Style Guide – Course Descriptions

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Overview

The style guide serves to assist faculty and staff in writing catalog course descriptions. Course descriptions must conform to the catalog course description format as listed in the style guide when creating a new course or changing an existing course for inclusion in catalogs. This ensures consistency throughout the catalog. The style guide is intended for both the undergraduate and graduate catalogs.

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What is a Course Description?

A course description is a brief synopsis of what students will be taught in a course. For the catalog, a course description includes a course prefix, course number, course title, lecture and lab contact hours (if applicable), semester credit hours, description of the content of the course, any prerequisites or corequisites, and any cross-listings. A course description may also include the number of times a course may be taken for credit and whether the course may be taken on a satisfactory or unsatisfactory basis.

Catalog course descriptions should focus on content. The course content should be expressed in concise fragments or phrases. Rather than sentences, use semicolons to separate the fragments or phrases, and commas to separate a series. Catalog course descriptions should not be used to advertise the course, but rather inform the students of the content. The syllabus course description can be used to further elaborate on the course. Catalog course descriptions, not including the course title or other course details, should be limited to 50 words. Access the new course form or change in course form here.

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Course Description Format/Style

  • Do:
    • Do use phrases or fragments.
    • Do separate series using semi-colons (;).
    • Do write concisely and straightforward (no fluff).
  • Don’t:
    • Do not use complete sentences.
    • Do not begin the description with “This course will …”
    • Do not repeat the title.
    • Do not include “The lecture and lab will consist of …”
    • Do not include references to students such as “designed to provide students with…”
  • Abbreviations:
    • Use “U.S.,” not “US” for abbreviating the United States.
    • Spell out “Texas A&M” instead of using “TAMU.”
    • If using acronyms, when practical, write out the complete name for first use of the abbreviation.

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Course Title

  • Use a clear course title and refrain from using abbreviations.

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Prerequisites

  • Do:
    • Do use “freshman classification,” “sophomore classification,” or “junior or senior classification.”
    • Do use “graduate classification.”
    • Do use “doctoral classification,” “doctoral level,” or “doctoral programs.”
    • Do use “approval of instructor.”
    • Do use “registration therein,” “concurrent enrollment,” or “corequisites.”
    • Do repeat the course prefix for multiple courses within the same department.
      • Ex., “ACCT 315 or ACCT 327”
      • Ex., “AERO 302, AERO 303, AERO 306, AERO 351 and AERO 421”
  • Don’t:
    • Do not use “junior or senior standing” or “graduate standing.”
    • Do not use “junior or senior status” or “graduate status.”
    • Do not use “U2,” “U4,” “G7,” “G8,” etc.
    • Do not use “permission of instructor” or “instructor approval.”
    • Do not use a single course prefix for multiple courses within the same department.
      • Ex. “ACCT 315 or 327”
      • Ex. “AERO 302, 303, 306, 351 and 421”

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Cross-Listed Courses

  • When cross-listing a course, the course title, lecture and lab contact hours, semester credit hours, description and prerequisite(s) must match exactly.

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Repeatable Courses

  • If a course may be taken more than 1 time for credit:
    • Do:
      • Do use “May be taken X times for credit.”
      • Do use “May be taken X times for credit with different readings.”
    • Don’t:
      • Do not use “May be repeated X times.”
  • If there is no limit to the number of times a course may be taken:
    • Do:
      • Do use “May be repeated for credit.”

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Credit Hours

  • Fixed credit hours appear in catalog as (lecture contact hours – lab contact hours) semester credit hours. For example, (3-2) Credit 4.
  • Variable credit hours appear in various formats such as:
    • Credit 1 to 4.
    • Credit 1 to 5 each semester.
    • Credit 1 or more each semester.

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Editorial Items
Important Note: With the exception of those listed below, changes to course descriptions, prerequisites and cross-listed courses previously considered editorial must now go through the formal approval process. Please reference memo from Dr. J. Martyn Gunn, Vice Provost for Academic Services.

  • Editorial changes will be made in the following instances:
    • Typographical errors.
    • Entry errors.
    • Words left out of course descriptions that have gone through the approval process.
  • Reinstated courses will be added based on the last catalog entry.

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 Standard Courses

  • Standard courses should have the “standard” course title and description.
    • 285s, 485s, 685s – Directed Studies
    • 289s, 489s, 689s – Special Topics in …
    • 291s, 491s, 691s – Research

Examples include the following:

INFO 485. Directed Studies. Credit 1 to 4. Directed study of selected problems in an area of information and operations management not covered in other courses. Prerequisites: (as determined by the department).

EDAD 685. Directed Studies. Credit 1 to 4 each semester. Directed individual study of selected problems in the field of educational administration. Prerequisites: (as determined by the department).

