Communication of Research in Atmospheric Science

METEO 880: Communication of Research in Atmospheric Science 

Instructor: Fuqing Zhang
Office: 627A Walker Building
Phone: 865-0470
Mail to:

Office hours: by appointment, or whenever the door is open

Teaching Assistant: None

Lectures: 3:35-5:30p Tuesday, 627 Walker Building (ADAPT conference room) 

Course Description: In this course, students will learn how to present the results of their research in the three main forms that atmospheric scientists currently use: peer-reviewed journal articles, poster presentations, and oral presentations. Students will learn how scientific writing differs from other forms of writing and will learn the building blocks for constructing effective paragraphs and sentences for journal articles. The structure of a journal article will be described and students will learn about each of the key elements of a journal article, including the abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusions, references, figures, and tables. Authorship and the peer-review process will be discussed. Finally, students will learn techniques for communicating their research to the general public. 

Internet Materials: CANVAS homepage for course: 

Required Textbooks:
Eloquent Science by David Schultz, available freely online at: 

Attendance: Required (unless you are off-campus on a field program) 

Course Outline: The outline for the course follows. Please note that this outline serves only as a general guide to the course. The actual topics covered may vary at the discretion of the instructor.

Course Topics

  • Introduction
  • Scientific Writing
  • Scientific Ethics
  • Writing a scientific research manuscript
  • Peer review process
  • Oral presentation of scientific research
  • Poster presentations at scientific meetings
  • Preparing research proposals
  • Reviewing manuscripts and proposals
  • Practicing the AMS-style presentation
  • AMS-style presentations to committee
  • Resumes (curriculum vitae)
  • Web page design 


  • Alley, M., 1996: The Craft of Scientific Writing. Third edition. Springer, 282 pp.
  • Lebrun, Jean-Luc, 2011: Scientific Writing 2.0, A Reader and Writer’s Guide. World Scientific, 280pp. Available online via:
  • Schall, Joe, 1995: Style for Students Online. Available at: ttps://
  • Schultz, D. M., 2009: Eloquent Science. American Meteorological Society. 412 pp.*
  • Strunk, W., Jr., and E. B. White, 2007: The Elements of Style. Fourth edition. Macmillan, 147 pp.* * On reserve in the EMS Library 

Supplementary Readings

  • Garland, J., 1991: Advice to beginning physics speakers. Physics Today, July 1991, 42-45. (Available on the course web site.)
  • Gopen, G. D. and J. A. Swan, 1990: The science of science writing. American Scientist, 78, 550-558. (Available on the course web site.)
  • Mermin, N. D., 1992: What’s wrong with those talks. Physics Today, November 1992, 9-10 (Available on the course web.) 

Assessment Tools: Grades are partially based on the assigned work including:

  1. An Elevator-Pitch-style presentation (THE PITCH)
  2. A polished writing sample (THE ESSAY)
  3. A critique of a published AMS abstract (THE CRITIQUE)
  4. Your own conference abstract (THE ABSTRACT)
  5. A 2-to-4-page AMS conference preprint (THE PREPRINT)
  6. An anonymous review of a classmate's preprint (THE REVIEW)
  7. A 12-minute oral presentation (THE TALK) 

The preprint may be a succinct summary of your research work or may be on some other topic approved by the instructor. The preprint and associated talk can also be from a conference that you are preparing to attend or have recently attended if you (and not your advisor/co-authors) did most of the writing and if you thoroughly critique and revise the preprint based on what you have learned in this course. The goal here is for all of us to learn to improve our written and oral presentations. 

Assignment Due dates:

  1. THE PITCH: Jan 29, during week 4 class
  2. THE ESSAY: Feb 1, end of week 4
  3. THE CRITIQUE: Feb 15, end of week 6
  4. THE ABSTRACT: Mar 1, end of week 8
  5. THE PREPRINT: Draft: Mar 15, end of week 10, Final version: Apr 19
  6. THE REVIEW: Due to author: Mar 29, end of week 12
  7. THE TALK: TBD: Mini-Symposium during Weeks 14-15 

Graduate students (2 credit): The entire grade comes from the written and oral assignments described above. These assignments will help you prepare for the writing and defending of your thesis. 

