Scientific Methods

Saturday, March 11, 2006


The objective of this is to demonstrate an ability to source, analyse/review and present scientific literature. You have been exposed to the evolution of humans as the entry point for your Honours Programme for two reasons. 1) it is a highly contentious area where hypotheses and theories are constructed from relatively fragmented fossil evidence and consequently generates several plausible hypotheses/explanations and  2) to recognize that humans and our ancestors have had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in and so doing have been increasing the "ecological foot print" to a point where some researchers are questioning the long-term sustainability of our planet.

I have summarized the main points of human evolution in the following presentation (needs Shockwave Installed to view)

Arising from what has been described in the video material; literature and the above summarising lecture are a number of open-ended questions.
Each one of these questions should be taken up for further investigation by each class member and will involve obtaining primary literature in an electronic format. Through the rest of the course you will work on obtaining, analysing, evaluating and presenting scientific information to answer these questions. Specifically you will need to

1) Collect as much literature as is feasible (all electronic articles e.g PDFs will need to be submitted as well so please keep these)

2) Analyse the information - identify any changes of interpretation over the last few years (trends) and even see if you can identify different camps of scientists working on these question e.g. one group will argue that week have interbred with Homo neaderthalensis and the other that Homo neaderthalensis  is a completely separate species that is genetically separated by at least 500 000 years.

3) Prepare notes as if writing an essay - preliminary notes will be posted on this Weblog for general comment and peer review by your class mates.  You will also need  to prepare graphics so as to obtain a professional look and feel for your presentation.

4) Prepare a PowerPoint presentation based on a provided template (same Template as in the  Lectures) and attached the notes to the PowerPoint.

5) Present the PowerPoint to the rest of the class electronically

I will put up questions on the Weblog individually and you can book these by attaching a comment with your name and intention to undertake this question.
If you have any queries please do so by adding a comment to this posting.

Good Luck

Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535
Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237


  • hi Richard
    since i was struggling to open or to use a weblog,may you please let me know the available topics.

    By Blogger Ramapulana, at Thursday, March 30, 2006 11:20:00 AM  

  • Hi

    The Weblog is the form of dialogue that is easiest for me to manage - I honestly cannot send out individual messages to each person. If you are struggling with the Weblog this must be reported to your helpdesk and it is their responsibility to sort it out.


    By Blogger Rich Knight, at Thursday, March 30, 2006 12:57:00 PM  

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