Instructions for Exercise Set Authoring

Review Process

Each submission to the PICUP Exercise Sets Collection will be assigned to a PICUP editor who will guide the submission through a peer-review process. The purpose of the Exercise Sets review process is to

  1. ensure quality control - we desire to publish high quality, peer-reviewed educational materials on the PICUP website;
  2. ensure consistency in content and uniformity in format;
  3. guarantee appropriateness for the undergraduate physics curriculum; and
  4. guarantee physical correctness and working code implementations.

To be published online on the PICUP website, an Exercise Set must: (1) consist of the author’s original intellectual effort that has not been published previously by the authors or others, unless it was published under a Creative Commons Public License by the author, (2) display all of the compulsory elements as listed below, (3) be written clearly in the English language, and (4) meet the criteria established for PICUP Exercise Sets.

Authors must agree to the licensing terms as described under the Creative Commons License, Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0) found here: .

Submission Checklist

You can use this list to carry out a final check of your submission before you designate your Exercise Set as Ready for Review. Please check the relevant section in this Guide for Authors for more details.

Ensure that the following items are present:

The author(s) has provided contact details:

  • E-mail address
  • Institutional Affiliation

All necessary content has been uploaded or specified:

  • General Information
    • Exercise Title
    • Abbreviated Title
    • URL Reference
    • Front Page Thumbnail Picture
  • Setting
    • Course Context
    • Course Level
  • Brief Description
  • Learning Objectives (tied to specific Exercises)
  • Instructor’s Guide
  • Theory
  • Pseudocode
  • Code Templates
  • Completed Code (Implementations in at least three different program languages/platforms are preferred, but not necessary for submission)
  • Solutions to Exercises
  • References/Connections to Textbooks (if any)
  • All necessary figures
  • All necessary tables (including title, description, footnotes)
  • All necessary data files
  • Any additional Resources appropriate to the Exercise Set

Further considerations

  • All text has been ‘spell checked’ and ‘grammar checked’
  • Permission has been obtained for use of copyrighted material from other sources (including the Internet)
  • Relevant attribution has been declared

Submission Procedure

Submission of Exercise Sets proceeds electronically. Use this detailed procedure ( to upload the content of your Exercise Set and submit it for review. There is also a Video Guide for Uploading Exercise Set content (TO BE INSERTED SHORTLY) that provides details on uploading and submitting Exercise Sets to


Please write your text in good English. Authors for whom English is not their native language may wish to solicit the assistance of a native English-speaking colleague for proofreading purposes.

Exercise Sets: Structure and Compulsory Elements


The title should be concise and convey what the Exercise Set entails. Also, make sure that the title is sufficiently descriptive that it will remain unique as new Exercise Sets are published in the future.


The Description should be brief, not more than a few sentences, and should provide a cogent description of the physics, the computational approach, and the computational activities contained in the Exercise Set.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives that are connected to the individual exercises are required. The learning objectives should be listed as specific measurable tasks that your students should be able to do upon completion of the Exercise Set. It is not necessary, but may be most easily implemented if the learning objectives are listed after a statement such as “Student who complete this Exercise Set will be able to:”

Instructor’s Guide

The Instructor’s Guide should provide advice to adopters/adapters on how the educational material contained in the Exercise Set could be used. It could also provide suggestions for further scaffolding of specific exercises and/or computational activities, as well as suggestions for adding higher levels of difficulty or sophistication for particularly astute students. If a particular set of exercises has been extensively tested by an author, a description of problems encountered or details on what to expect from students should be offered. This section could also offer some justification for an author’s particular style and preferences. A description of how this computational approach to the particular topic of the Exercise Set would be helpful. The author is provided a great deal of latitude in determining what exactly is appropriate for this section.


The Theory section should contain a self-contained description of the underlying physics of the Exercise Set, or a reference to a published, readily accessible treatment of the topic. This section should also include a detailed description of the numerical approach employed in the computational activity or activities, or an appropriate reference to a readily accessible description of the numerical approach.


Pseudocode should be provided for each major exercise or activity within the Exercise Set. Potential adopters/adapters may rely on a clearly outlined pseudocode to fully understand the algorithm or other computational method that is brought to bear in the Exercises Set.


