Jones & Bartlett Learning Science Blog

    Take Note: Tips for Success in Genetics and Genomics

    Posted by Suzy Balk on Sep 19, 2019 2:40:33 PM

    Woman taking notes in the library

    Dr. Daniel Hartl, Higgins Professor of Biology at Harvard University and author of best-selling textbook Essential Genetics and Genomics, Seventh Edition shares tips for students to improve their study and problem-solving skills.

    Tips for Learning Concepts

    • Go to class, take notes by hand (in telegraphic style, abbreviating as needed), and copy your notes in complete sentences and legible handwriting as soon as possible thereafter. Words written by hand are retained in memory better than words typed on a keyboard.

    • Plan 30–35-minute reading sessions, but only when you are not tired or distracted. Most people find that their attention begins to wane after 30–35 minutes of intense concentration.

    • Read attentively. Find a quiet, clean, well-lighted place and turn off your laptop and smartphone.

    • Start by skimming what you think you can cover in your reading session, including a preliminary

    • look at the illustrations; this is your drone’s eye view of the terrain that will help keep you oriented.

    • Look up unfamiliar words in the glossary.

    • Reread difficult sections and make handwritten notes of the key points.

    • Highlight, underline, or better yet summarize the key concepts in your own words. The textbook is designed to help in recognizing these: key terms are in boldface, key points are highlighted with bulleted lists, and key concepts are set off and labeled Key Concept.

    • Take a break from reading to solve the problems in Stop & Think. They are designed to help you assess whether you have understood the concepts you’ve just read well enough to apply them.

    Tips for Problem Solving

    • Make use of the Solutions: Step By Step. These guide you through the reasoning used to solve the major types of problems arising from the concepts in each chapter.

    • Don’t start working a problem until you’re sure you understand what is being asked.

    • Use the glossary if necessary to understand the key terms in a problem. 

    • Start with some easy problems to gain self-confidence.

    • Once you know how to solve a certain type of problem, don’t spend time on similar ones that you already know how to solve. It’s problems that you don’t immediately know how to solve that you really learn from

    • Don’t rush. Haste makes waste, as the saying goes—and when you rush you are more likely to make stupid mistakes.

    • Break a complex problem into smaller parts that you can attack individually and use the parts you understand as leverage to get at the more difficult parts.

    • Don’t give up! Never, never, never! You may have to attack a problem from two or three different angles before you find yourself on a productive track.

    • Don’t work backwards from the answer. There’s an old adage that “if you know where you’re going you can find a way to get there.” The problem is that the way you find to “get there” may use completely messed-up logic. What’s worse, you will have trained your neurons to use the wrong logic. Learning concept is hard enough, unlearning one that you misunderstand is harder still.

    Essential Genetics and Genomics

    Essential Genetics and Genomics, Seventh Edition expertly covers the fundamentals of genetics from the perspective of genomics, including gene transmission, mutation, expression, and regulation. The text now includes an online Readiness Assessment and in-text Readiness Review to ensure students have the foundational knowledge for learning and apply introductory genetics.

    Learn More


    Source: Hartl, D. L. (2020). Essential Genetics and Genomics (7th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

    Topics: Biological Science, Genetics