Lights, Camera, Action! Developing a Methodology to Document Mainstream Films’ Portrayal of Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry

Catherine M. Koehler, Mark A. Bloom, Ian C. Binns


This study explores the development of a methodology to analyze how nature of science (NOS), scientific inquiry (SI), and the characteristics of scientists (COS) are portrayed in mainstream films. We demonstrate this methodology using the films, Contact and Twister, as they are commonly used in earth/space science classrooms. We investigate the following research question: how do mainstream films present NOS, SI, and COS? Using a qualitative approach to examine the number of times in which NOS, SI, and COS were observed in the film, we developed a tool that assists the viewers in depicting these incidences visually. Not only can this instrument be used to determine when NOS, SI, and COS are portrayed in popular films, it can also be used to create a visual “fingerprint” depicting the number of incidents in which each construct is displayed. We suggest that these fingerprints can be used to help teachers understand how NOS, SI, and COS are addressed in selected mainstream films normally used in secondary science classrooms.


nature of science; scientific inquiry; characteristics of scientists; films

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