The “Exercises” should consist of a scaffolded set of activities that are designed to demonstrate to potential adopters/adapters how students could be led through the process of interacting with, and solving problems related to, the physical principles and computational methodologies that are presented in the Theory section.


Solutions to the exercises should be provided in sufficient detail to demonstrate the results of an implemented model or computational activity. These solutions are really “suggested solutions.” The solution to a computational exercise can vary greatly depending on the instructor’s personal pedagogical preferences. Thus, authors are allowed some latitude in the degree of detail required for this section; but, in order to be useful to a non-expert, more detail here is definitely desirable.

Connections to Physics Textbooks (optional)

This optional section can be useful to potential adopters/adapters if a connection between the content of the Exercise Set and basic physics principles is made to a popular physics textbook. If this topic is covered in a certain textbook that you use, please use the “Connections to Physics Textbooks” to indicate which chapter/section covers this material.

Completed Code

Completed Code, pertaining to the computational exercises, in at least one programming language is required for an Exercise Set to be complete. Though one programming language is required, it is preferred that authors submit Exercise Sets with completed code in at least three different programming implementations. Authors may want to consider the possibility of getting colleagues involved to assist in producing different implementations.

Code Templates

There is a spectrum of what an instructor might provide to the students, ranging from "programming from scratch" to "being given a fully working program". We do not claim that there is a "right" or "wrong" decision here. If an instructor wants his/her students to program from scratch, then a blank page is the starting point; if an instructor wants to provide the fully-working code, the "Completed Code" is the students’ starting point; and, if the instructor wants to provide students with something in-between, then a "Code Template" is the starting point. This mode of coding would be of interest to faculty who may not want to have students producing models or simulations from scratch, but still want the students to master the coding at some level. A Code Template could be a version of “almost-working” or “minimally-working” code, and can include programs that are not complete with places indicated where students would be expected to provide the missing code.

Additional Resources (optional)

This section should include anything that has not already been included in the required sections for a PICUP Exercise Set, but is necessary for the carrying out the computational activities.

Data Files (optional)

This section should contain any data files necessary for carrying out the computational activities in the exercises.

Review Criteria for PICUP Exercise Sets

General Evaluation

Content: Is the content appropriate for an undergraduate physics course?

Novelty: Does the topic provide an interesting addition to the standard curriculum?

Computational Innovation: Do the exercises add value to the traditional approach by providing new insights into a problem or by using computational thinking to clarify physics?

First Impressions

Thumbnail: Has a thumbnail that is interesting and captures the essence of the Exercise Set. Included images are appropriate. Their license allows reuse.

Title: Describes the content well.

Description: Captures the essence of the Exercise Set and describes the cool things it does.

Learning Objectives: Provides clear action-oriented descriptions of what students should be able to do after completing the activity. Should identify which exercises correspond to which learning objectives.

Exercise Set Content

Instructor's Guide: Clear and concise. Makes the case for how/why this Exercise Set adds values to the traditional coverage of this topic in undergraduate physics. Includes ideas about how to integrate the exercises in class / lab. Points out issues to be particularly careful about. Possible issues to address: pre-requisites, accuracy, units, issues with initial conditions, mathematical issues (dividing by zero, normalizing), plot scales, common student questions.

Theory: Theory is described at the appropriate level. Complete and correct. Discusses limitations of the model. (Links to appropriate resources for relevant numerical/mathematical methods.) Note, theory can be very brief if this is a topic that already clearly exists within the undergraduate curriculum.

Exercises: Exercises are at the appropriate level. Each exercise is equivalent (in length / complexity) to a problem at the back of the book. The exercises in a set form a coherent whole. Each exercise gives clear instructions as to what to do and what questions need to be answered.

Pseudocode: Clearly lays out the algorithm. Is language agnostic. For ODEs is also agnostic to the method of solution (should be useable to someone who doesn’t use a built-in library)

Code Templates: Code documented. Reasonable variable names. Follows good practices.

Solutions: Clearly answers exercises questions and gives sample output for plots (if applicable).

Complete Code: Code documented. Reasonable variable names. Follows good practices.