What are the structural characteristics of written scientific explanations that make them good? This is often difficult to measure. One approach to describing and analyzing structures is to employ network theory. With this research, we aim to describe the elementary structure of written explanations, their qualities, and the differences between those made by experts and students. We do this by converting written explanations into networks called element maps and measure their characteristics: size, the ratio of diameter to size, and betweenness centrality. Our results indicate that experts give longer explanations with more intertwinement, organized around a few central key elements. Students’ explanations vary widely in size, are less intertwined, and often lack a focus around key elements. We have successfully identified and quantified the characteristics that can be a starting point for guiding students towards generating expert-like written explanations.
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