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Practical Guide To Study Biology

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/20/2012

Find help studying for biology at the high school/AP level. This study guide is based on the Sixth Edition of Biology, by Neil Campbell and Jane Reece, and goes through cells and DNA, evolution, diversity and the scientific method. Includes practice questions.

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    An important part of studying a chapter is going through an outlined guide so you can take practice tests to see how you stand and how you should focus your further studies. Below is background information as well as a sample set of questions you should be comfortable answering in preparing for a test on this chapter.

    This study guide is based on the Sixth Edition of Biology, by Neil Campbell and Jane Reece; students of other editions will be able to follow this guide. In the first chapter of the text, the foundation of organisms with topics such as cells and DNA, and the organization and interaction of organisms within their communities is analyzed. These important topics will give you an understanding of the biological foundation of organisms and processes.

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    Exploring Life on Many Levels

    Cells and DNA

    Cells are the subunits of organisms and represent the lowest level of structure capable of producing all the activities of life. Cells are the basic unit of structure and function. Cell theory asserts all living things consist of cells, and was later expanded to include that all cells come from other cells. Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells represent two major types of cells and are distinguished by structural function.

    DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) consists of the biological instructions which is coded.It consists of the substance of genes which transmits information from parents to offspring. As all forms of life carry out the same genetic code, differences in a particular sequence of nucleotides account for differences between organisms.

    The biological hierarchy consists of cells and organisms; multicellular organisms add tissues, organs, and organ systems above that of the cell. Additionally, there are tiers beyond an individual organism, such as population, biological community, and community interactions.

    Organization and Interaction

    On all levels biological structure and function are interrelated and important for understanding the structure-function dynamic in organisms. Organisms are also engaged in an open system whereby exchanges take place with respect to materials and energy within the organism's surroundings.In this the topics of ecosystem dynamics and energy conversion are important concepts to understand. Additionally, biological processes are often self-regulating: feedback allows an output or product which regulates a particular process.

    In this brief look at the important topics from the initial section of the chapter, it is easy to see how these subjects must be understood in regards to your further studies. Take the time to see how DNA and cells are related and how these make up the larger picture of a single part and community of organisms. Also important is the foundation of how organisms react within their communities and how regulating processes affect these organisms.

    Study Questions:

    • How are tissues, organs, and organ systems related to cells and organelles within the biological organization of organisms (order and function)?
    • How are populations, biological communities, and ecosystems related to the biological organization beyond the organism (order and function)?
    • Do animals and multicellular organisms react from a simple or complex relationship at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organ levels? Give an example.
    • What is the initial and expanded observation contained in cell theory?
    • What are the two primary types of cells? Name an example or two for each kind of cell and identify its characteristic for why cells are divided into these types.
    • What is the structure and function of DNA? How is the presence of DNA different in the two primary types of cells?
    • What is the significance of the "structure-function" phenomenon present in organisms?
    • How is energy converted in the processes of an ecosystem? How do producers and consumers play a role in this?
    • What is the significance of regulatory mechanisms? What are the two primary types of regulatory mechanisms?
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    Evolution, Unity, and Diversity

    Diversity and Unity

    Diversity is a prominent feature of life, with 1.5 million documented species. With thousands added to the list each year, some estimate the total diversity range to be anywhere from 5 to over 30 million species. In face of this complex nature of diversity, biologists group and classify species, which is known as taxonomy. Classifications range on the number of kingdoms, but an even broader classification rests on the three domains: Bacteria, Archea, and Eukarya (only domain with eukaryotic cells). The two former domains consist of organisms with prokaryotic cells; most are unicellular. The latter domain contains organisms such as single-celled prokaryotes, plants, fungi, and animals.

    With respect to such classifications, it may be different to approach the subject of a unifying theme amongst this documented diversity. However there exists striking examples of unity, especially at the lower levels of biological organization. DNA is perhaps the most important example, yet others exist such as the cellular structure in eukaryotes. On higher levels unity still remains an important task for biologists, which leads directly to evolution.


    Evolution studies the background of life forms and unifies common ancestors, especially in prokaryotes.In 1859 Charles Darwin pioneered the awareness of evolution with his book "The Origin of Species". Darwin used to main concepts, the content of evolution and the process of evolution, natural selection. He noticed the adaption of species with regard to their environment, and how these traits of survival are passed to offspring.

    As these species pass favorable traits, descent with modification accounts for the unity and diversity of life.As species pass on specific genetic adaptation traits to their offspring, this accounts for the diversity which grows (genetic adaptations form new species) and resides in the unity (the same genetic code is still intact).

    Study Questions:

    • What are the three domains? Give examples of each.
    • What are the two ideas founded in The Origin of Species?
    • How is unity and diversity inherent in evolution?
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    Scientific Method

    The scientific method is about discovery and induction. Verifiable observation and measurements are the data of discovery science, which seek to verify inductive reasoning, such as the observation that all organisms are made of cells.In order to engage in this type of discovery science, the scientific method's use of inquisition must take place.Hypothetico-deductive reasoning must take place, which questions observations about some topic or problem in order to find an explanation.

    Also, 'if…then logic' must take place, where a prediction (the 'if") is integrated into the predicted result of an experiment (the 'then'). The scientific process also makes use of controlled experiments, which compares two groups, the experimental group and the control group. The former is where something is tested; the latter is the untested group which provides a basis for the results of the experimental group.

    In the wake of the scientific, theories form comprehensive statements regarding some aspect.That is, a theory is a broader version of a hypothesis.Theories are justified and sometimes proven by accompanying evidence. This notion plays into the social process which represents all science. The process of science involves reliance on others for observations and measurements that others can verify, and hypotheses and theories can be repeated by others as well. Also important is how science as a whole is embedded in current culture, which can sway focal points within science.

    Study Questions:

    • What is the significance of "discovery science" and what is induction?
    • Why is a hypothesis crucial to the scientific method?
    • Describe the steps of the scientific method?Why is this process standard for the pursuit of scientific knowledge?
    • What is a theory? What is crucial to a theory to become accepted in the scientific community?
    • Why is science important to society? Why is science important to technology and why is technology important to science? Does one precede the other?