For my undergraduate honors thesis, I conducted original research on how readers from differing science backgrounds understand science news. The abstract is listed below. If you’d like to know more about the study, please let me know.
With the state of science literacy in the United States at a considerable low, it is imperative to analyze the quality of science journalism in this country in order to try and improve it and, by default, the level of general science education. This study looked at how well readers understood science news articles based on their level of science education. Survey participants read two articles — one of low complexity in the biological sciences and one of high complexity in the physical sciences — and answered questions about the articles. For the low complexity articles, the results followed the hypothesis, and readers with more science education scored significantly higher. For the high complexity articles, however, the results did not show a significant difference between the groups. The higher science education groups were also more confident about their understanding of all the articles, although they did not score higher on the high complexity ones. This suggests that more science knowledge can help understanding, but just a little bit of general science education may do more harm than good, and a more specified science education would be good for everyone to have.