COURSE TITLE: Research Methods in Biology
NAME OF INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Darcy Visscher
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3(hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 3)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Explores the contexts for the discipline of biology, including historical, methodological, ethical, and societal dimensions, as well as current biological topics of interest in basic research, industrial, and environmental settings. Ethical and professional responsibilities for biologists in industrial, research, and academic settings will be addressed, as well as other topics that explore the interface between biology and society. Research methods and skills in biology will be emphasized, including literature review, experimental design, scientific writing, scientific communication, and mentorship. A key requirement of each student is the preparation of a project proposal, and the review and critique of each others work. Students, faculty, and visiting speakers will give presentations. It is required by all three-year, and four-year biology majors, and is a prerequisite for conduct an undergraduate research, either a Biol 494 or Biol 497.

Prerequisites: 9 credits in Biology or Environmental Studies at the 300 level
  • Webster (2003) Thinking about Biology.
  • Day (1998) How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. 5th Ed. (A PDF is available on the course Moodle site.)
  • Other reading will be assigned and be made available on the course Moodle site
Research Project 30%
Reflections on "Thinking about Biology" 20%
Peer Review 10%
Library and References 10%
"Skills" Assignments 10%
Oral Presentation 10%
Poster Presentation 10%
COURSE OBJECTIVES: The course objectives are:
  • To  demonstrate  an understanding  of probability theory as it applies to scientific data.
  • To understand the role of statistics in biological research.
  • To know the assumptions and shortcomings of particular statistical models.
  • To  be  able  to  identify the  type  of statistical  model appropriate for  the  sampling design and the kind of data that should be collected.
  • To be able to interpret the output of statistical analyses.
  • To  be  able to design optimal  experiments and sampling  programs with the best possible use of limited time and resources.
The objectives of the laboratory component of the course are:
  • To enhance the students’ understanding of the concepts covered in the lectures by gaining  experience  in  conducting  statistical  analyses and  designing  experiments and sampling procedures.
  • To become proficient at using statistical software for analyses.
  • Chapter 1: Facts
  • Chapter 2: Reductionism
  • Chapter 3: Evolution
  • Chapter 4 Biology and Animals
  • Chapter 5: Controversies in Biology
  • Chapter 6: Making sense of genes
  • Chapter 7: Biology and politics
  • Chapter 8 Research Ethics

  • Library and RefWorks
  • How to read a scientific paper
  • The peer review process
  • Scientific questioning
  • Designing experiments
  • Recording observations
  • Research skills
  • Visualizing data
  • Scientific writing
  • Communication - poster
  • Communication - presentation

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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