Description, narrative, and explanation can be viewed both as cognitive activities and as forms of communication, that is, text types embedded within sociocultural, institutional, and discipline-specific histories of practice. I relate these three text-type categories to research on categorization processes more generally, exploring what might constitute the “basic” level of a taxonomy of text types (i.e., the most cognitively fundamental level) and also what might be considered prototypical features of descriptions, explanations, and stories (i.e., the features found fully realized in exemplars or standard cases of these types). Building on the taxonomy outlined in the first three sections of the essay, especially my account of core features of explanation, the final section constitutes a “coda” in which I use the taxonomy to investigate how narrative relates to description and explanation in contexts of scientific inquiry in particular.

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