MICR 289. Special Topics in… Credit 1 to 4. Selected topics in an identified area of microbiology. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: (as determined by the department).

CHEM 689. Special Topics in… Credit 1 to 4. Selected topics in an identified area of chemistry. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisites: (as determined by the department).

CVEN 491. Research. Credit 1 to 4. Research conducted under the direction of faculty members in civil engineering. May be taken X times for credit. Prerequisites: (as determined by the department).

BMEN 691. Research. Credit 1 or more each semester. Research for thesis or dissertation.

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Sample Wording for Course Descriptions

The following is a suggested list to assist departments in writing course descriptions – departments are not obligated or limited to its use.

Some phrases begin with the following:

Advanced topics in …                        Includes ….
Advanced instruction in …                 Instructs …
Analyze …                                           Instruction in …
Analysis of …                                      Investigate …
Application of …                                 Investigation of …
Assess …                                            Major elements of …
Concept …                                          Methods of …
Considers …                                       Methodologies of …
Continuation of … (Part 1 and 2)      Model …
Designed to …                                    Overview of …
Development of …                              Preparation in …
Discussion of …                                  Principles of …
Dynamics of …                                    Provides …
Emphasis on …                                   Research …
Evaluate …                                          Selected themes in …
Examination …                                    Study of …
Examines …                                        Survey of …
Explores …                                          Techniques …
Exploration of …                                  Theory …
Exposure to …                                     Topics include …
Focus on …                                           Understanding and …
Fundamentals of …

Phrases beginning with the following are typically used only in lower-level course descriptions:

Introduction to …
Elementary …
Introduce …

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Exemplar Course Descriptions

Undergraduate Courses

ACCT 229. (ACCT 2301, 2401) Introductory Accounting. (3-0). Credit 3. I, II, S Analysis, recording and reporting of business transactions; partnership and corporation accounting; analysis and use of financial statements. Prerequisite: Sophomore classification.

AERO 304. Aerospace Structural Analysis I. (3-0). Credit 3. I, II Structural design considerations; mechanics of structures; introduction to elasticity; constitution of materials; analysis of typical aerospace structures in bending, extension, torsion and shear. Prerequisites: AERO 320 or registration therein; AERO 213, AERO 214, MATH 308.

AGEC 447. Food and Agricultural Price Analysis. (3-0). Credit 3. I Factors influencing the level of food and agricultural prices; price trends and seasonal variation; methods of forecasting demands and prices; and futures trading. Prerequisites: AGEC 314; AGEC 317; and junior or senior classification.

AGSM 201. (AGRI 2301) Farm Tractors and Power Units. (2-2). Credit 3. I, II, S Tractors and other internal combustion power units used on farms; principles of operation, horsepower measurements, maintenance and adjustments of the electrical, ignition, fuel, lubricating and cooling systems.

ANTH 324. Music in World Cultures. (3-0). Credit 3. Examines music from an ethnomusicological perspective focusing on musical performance and the complex interrelationship of music to culture, society, and daily life; surveys music from a variety of cultures through a series of case studies. Prerequisite: MUSC 102 or approval of instructor. Cross-listed with MUSC 324.

ARTS 104. Introduction to Graphic Design. (0-2). Credit 1. Introduction to the concepts and techniques utilized in the layout of graphic presentations; basic digital camera operations, typography, use of color, design principles; integration of type, graphic elements and images. Prerequisite: Major in visualization only.

ARTS 304. Graphic Design II. (2-4). Credit 3. I, II. Continuation of ARTS 203; concepts in advanced graphics as a tool for design solutions for publication and promotion; emphasis on creative thinking over technology. Prerequisites: ARTS 203; junior or senior classification.

ATMO 443. Radar Meteorology. (2-2). Credit 3. Principles of radar theory, hardware, operations and analysis using real-time radar and computer-based case studies; conventional, Doppler and polarimetric weather radar; precipitation estimation, hydrometeor identification and air motion analysis; observations and analyses of thunderstorms, mesocyclones, tornadoes and gust fronts. Prerequisites: PHYS 208 or PHYS 219; ATMO 352.

BEFB 474. Biliteracy for Bilingual and Dual Language Classrooms. (3-0). Credit 3. Social and linguistic characteristics of second language learners influencing literacy skills; reading and literature instruction for second language learners; reading and writing process across the curriculum for second language learners. Prerequisite: Junior or senior classification. Must be taken concurrently with BEFB 472.