PhD students: This course also prepares you for the university-mandated Technical English Competency requirement. For this requirement, each PhD candidate must: write an acceptable 500-word essay in a one-hour period, write an acceptable 2-4 page AMS conference preprint, and give an acceptable 12-minute oral presentation. The essay written as part of METEO 880 will suffice, but an ad-hoc panel of faculty members (none of whom are the student’s advisers) evaluates each of the other two requirements. These additional evaluations are normally done each semester following this course.

Note: passing METEO 880 does not necessarily mean passing the Technical English Competency requirement. 

Research Mini-Symposium: We will hold a mini-symposium on one or more days near the end of the semester or during finals week for the 12-minute talks.  

Disclaimer Statement: Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. Changes to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form. 

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to do their own writing. Do not copy text from another person's paper or from a World Wide Web site and present the material as your own, because that is plagiarism. Other people's work should be summarized in your own words and properly referenced. Such reference provides necessary background for presenting your work. Students who plagiarize will receive a grade of F in this course. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." This course adopts the EMS college policy on academic integrity. Please see:

EMS Syllabus Statements: 

Prerequisites: Students who do not meet the course prerequisites may be dis-enrolled during the first 10-day free add-drop period after being informed in writing by the instructor (see: If you have not completed the listed prerequisites, then promptly consult with the instructor if you have not done so already. Students who re-enroll after being dis-enrolled according to this policy are in violation of Item 15 on the Student Code of Conduct ( 

Academic integrity: Students in this class are expected to write up their problem sets individually, to work the exams on their own, and to write their papers in their own words using proper citations.  Class members may work on the problem sets in groups, but then each student must write up the answers separately.  Students are not to copy problem or exam answers from another person's paper and present them as their own; students may not plagiarize text from papers or websites written by others.  Students who present other people's work as their own will receive at least a 0 on the assignment and may well receive an F or XF in the course.  Please see: Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Policy:, which this course adopts. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." 

Internet materials: The course syllabus, problem sets, and lecture notes are on the ANGEL web site for the class.

Penn State E-mail Accounts: All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information. 

Accommodations for Students 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 Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: ( For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources 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: 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. 

Campus emergencies, including weather delays: Campus emergencies, including weather delays, are announced on Penn State News: http:/ and communicated to cellphones, email, the Penn State Facebook page, and Twitter via PSUAlert (Sign up at: 

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 the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs (AVPSA) and Student Care and Advocacy 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. 

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. 

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:

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Technical English Competency Exam

Faculty interaction policy for the Technical English Competency Exam

(Professional Presentation Exam)

METEO 880 is the preparatory course for the Technical English Competency Exam with speaking and writing requirements matching that for this exam. In METEO 880 and the exam, students give a rigorously timed 12-minute talk. As part of the course, students are provided lots of detailed feedback on their METEO 880 talks and are told in the course that they can give a revised version of the talk for the Tech exam. Also, students are counseled in the course to practice all of their talks with an audience to get helpful input. Given that many students have little or no technical speaking experience, having faculty and others provide students feedback on their talks to help them improve their speaking ability is allowed. The paper written in METEO 880 is also of the same format as that for the Technical English Competency Exam. As part of the class, students are given feedback on earlier drafts of the paper by fellow students and the instructor; as for the talk, a revised version of the paper can be submitted as part of the exam. Faculty input is allowed on this exam paper so long as the sentences are critiqued, but not rewritten by the faculty; the intent is for the students' writing ability to be evaluated, which cannot be done if the faculty rewrite the paper as part of the input phase. Thus, a paper submitted as part of the exam is to be single-authored by the student.