METEO 480M Undergraduate Research (M = honors version of W course)

Instructor: Raymond Najjar, Class meeting time and location: 1:25-2:15 pm Monday, 105 Walker Building

Syllabus for Meteo 480W, 480M, and 580: Fall 2016 

METEO 480W Undergraduate Research (W = Writing Across the Curriculum)

METEO 480M Undergraduate Research (M = honors version of W course)

METEO 580 Communication of Meteorological Research

Instructor: Raymond Najjar
Office: 522 Walker Building
Phone: 863-1586
Office hours: by appointment, or whenever the door is open

Class meeting time and location: 1:25-2:15 pm Monday, 105 Walker Building

Course designation in curriculum

METEO 480W/480M is encouraged for all Meteorology majors in the Atmospheric Science option and is an elective for all other options in the Meteorology major.

METEO 580 is required of all Meteorology MS and PhD students. Meteo 580 is also the preparatory course for the Ph.D. Technical English Competency Exam with speaking and writing requirements matching that for this exam. The final draft of the paper written in Meteo 580 will serve as the Technical English Competency Exam paper. The oral portion of the exam will be scheduled in coordination with the associate head of the graduate program near the end of the semester. See departmental graduate student handbook for further details.

Course descriptions from University Bulletin

METEO 480W Undergraduate Research (3). A research thesis will be prepared. A written and oral presentation required. Prerequisites: Junior or Senior standing.

METEO 480M Undergraduate Research (3). The lecture portion of the course, which accounts for one-third of the course grade, covers topics such as the elements of good scientific writing, the structure of scientific manuscripts, the mechanics of oral and poster presentations at science meetings, scientific peer review, and ethics in science. For the remaining two-thirds of the course grade, students perform research under the guidance of a faculty member. Students select the faculty member based on matching general research interests. A student’s academic adviser typically assists in the process of matching a student to a research project supervisor. In consultation with their research project supervisor, students then decide on a specific research topic. Prerequisites: Junior or Senior standing.

METEO 580 Communication of Meteorological Research (1). Methods for effective written and oral presentation of meteorological research are reviewed. Prerequisites: Graduate student standing.

Students who do not meet course prerequisites may be disenrolled according to Administrative Policy C-5 if they do not have the proper prerequisite override. Students who add the course after being disenrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct:

Required Textbook

Schultz, D.M., 2009. Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker, and Atmospheric Scientist. American Meteorological Society, Boston, Massachusetts, 412 pp. Available free at

Recommended Textbooks

Lebrun, J.-L., 2011. Scientific Writing 2.0, A Reader and Writer’s Guide. World Scientific, 280 pp. Available electronically from the Penn State library at:

Strunk Jr., W., White, E.B., 2007. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. Macmillan, 147 pp. On reserve in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Library (Deike Building, 2nd floor).

Schall, J., 2016. Style for Students Online. The Pennsylvania State University. Available at

Course expectations

The course expectations for Meteo 480M, 480W, and 580 include course objectives and outcomes. The course objectives are:

  1. Students can demonstrate the ability to complete and write a technical report on a research project overseen by a faculty member or other scientist.
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to prepare and deliver an oral presentation on a research project overseen by a faculty member or other scientist.
  3. Students can demonstrate the ability to prepare and deliver a poster presentation on a research project overseen by a faculty member or other scientist.

The course outcomes are:

  1. Students can demonstrate knowledge of effective scientific writing principles, including proper organization of the material and use of good grammar.
  2. Students can demonstrate the ability to produce effective graphics and tables
  3. Students can demonstrate effective oral communication skills.
  4. Students can design an effective poster presentation with appropriate the amount and sizing of text and graphics.
  5. Students can demonstrate knowledge of good practices in reviewing and editing atmospheric science manuscripts.
  6. Students can demonstrate knowledge of issues underlying proper scientific ethical behavior, such as plagiarism and authorship.

Objective 1 and Outcomes 1, 5, and 6 are the formal outcomes for Meteo 480M and 480W. See

Course content

  1. Introduction: Why we communicate scientific research
  2. Writing an abstract for a paper or conference presentation
  3. Writing a scientific paper
  4. The peer-review process
  5. Preparing and delivering an oral conference presentation
  6. Preparing and delivering a poster presentation

Assignments. The main activities in the class will be writing, reviewing, reading, and discussing. In addition to the required reading for each lecture period, there are five main activities:

  1. A short technical essay (8%)
  2. An abstract for a paper or conference presentation (12%)
  3. A short journal article or conference preprint (24%)
  4. An oral presentation (24%)
  5. A poster presentation (24%)

The total of these five activities is 92%. For each activity you will produce a draft (1/4 of the grade), a review of someone else’s draft (1/4 of the grade), and a final version (1/2) of the grade. Hence, there are there are a total of 15 homework assignments, one per week. A schedule is given as a separate handout. The remaining 8% of the grade is class participation. Reading assignments will often serve as the basis of class discussion, and these will be given out one week in advance.

Grades: A: 92-100%; A-: 88-91%; B+: 84-87%; B: 80-83%; B-: 75-79%; C+: 71-74%; C: 63-70%; D: 50-62%; F: <50%.

Course web site. I will use Angel to communicate with the class electronically, though I will always send a copy to your PSU account, and I would like you to do the same if you send me an email through Angel. I will also use Angel to post grades, assignments, handouts, visuals that I show in class, etc.

Academic Integrity. This course follows the guidelines for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as “the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner.” Academic integrity includes “a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception.” In particular, the University defines plagiarism as “the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own.” Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's “Plagiarism Tutorial for Students.”

Course copyright. All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

Accommodations for student with disabilities. Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Disability Services (ODS) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Office for Disability Services website ( In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation based on the documentation guidelines ( If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Attendance. This course abides by the Penn State Attendance Policy E-11:, and Conflict Exam Policy 44-35: Please also see Illness Verification Policy:, and Religious Observance Policy: Students who miss class for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work, including exams and quizzes. Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury and should use their best judgment on whether they are well enough to attend class or not; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing class include religious observance, military service, family emergencies, regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities, and post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews). Students who encounter serious family, health, or personal situations that result in extended absences should contact the Office of Student and Family Services for help: Whenever possible, students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar's Office:, at least one week prior to the activity.

Weather delays. Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News and communicated to cell phones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at:

Disclaimer. The specifics of this course syllabus may undergo modest changes and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes will be announced in class or through email. 

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