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The Usefulness of Biology, Seventh Edition

Sarah Gale's picture
   Reading textbooks, especially science textbooks that weigh more than a small child, can be quite tedious. My roommate’s biology book is no exception. While it works as a fine paperweight and mini-table, it also hosts a multitude of information, with such relevant topics as observation, diversity, scale, molecules, cells, the human body, genetics, ecology, evolution, matter and energy. Accompanying the text is a supplemental CD, called “The Student Media for Biology”, with chapter outlines, mini-activities, videos, games, quizzes, flash cards, and more condensed information at which you could shake a stick. Despite the width and breadth of the epic book, I found Biology to be a great resource for biology students (as well it should be, considering it’s hefty price and the measures my roommate took to avoid it). I was particularly impressed with the comprehensive layout and structure of the text.
   In the first section, aptly titled Exploring Life, the author focused on the basic concepts of science, with tidbits like, “the heart of science is inquiry”(Campbell and Reece 19) and that biology is a “discovery and hypothesis-based science”( Campbell and Reece 19). It was a very ordinary intro chapter, and the creators’ attempt to spice it up with nice photos and interesting asides were certainly commendable, but I preferred the more unconventional approach that we took in our course. Those first few days of class, when we struggled to define science and life and whether one equals the other, proved to be far more exciting that talking about how science and society connect through technology. Our class also differed from the book with the statements that “science cannot prove things to be true” and “science cannot tell you of what to be sure”, ideas that had not occurred to many of us. As far as I can tell, the book doesn’t take that approach to science, which is unfortunate.
    Aesthetically, the book is rather engaging, and that helped to stave off boredom. The problem with many textbooks is that the amount of information necessary to learn is discouraging, like history or statistics books (on the whole, most textbooks are in need of some snappier formatting). But Biology is actually interesting. It’s chock-full of figures with both real and drawn pictures of animals and cells and people. The book also has experiments and interviews interlaced throughout the narrative to offer a more full-bodied learning experience. The use of bold-faced type for key words is beneficial because it helps to know what’s important (and if I’m reading a chapter at 1AM, it would be nice to see what I need to know.
   Each Unit (for which there are eight) has Chapters, and each Chapter has Concepts. What’s good about this layout is the clear organization. Paragraphs are nicely spaced, colors are bright, images are sharp. Everything is clearly labeled, and at the start of each chapter is a brief, bulleted summary of what’s to be expected. At the end of each concept, a small box titled Concept Check asks a few questions before the reader should move to the next concept. At the end of each chapter is a review section with a self-quiz, making study sessions that much orderly. While this system may sound somewhat boring, it is genuinely helpful. Without such a structure, reading it would be more of a chore than it already is.     
   Generally, Biology takes a linear science path, rather than the Biology Basic Concepts class, which prefers a “seriously loopy” method. This difference takes the class to places that the book does not. While reading the textbook isn’t too bad, being in class with videos and discussion and questions and tangents and people is better. Even though I did like the book, I didn’t find it necessary for this class, because A) we learn the concepts in class and B) no exams means no real need to make flash cards or memorize facts like the parts of a cell.


victor's picture

the usefullness of biology

this is great