Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Perspectives and Research Methods in Biology

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION 1. Problem-solving in biology: Philosophical aspects of definitions of life. Hypothesis formulation, assumptions, measurement concepts and tools.

Experimental and non-experimental research. Variables, research design, sampling and observational protocols and statistical considerations. Data as research evidence. Aspects of experimental design and statistical treatment of data.

2. Biology documentation and sources: Biological literature including primary, secondary and grey literature; Scientific publication; Peer review; Ethics in publishing and citation; Referencing; Searching the literature including electronic libraries; Evaluation of sources. Plagiarism and collusion.

3. Reporting in Biology: Reporting on methods and techniques in writing scientific reports. Presenting results qualitatively and quantitatively. Discussion of findings and presenting conclusions and recommendations.

4. The laboratory note book and the use of SI units: Why keep a laboratory notebook? Legal and ethical obligations. The management of note keeping. Organizing and writing the notebook. Use of units in scientific writing: The SI (Systeme International). Writing rules.

Important note:

Students are informed that regular lecture attendance is obligatory. Students will be allowed to submit their assignment for assessment only if the student’s attendance to lectures has been regular and all other course assessment requirements have been satisfied.

Study-unit Aims:

The unit introduces biology students to the prevalent views on the nature of biological sciences and the scientific process in biology. It will review the basic nature of scientific investigations and research methods including: hypothesis testing, designing experiments, errors, peer review, primary literature, scientific publication etc. These topics will be reviewed in particular reference to biology.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Apply the concepts and methods learnt during the study-unit to make a scientific appraisal of the validity or otherwise of a particular given theme or topic;
- Demonstrate his knowledge about the different kinds of literature, the methods used for assessing the quality of literature and the tools available for searching the literature.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Make a literature search on the given and specific topic;
- Analyze the reported or alleged facts from a scientific viewpoint so as to assess the validity of any evidence presented in literature;
- Define the problem carefully in order to be able to explore different possible solutions;
- Be able to communicate his/her findings on the scientific appraisal in a written format in a sufficiently clear, coherent and comprehensive manner.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

The following texts are useful for various topics covered in this study-unit:

Carey S.S. (2011). A beginner's guide to scientific method [4th ed.]. Wadsworth Publishing.
Ebel H. F., Bliefert C., Russey W. E. (2004). The art of scientific writing: from student reports to professional publications in chemistry and related fields [2nd ed.]. Wiley.
Katz M. J. (2006). From research to manuscript: a guide to scientific writing. Springer.
Matthews J. R., Bowen J. M., and Matthews R. W. (2000). Successful scientific writing: a step-by-step guide for the biological and medical sciences. [2nd ed.] Cambridge University Press.
Ruxton and Colegrave (2010). Experimental design for the life sciences. Oxford University Press.

In addition, various readings on specific topics will be given during lectures and a reading pack on Topic 2 will be provided.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Offered to B.Sc. (Hons) Biology and Chemistry.

Pre-requisite Qualifications: A-Level Biology or equivalent.

Students are to note that they will be allowed to sit for this study-unit examination and will be awarded a grade only if they have regularly attended lectures and practical classes, if they have submitted any assignments, including practical reports and if they satisfy all other study-unit requirements.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Claude A. Farrugia
Sandro Lanfranco
Patrick J. Schembri

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.