BIOL 213. Molecular Cell Biology. (3-0). Credit 3. I, II Explores the molecular basis of cell structure, function and evolution; gene regulation, cell division cycle, cancer, immunity, differentiation, multicellularity and photosynthesis. Students may not take concurrently with, or after the completion of, BIOL 413. Prerequisites: BIOL 112; CHEM 227 or concurrent enrollment.

CHEN 205. Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics I. (3-0). Credit 3. I, II First and second laws of thermodynamics; volumetric properties of pure fluids; heat effects; applications to flow processes, power cycles, refrigeration. Prerequisites: CHEN 204; MATH 251.

DCED 160. Ballet I. (0-5). Credit 2. Introduction to ballet technique for dancers; series of barre exercises progressing to center work, explanation of positions of the body and port de bras; understand proper body alignment as it relates to ballet technique; appreciation of ballet as an instrument of expression. May be taken 3 times for credit. Prerequisites: Dance minors and dance science track majors only or approval of instructor.

GEOP 213. Exploration of the Moon. (1-0). Credit I. Introduction to geology and geophysics of Earth’s Moon, as compared with Earth; origin of terrestrial planets; origin of the moon; physics of meteor impact; tectonics and volcanism; gravity anomalies; paleomagnetism; Moon’s geologic history; relatively non-technical course. Prerequisite: GEOL 101 or equivalent or approval of instructor.

MATH 419. Applications of Actuarial Science. (2-0). Credit 2. Applications of actuarial science using mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in the insurance and finance industries; emphasis on probability, statis­tics, finance, and economics; focus on using probabilistic models in the estimation of insurance premiums. May be taken two times for credit. Prerequisite: MATH 411 or STAT 414.

MGMT 475. Leadership Development. (3-0). Credit 3. Explores the evolution of leadership theory and practice with an emphasis on effective and ineffective leaders’ traits, behaviors, and styles in profit and not-for-profit work organizations; reviews critical aspects of leader role behavior from theoretical and practical perspectives; examines leader effectiveness at the individual, group, and strategic level. Prerequisite: MGMT 363.

PHYS 303. Advanced Mechanics II. (3-0). Credit 3. Classical mechanics of particles and rigid bodies with an empha­sis on Lagrangian and Hamiltonian methods; applications to chaos, scattering, coupled oscillations, and continua, including sound in fluids; mechanical implications of special relativity; introduction to drag and turbulence in fluids; introduction to elasticity in solids; Euler buckling instability. Prerequisites: PHYS 302 and PHYS 332.

SOCI 205. (SOCI 1301) Introduction to Sociology. (3-0). Credit 3. I, II, S Sociological perspectives including concepts and methods; social class and social status, the family, minorities, crime, religion, power, urbanization and population.

UGST 182. Topics in Undergraduate Studies. Credit 1 to 3. Selected interdisciplinary topics related to specific pro­grams as identified by the office of undergraduate studies; for students in approved first year programs. May be taken two times for credit. Prerequisite: Freshman classification or approval of instructor.

VIBS 305. Biomedical Anatomy. (2-4). Credit 4. I, II Comprehensive mammalian gross anatomy course, using the dog as the model species; laboratory dissection, veterinary nomenclature with human correlates and the application of anatomy to clinical situations. Prerequisites: BIOL 114 and BIOL 124; junior or senior classification; BIMS major with a minimum overall 2.5 Texas A&M GPA.

VTPB 221. Great Diseases of the World. (3-0). Credit 3. Great infectious and parasitic diseases; introduction to the major diseases affecting humans and other mammals including plague, tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. Prerequisite: Freshman or sophomore classification.

VTPB 301. Wildlife Diseases. (3-0). Credit 3. I Basic mechanisms of diseases as they occur in wildlife populations; interplay of habitat requirements, individual physiological requirements and disease producing mechanisms of varied wildlife species. Prerequisite: Junior classification or approval of department head. Cross-listed with WFSC 327.

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Graduate Courses

AERO 631. Advanced Trajectory Optimization for Aerospace Systems. (3-0). Credit 3. Numerical solution of optimal control problems (OCP) as a nonlinear programming problem (NLP); control of a nonlinear missile using SNOPT, trajectory generation, motion planning, atmospheric entry problems; elements of approximation, distributed and parallel computation techniques, dynamical systems, stability theory, parameter optimization. Prerequisites: Graduate classification; approval of instructor.

AGEC 614. Global Food and Agribusiness Policy. (3-0). Credit 3. Public policies and programs affecting agriculture and agribusiness; development of policies and programs, identifying relevant issues, reviewing means to attain desired goals, and development of methods to evaluate the consequences of alternative farm policies on U.S. agriculture, agribusiness, trade and resources. Prerequisites: AGEC 619 or ECON 607; MATH 142.

