Using iThink Biology

How to get the most out of iThink Biology

Welcome to iThink Biology! If you are a student in an undergraduate programme or even a Class 11/12 student who is passionate about life sciences, this book is written for you. We think that you will find this resource to be different from the textbooks that you are used to reading. So, we want to tell you a little bit about what to expect and how to go about reading it.


First, let us walk you through how this book is organised. Notice that the book is divided into four themes (which are colour coded):

Within each theme, you will find several chapters. Each chapter explores one or more case studies from India related to the theme. This organisation is different from a standard textbook. You will not find chapters covering a particular aspect of biology (except for the primers). Instead, each chapter will present case studies, which will combine topics that may normally be present in different chapters. This is a deliberate choice. We want you to develop an integrative view of biology.

Each case study highlights a set of capacities that it is intended to nurture. Before we began writing this book, we identified the set of skills that we think all biologists should have. We then classified these skills into five broad categories. Once we had identified the skills, we looked for examples from India that best illustrated why and how these skills are useful in biology.

How to read this book

We have written this book so that it can be read independently. Each chapter in the four themes is relatively self-contained and you may read them in any order. However, we think you would have the best experience if you read the Western Ghats chapter first. It covers many foundational capacities and concepts. If you are familiar with this content, you will find it easier to read the other chapters.

Do not try to memorise what you are reading. Instead, as you read, pay attention to the capacities that each section is emphasising. If you come across a term with a box around it and it does not make sense, you can click it and a glossary will be displayed. On the other hand, if you feel that you do not have sufficient background to understand the topics being discussed, you should consult one of the Primers. When you reach the end of a section, try to summarise all the content in your own words or draw a concept map showing the main concepts developed in the chapter and how they link with each other. Compare your summary with the one we have written. Spend some time thinking if your summary matches ours. Why or why not?

Within each chapter, you will come across extra reading sections and critical thinking questions. Extra reading sections provide some additional information that is not central to the flow of the topic being discussed. You may skip these sections. However, you should not skip the critical thinking questions. We would like you to take on the challenge of seeking answers to these questions. At the end of the chapter, you will also find some objective questions. You can test your understanding of the chapter by attempting them.

We absolutely want you to think while you read. Do not try to rush through the content. We also want to warn you: do not expect to find all the answers (especially for critical thinking questions) in the book. This might be a bit frustrating in the beginning. However, if you are a little patient, we are confident that this book will give you the skills to seek answers yourself.

What you will get out of this book

We believe that students like you have the energy and the ability to address many grand challenges that India faces. However, given the scale of the country, this would be a difficult and long journey. We hope that this book will empower you with the biology skills and the perspectives needed to begin this journey.

Biology is vast and amazing. We want this book to inspire curiosity and critical thinking. We would like you to begin to ask questions and seek answers. We want you to become self-directed learners and explorers. In fact, we would be thrilled if you came up with questions that no one in the world knows the answer to.

Biology also involves a lot of doing: observing, cataloguing, conducting experiments, and so on. We will describe many of these processes in the book, but no textbook can replace the experience of doing these activities yourself. If you are motivated, we have listed several resources that you can consult to get opportunities for hands-on experience in doing biology in India. Find this list here.

Let your quest for biology begin today. All the best.
The authors

Teaching iThink Biology

If you are an instructor in an undergraduate biology course who is interested in an integrative approach to science education, this resource will help you in your endeavour. Here are some pedagogical assumptions and foundations that we used to develop iThink Biology. We hope that this will give you some context when you use this resource in your teaching.

Students arrive at their undergraduate studies with a very wide range of preparedness, so the pace, depth, and interest with which they pursue their studies varies widely.

Students choose different paths after studying biology at the undergraduate level. Some pursue higher studies, while very often their career choices don’t have anything to do with the discipline of biology. What is the common requirement for such varying outcomes?

Our experience has shown us that if students develop some basic capacities or skills at the undergraduate level, they are equipped and trained to choose almost any career path. Content knowledge is of course important and relevant, however, we feel that students can absorb content more easily when they have these basic capacities. We have identified five such basic capacities, and each section of the textbook attempts to develop those competencies.

How can we make biology real for the student? To address this need, we chose content that is relatable and relevant to our context. It is further organised into themes that encompass case studies which we believe will be relevant to students in India, whether they are from rural or urban backgrounds. Additionally, many chapters include video interviews of people who have actually done the work or experiments we have referred to in the chapters. We hope students can see themselves in the interviewees.

The resource is freely accessible to all, with minimal internet bandwidth requirements. It is optimised for viewing on screens of different sizes, including mobile phones, and will soon be available as a downloadable pdf.

We know this approach is very different from existing pedagogical structures in undergraduate teaching, especially in India. If you would like help in figuring out how to leverage this approach for an improved educational experience for your students, please contact us at Additionally, we do not anticipate that this will be the primary text for first year students: for the moment it is intended as a supplement to existing texts.

We feel that the chapters and their content are relatively self-contained and include concepts that the students will read and explore on their own. While we assume that students are fairly independent, the instructor’s role is often indispensable. There are various instances where a teacher’s role can be beneficial:

All of these ideas have been drawn from the experiences of the authors as undergraduate instructors. iThink Biology is envisioned as a resource that can and should evolve along with the needs of the student.

If you have any feedback, please contact us at