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Advice for Biology students?

  1. Dec 6, 2007 #1
    I noticed that we have quite a number of users here on the forums who studied some topic or area in Biology. I was interested in getting some information from you guys as to what you recommend to students in university on how to approach.

    Did you have any specific study approaches when it came to Biology, and what else would you recommend is really important in order to get into a Masters program besides doing research projects with professors or other scientists?

    Oh and I was thinking of trying to get into a career like Biotechnology or Nanobiotechnology.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2007 #2
    Um sorry I am posting twice consecutively, but I noticed there was no edit button on the first post.

    My question regards taking notes during lectures, do you recommend taking them on a laptop seeing as there is very minimal use of equations, or do you still recommend taking notes on paper/buying a notebook. Also If you do recommend laptop, if the professor gives out his,her lecture notes; should they be used during the lecture to record notes or would jotting quick notes from lectures be more efficient?

  4. Dec 8, 2007 #3


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    Well, I'm an old fogey, but my impression is that it's really hard to take effective notes on a laptop, and I suspect it's the reason more than a few students are struggling needlessly when it's time to review their notes. The reason is that biology still has a lot of diagrams, and if you're just writing what the professor is saying, but not jotting the diagrams, the words will make no sense. Also, you can connect thoughts and ideas readily on paper with arrows.

    Personally, I found writing notes linearly wasn't even very effective. Instead, I'd leave lots of space on the pages, and if ideas presented at different times during the lecture were more related, I'd go back and jot those into the spaces. Likewise, if someone came back and asked a question, I had plenty of room to jot the answer near the topic the question was about.

    If you are given a handout, I've always found it most efficient to jot notes onto the handout itself. That way, when the professor points to a structure on it, and tells you about it, you can just draw a line and write the relevant content.

    Most importantly, in biology classes, the majority of the content is already in your textbook, so if you don't get every detail, you can always go back and read the relevant sections of the chapters for those details. Instead, spend more time listening for the context and relationships between ideas, and fill in the details by reading the book. If you listen carefully, you'll also notice which topics your professor spends a lot of time on, and which are glossed over quickly. If they spend a lot of time on something, that's an indicator they think it's important and guaranteed to show up on a test. So, listening for emphasis is a good idea.

    Everything in the subject builds off everything else you learn before it. Have you ever done concept mapping? It's a great way to study for biology (or a lot of other subjects). It's somewhat like developing a flow chart, but connecting how different concepts are related, the order things happen, or heirarchies of terms.
  5. Dec 8, 2007 #4
    Thanks for the reply Moonbear, I have never heard of concept mapping but I will give it a quick search on Google when I get the time. Also do you recommend buying a notebook or is using a binder with loose papers alright? This topic I have gotten a lot of replies, most people say notebooks are better since you keep all of your notes in one book together without worrying of losing them! Sounds reasonable but not sure about the idea when studying time comes.
  6. Dec 8, 2007 #5


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    I don't think that matters. It may depend more on how neat of a person you are. With a binder, you can always insert other papers, but with a bound notebook, you won't lose pages if you're prone to being messy.
  7. Dec 8, 2007 #6
    I could not even imagine trying to take notes on a laptop and effectively recording all of the information. There are to many diagrams and figures to take down to use a laptop, unless maybe you get one of those fancy tablet ones but that still seems like an unneccessary pain in the butt. I prefer just pen and paper. As for binder or notebook it's up to you. I find if i have a class where there are lots of extra handouts I prefer a binder because then I can keep everything in order and together, whereas with a notebook you have to have a separate binder for the extra handouts anyway. If it is a class of just straight notetaking with no extras you might prefer a notebook, it's just whatever seems easier for you.
  8. Dec 10, 2007 #7
    I have another question about upper years courses in Biology. Um I am going to be studying a Biotechnology major/specialist degree and I was wondering if there is any big connection b/w the ideas of Evolution Biology and Biotech? My university requires that everyone takes an Evolution and Biodiversity course in their first year which ONLY covers evolution and the biodiversity of life. There is no mention of basic cell organelles, or study of cells in general at all.

    Then in second year, we hit the advanced genetics, and advanced cellular biology right away! So basically we lack the basics of cell Biology. This is why I was thinking of reviewing my basics before I go into Advanced stuff, but was wondering should I also worry about the evolutionary concepts I learn this year? Or they won't ever appear?
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