Botany & Zoology
Welkom by Universiteit Stellenbosch

Generic skills modules

STATISTICS: Experimental design and data analysis are arguably the most important skills required by any scientist and thus this forms the bulk of the generic module requirements for the Honours course. An intensive introductory statistics course will run for the first 6 weeks of term (TR).
{An exam is associated with this component of the generic module}

GIS: Students will receive a three day introductory tutorial in GIS, with the aim of providing the tools to access relevant spatial data sources, and construct basic maps of sampling sites etc. This should provide a platform from which students can develop these skills should they need them for their projects (VV).

READING AND WRITING IN SCIENCE: During the course of the Honours year students will be required to read many scientific papers and to distinguish good from weak ones. Students will receive a library tour and guidance on effective reading, searching and evaluating literature. Students will receive training in scientific writing skills (MC).

ETHICS/PHILOSOPHY: Students will receive three lectures (including a guest lecturer from the philosophy department) and a series of discussion sessions around a selected philosophy of science book (JvdH).
{1 assignment}

BOOKS: 3 books will be assigned which students will be required to read during the course of the year. There will be a group discussion session around each of the books.
1. Remarkable Creatures; Tracy Chevalier (LD)
2. Bad Science; Ben Goldacre (BA)
3. The God delusion; Richard Dawkins (SD)
{1 book review/essay and questions on the general exam}

FIELDTRIP: All students are required to attend a 6 day fieldtrip running from 17th-22nd March. This will take students through diverse Cape landscapes in search of fossils and all array of extant biota (JvdH).
{1 popular science article on some aspect of the fieldtrip}

CAREER PREPARATION: An introduction to the biology job market, writing good CVs, choosing references, the job interview process and the South African scientific structures (TJR).

PUBLIC SPEAKING / DEMI TRAINING: Staff from the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) will provide instruction on spoken presentations. This will involve students each giving a short talk, so it is important that students are prepared for this.

CONFERENCE ATTENDANCE: Students have a choice of conferences. They may either attend the Zoological Society of Southern Africa (; 14th – 17th July) or the Fynbos Forum (; 7th – 13th October). This will provide students with broader exposure to the scientific community, scientific communication and research.  

The generic skills modules will be assessed as follows:

  1. General written exam – this will comprise essay questions designed to test students’ general understanding of broad currently relevant aspects of biology. It will draw on experience gained during the generic modules, the choice modules and student’s continued reading of the newspapers and tabloid scientific literature. In addition students will be required to answer an essay question on one (or more) of the allocated set books.
  2. General oral exam – students will be required to answer questions posed by a panel of 3 or 4 academics. These questions will probe students’ general understanding and ability to build logical arguments about broad topics in biology. The oral exam will also provide students with experience of an interview situation, something that they’re likely to encounter during their future careers.
  3. Stats exam - students will be required to complete a hands-on exam on the statistics material covered during the course.
  4. Book review – All students will be required to write one book-review/essay.
  5. Popular scientific article – students will be required to write a popular scientific article (such as published in Veld and Flora) based on something they encounter during the Karoo fieldtrip which catches their interest. These are not just trip reports, but will also require some additional literature research by the students. Some (perhaps all) of the reports will be published in the departmental newsletter “The Akkerdier”.
  6. GIS project.
  7. Philosophy assignment.