Experimentation appears to be an ideal context in which several key aspects of scientific thinking can be addressed. However, the traditional freshman laboratory does not appear to be successful in doing so. This paper argues that this has much to do with the way in which tasks are formulated. We propose a simple descriptive model based on the notion of the “idea space” that can be used to analyze task formulation that can promote meaningful critical thinking. A number of factors that affect the size of the idea space are discussed, such as conceptual metaphor and the perceived nature of questioning from a socio‐cultural perspective, described in terms of knowledge and information flow.