ANSC 618. Lipids and Lipid Metabolism. (3-0). Credit 3. Chemical nature of various classes of lipids and lipid-derived hormones; absorption and metabolism of fatty-acids and lipids; regulation of lipid biosynthesis and obesity; relationship between lipid metabolism and cholesterol homeostasis; lipids as hormones. Prerequisite: BICH 410 or approval of instructor. Cross-listed with NUTR 618.

ARCH 610. Visual Communications. (2-4). Credit 3. Investigation and practice of various communication techniques used to explore, verify and present design decisions in architecture; freehand drawing principles; graphic theory and mechanical drawing techniques; architectural presentation and rendering methods in different media and their application. Prerequisite: Graduate classification.

ATMO 629. Climate Change. (3-0). Credit 3. Climate of the geological and recent past; methods of assessing climate and climatic change; mechanisms, models, theories, impact and prediction of climatic change. Prerequisites: ATMO 324 or equivalent; approval of instructor.

BIOL 649. Comparative Endocrinology. (3-3). Credit 4. Function of endocrine glands and hormonal regulatory systems in different animal groups, vertebrates and invertebrates; mechanisms of action of hormones at the cellular and molecular level; recent experimental advances in endocrinological research; isolation, purification and assay of certain hormones. Prerequisite: Course in physiology, BICH 410 or equivalent, or approval of instructor.

BUSH 632. Quantitative Methods in Public Management II. (3-0). Credit 3. Numerous formal aspects and methods of decision-making useful in public management including benefit-cost analysis, program evaluation and survey sampling; emphasis on theoretical foundation and practical application; collection and analysis of information, formulation of results and presentation of conclusions. Prerequisites: Graduate classification and approval of MPSA or MPIA director.

CHEM 622. Adsorption Phenomena and Heterogeneous Catalysis. (3-0). Credit 3. Chemistry of the gas-solid interface; energetics, isotherms and rates of gas adsorption on solid surfaces; experimental methods of studying solid surfaces and adsorption phenomena; kinetics and mechanisms of selected heterogeneous catalytic reactions.

COMM 636. Survey of Organizational Communication. (3-0). Credit 3. Theoretical and empirical literature on human communication and complex organizations; the study of messages, interaction, and meaning in the process of organizing; topics include superior-subordinate communication, communication networks, and technologies, language, message flow, symbols and organizational culture, negotiation and conflict, and power and politics. Prerequisite: Graduate classification.

COSC 621. Advanced Topics in Construction Project Scheduling and Project Management. (3-0). Credit 3. Advanced techniques used in scheduling and evaluating progress in construction project control; development of strategies for overcoming overruns; resource allocations; case studies. Prerequisites: COSC 602 and COSC 603 or equivalent; STAT 651.

CPSY 626. Psychopathology. (3-0). Credit 3. Causes, course, outcomes and treatment of abnormal and maladaptive behavior; degrees of variation possible from normal adaptive behavior; biological, developmental, social, cultural and psychological perspective on abnormal behavior. Prerequisite: Graduate classification. Cross-listed with PSYC 626.

CVEN 627. Engineering Surface Water Hydrology. (3-0). Credit 3. Precipitation-runoff processes; watershed and streamflow modeling; frequency analysis; erosion and sedimentation engineering; hydrologic design of hydraulic structures and nonstructural stormwater management strategies. Prerequisite: Graduate classification in engineering or approval of instructor.

ENGL 655. History and Theory of Rhetoric since 1800. (3-0). Credit 3. Major figures and movements in rhetorical theory; revisionist effect of psychology, linguistics, and romanticism upon classical rhetorics; associationist psychology; belles lettres movement, twentieth-century linguistic turn; current-traditional rhetoric and its successors; rhetorical critical theory. Cross-listed with COMM 655.

FINC 645. International Finance. (3-0). Credit 3. Problems confronted by financial managers of firms with international business operations; international money and capital markets; exchange rate risks and political risks. May be repeated for up to 3 hours credit. Classification 6 students may not enroll in this course. Prerequisite: FINC 612 or FINC 635. Cross-listed with IBUS 645.

VMID 686. Scientific Ethics. (1-0). Credit 1. Ethical issues of research and methods for resolution of such issues; overview of ethical issues encountered by scientists in the conduct and dissemination of their research, in their pursuit of resources, in their interactions with the press and the broader public and resulting from the extension and technological application of their findings. Prerequisite: Graduate classification.

VPAT 620. Humane, Public Health and Regulatory Aspects of Animal Use. (1-0). Credit 1. Emphasizes thought­ful and humane use of animals in teaching, research and service; human and animal health benefits of biomedical research; governmental policies regulations, public health implications, management practices, and public relations pertaining to animal use in research and teaching.

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