Introduction to the Botany Study GuideEdit
This Study Guide to the Science of Botany is a textbook at Wikibooks shelved at the Wikibooks:biology bookshelf and intended to establish a course of study in the subject of Botany, utilizing articles provided in Wikipedia, with links to other relevant web sites and other Wikibooks as appropriate. In some cases, portions of the text from Wikipedia articles have been used to materially develop introductory text within the Guide.
For the new user, it need be pointed out that Wikipedia differs from a standard encyclopedia in two important respects: 1) it is a hypertext document, and 2) it is open and editable, and therefore constantly changing. For the student following this or any guide through Wikipedia to cover a specific subject, it is recommended that each article (page) be read first in its entirety, before any hyperlinks are followed to other topics or explanations. It is too easy, otherwise, to simply become lost in a maze of links, and miss the main thrust of an article presented as an assignment from the Guide. Because Wikipedia is constantly changing (and, it is believed, improving) the quality of each article encountered will be variable. Some articles are well written and go to adequate depth, whereas others, lacking a proponent, are shallow and incomplete. Short or sloppy looking articles may contain questionable facts. These short-comings should diminish with time, but can be a problem for the student.
One clear advantage to using this Guide linked to a hypertext like Wikipedia is the "circular redundancy with serendipity" factor that arises when an article is read and its hyperlinks followed; this factor can be a powerful learning tool. The persistent reader is subjected to a fairly high degree of repetitive reading, often presenting slightly differing perspectives on the same general topic, with the result that learning comes from redundancy and seeing difficult concepts presented in more than one way. At the same time, some hyperlinks lead down less relevant paths, bringing new and unanticipated knowledge. If, as a student, you are truly interested in mastering the subject of botany, you must be prepared to read beyond the basic assignments; in some cases, beyond Wikipedia to explore other, "outside" web sites.
It seems likely that the typical user of the Study Guide to the Science of Botany is not necessarily an active student taking a course in botany at the high school (AP) or college level, but a person with a strong interest in plants—an amateur naturalist or a gardener. Therefore the guide must incorporate both the basic biological and physiological aspects of plants as well as extensive taxonomy-based coverage of the diversity of plants and related organisms. The amount of material now available on the web covering the latter subject is becoming nothing short of phenomenal. In effect, one now has access to much of the world's plant diversity, with photographs and descriptions, in many cases from web sites maintained by specialists. One goal of the guide is to provide a systematics-based approach to capturing this kind of information, hopefully giving the student a strong background in plant systematics. The importance of this approach is not that everyone should become a taxonomist—or become more familiar with plant taxonomy, a specialized field of botanical science with a relatively narrow following—but that appreciation for (and understanding of) species diversity is most critical at this time in our earth's history marked by accelerated species extinctions and destruction of native ecosystems by both human population expansion and man-induced spread of non-native species.
The Study Guide to the Science of Botany includes two other "parallel" documents intended to enhance the usefulness of the Guide. These could also be used separately or independently as source documents for a beginning course in Botany. They are the Discussion pages and the Laboratory Exercise pages. Both are explained in detail in the next Section titled How to use this Guide.