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Unit information: Quantitative Methods in Biology in 2016/17

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Quantitative Methods in Biology
Unit code BIOL20001
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1A (weeks 1 - 6)
Unit director Dr. Barker
Open unit status Not open

None. This unit is normally only available to students taking degree programmes in Biological Sciences



School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences



Asking the right questions in the right way and being able to analyse the results of experiments are both very important skills in biology. The aim of this unit is to teach these skills.


The unit will provide students with a basic understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis. The former will address issues such as sample size, replication and blocking. The latter will include t-tests, correlation, regression, analyses of variance and non-parametric methods. Lectures will be interspersed with numerous worked examples using data from real biological systems. Practical classes will involve the use of the computer software package SPSS to visualize data and to carry out simple statistical analyses.

Intended learning outcomes

You will be able to design appropriate experimental or observational studies, to decide which of a range of statistical tests to apply, and to use computer software packages to carry out simple statistical analysis (t-tests, correlation, regression, univariate ANOVA, basic non-parametric methods).

Teaching details

  • 1 hour weekly lectures in weeks 1-5 to give the theory for the practical classes
  • 1 x 3 hour weekly lab practical in weeks 1-5 for hands-on worked examples of SPSS
  • Self-directed learning week (week 6). Students are expected to spend this time on directed reading and working independently on their assessed practical assignment

Assessment Details

Attendance at practicals and completion of specified practical reports is mandatory.

Marked practical exercises (40%); end of Session exam (60%).

Students will receive immediate automated feedback from each of the five post lab tests (note that the marks are used for feedback only and not assessment). They will also receive marks and written feedback on their graded practical exercises.

Reading and References


Dytham, Calvin. Choosing and Using Statistics: a Biologist’s Guide. Third Edition.