BIOL 6913 Research skills and perspectives

This course is required for all graduate students in the GAU. It introduces to a range of topics and skills relevant to an academic career, including aspects of ethics, the philosophy of science, writing NSERC research grants, the peer-review process as it applies to publications, and certain issues in experimental designs and data analysis.

It meets once a week, Thursdays from 8:30 to 11:20 a.m., through both fall and winter terms. It normally does not begin until the second or third week of September.

The course will be coordinated by Dr. Jeff Houlahan but many faculty members of the biology department will take participate in different components of the course.

Student evaluation will be based on four assignments (see below) and participation in class discussions. In terms of assignments, questions should be directed to the faculty member responsible for that particular component of the course.

The following is a brief overview of the activities and assignments, the specifics for which will be provided once the course begins.

Please be prepared to present yourself and briefly summarize your research topic in a round table discussion. This is not for evaluation, but to familiarize one another with individual areas of interest and specialization. You will also be given an overview of the program.


You will act as a peer-reviewer on a manuscript, using the “Instructions to Reviewers” of a recognized journal. Evaluation will be based on thoroughness and intellectual assessment of the manuscript. (The actual fate of the manuscript will also be discussed.)
Ethics and animal care

A short written assignment based on class discussion of animal care issues. From case studies, you will be required to make ethical choices based on current animal care practices and your own reasoning and beliefs.

NSERC proposals

You will have seven weeks to prepare a full NSERC research grant proposal, using the current forms and guidelines of this granting institution. Evaluation will be based on the proposal itself, as well as your participation in a mock granting committee.

Philosophy of science paper

Several classes will be spent discussing aspects of the philosophy of science. You will be given a number of readings by prominent philosophers, often representing opposite poles of thought on each subject. After the series of class discussions, you will hand in a reflective statement (five to eight pages) of your own philosophy of science as expressed in, and applied to, your own research, and incorporating the general topics discussed in class.

Other topics

•    Effective presentations: posters, Power Point and more
•    All you need know about Science
•    The design of field experiments
•    Importance of scale in ecology
•    Experimental designs and “pseudoreplication”
•    The perils of academia (CBC's “the Science Game”)


The evaluation scheme will be presented in the first class.