg, W. (2008). Argumentation in science: The cross-fertilization of argumentation theory and science studies. The handbook of science and technology studies, 211-239.

Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Harvard university press.

Lepori, Benedetto, and Sara Greco. "18 Grant proposal writing as a dialogic process." Science Communication 17 (2019): 377.

Myers, G. (1991). Writing biology: Texts in the social construction of scientific knowledge.

Van Eemeren, Frans, Rob Grootendorst, and Frans H. van Eemeren. A systematic theory of argumentation: The pragma-dialectical approach. Cambridge University Press, 2004.