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Disciplinary literacies in STEM: what do undergraduates read, how do they read it, and can we teach scientific reading more effectively?

Hubbard, Katharine



There have been calls for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education to become more interdisciplinary, reflecting the reality of contemporary research. However, communicating across disciplines is challenging. In this article, I explore what and how students read in the STEM disciplines`. I provide an overview of key topics in literacy research, and discuss the disciplinary nature of literacy. I compare disciplinary literacy requirements in STEM through thematic analysis of UK quality subject benchmark statements, which identifies considerable variation in the expectations of undergraduates to engage with primary research literature. I explore implications this has for interdisciplinary teaching, and present some published pedagogical strategies for engaging students in research literature. I call on STEM educators to embed inclusive disciplinary literacy teaching within curricula to support students in their reading. I also highlight the need for clear understanding of disciplinary conventions and reading expectations when designing interdisciplinary educational programmes.


Hubbard, K. (2021). Disciplinary literacies in STEM: what do undergraduates read, how do they read it, and can we teach scientific reading more effectively?. Higher Education Pedagogies, 6(1), 41-65.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 22, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 4, 2021
Publication Date 2021-03
Deposit Date Feb 25, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Higher Education Pedagogies
Print ISSN 2375-2696
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 1
Pages 41-65
Keywords Disciplinary literacy; Interdisciplinary education; STEM education; Thematic analysis; Reading
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Copyright Statement
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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