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Unit information: Quantitative Methods in Biology in 2018/19

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




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

1) Understand the principles of experimental design and how they underpin good statistical analysis.

2) Apply what is learnt in (1) to design and/or critically evaluate experiments.

3) Understand the principles of univariate and multivariate analysis of data using selected, basic parametric and non-parametric tests.

4) Apply the understanding from (3) to evaluate data sets provided and choose the most appropriate analyses.

5) Be able to explain the assumptions and limitations of the tests chosen in (4).

Teaching details

•1 hour weekly lectures (5 hours in total) to give the theory for the practical classes

•1 x 3 hour weekly lab practicals (15 hours in total) for hands-on worked examples of SPSS

•Self-directed learning week. Students are expected to spend this time on directed reading and working through past exam papers.

Assessment Details

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

One hour January exam (100%).

Students will receive immediate automated feedback from each of the post lab tests (note that the marks are used for feedback only and not assessment).

Reading and References


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