In several studies, it was observed that science teachers and students were unable to provide adequate definitions of scientific concepts. Currently, it may not seem possible to have a general framework that guides scientists and textbook writers to define scientific concepts. Moreover, it is unlikely that all scientists will agree on a single framework that covers all aspects of definitions for scientific concepts. Educational researchers have also recognized the problems of inadequate theoretical definitions that complicate the learning of these concepts. The aim of this article is to provide a framework for analyzing and defining scientific concepts for the purposes of science education. First, we propose that there are five common features of a definition: object/system, nature/characteristics, cause/effect, mathematical expression/equation, and condition/ reference frame. Second, we propose that four considerations should be kept in mind when defining scientific concepts: ‘comprehensiveness,’ ‘precision,’ ‘consistency,’ and ‘circularity.’ This framework is based on the identification of common definitional problems with scientific concepts, and can be used by teachers for analyzing scientific concepts for classroom learning.
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