About CourseSource

CourseSource was developed in response to a recommendation in the 2011 report Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education. CourseSource publishes original, peer-reviewed biology and physics teaching and learning resources that:

  • Incorporate student-centered, evidence-based pedagogy
  • Focus on professional society-developed learning goals and objectives
  • Are organized and formatted so that transfer and use in other classrooms is easily done

Because CourseSource articles describe implementations of evidence-based teaching strategies, they do not require substantial evidence or human subjects data for publication.

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Why Publish in CourseSource?

CourseSource will provide authors with the opportunity to publish teaching materials in a high-quality format that documents their scholarly teaching efforts, accomplishments and innovations. Authors will retain copyright to their materials, through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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Publication Criteria and Types of Articles Published

CourseSource publishes original works centered on scholarly teaching. Authors are required to give full details on previous or duplicate publication of content of the resource, as previous publication does not automatically preclude publication in CourseSource. In the cover letter, please include a reference or URL for any document that might be considered a previous publication.

CourseSource publishes the following types of articles:

Lessons: peer-reviewed articles that describe innovative classroom activities or laboratory exercises for teaching undergraduate biology or physics. Lessons describe pedagogical approaches to address learning goals, applicable learning goals from participating professional societies, and learning objectives in a way that actively engages students. Lessons should represent scientific teaching approaches (i.e., applying principles of how people learn, inclusive teaching strategies, active learning, and assessment) and must have been previously taught by the authors. The Lesson should provide sufficiently detailed instructions and supporting materials and suggest modifications and extensions to allow easy implementation by a broad range of faculty in undergraduate biology and physics education. The length of a Lesson manuscript is approximately 4,000 words, excluding references and supporting materials.

LessonPlus: peer-reviewed articles that describe an entire course (e.g., course-based undergraduate research or CUREs) that has been previously taught by the authors. Like a Lesson article, LessonPlus articles describe pedagogical approaches to address learning goals, applicable learning goals from participating professional societies, and learning objectives in a way that actively engages students. LessonPlus articles feature both a general, overview description of the course and descriptions of one or two specific, exemplar lessons. The length of a LessonPlus manuscript is approximately 4,000 words, excluding references and supporting materials.

ATTENTION: Any previously submitted articles that describe whole courses must be revised using the new LessonPlus format (exceptions: accepted or published manuscripts). Please contact us if you have any questions. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Science Behind the Lesson: peer-reviewed articles that summarize scientific topics related to a submitted or published Lesson. Science Behind the Lesson articles should expand upon and explain a particular topic in more depth so that an educator can rapidly learn or review background information needed to understand and teach the related Lesson. The length of a Science Behind the Lesson manuscript is approximately 4,000 words, excluding references and supporting materials.

Teaching Tools and Strategies: peer-reviewed articles detailing how to use a tool or strategy to improve student learning or examples of the use of such tools or strategies. The resources and strategies described should be of broad interest to the biology or physics education community. The subject matter could include topics such as how to use a survey to facilitate group formation; use of a particular application to facilitate student interaction; a syllabus example from a learning goal and objective oriented course; etc. The length of a Teaching Tools and Strategies manuscript is approximately 2,000 words, excluding references and supporting materials.

Reviews: peer-reviewed articles that examine, evaluate, critique, and/or appraise topics, tools or materials that are of broad interest to the biology or physics education community. Reviews can focus on: massive open online courses (MOOCs), TedTalks, iTunesU lectures, etc.; books; articles; applications and other computer- or web-based tools; events such as workshops or meetings; websites; or any other materials/tools of interest. Published Reviews must be about topics that have been “field-tested” (i.e., have been used in the classroom one or more times by the authors) except if the Review topic is an event. It is acceptable to review commercial products. The length of a Review manuscript is approximately 3,000 words, excluding references and supporting materials.

Essays: peer-reviewed perspectives concerning topics or challenges that are of broad interest to the biology or physics education community. The subject matter should be presented within a scholarly and/or personal context, citing references and resources that address the topic. The length of an Essay manuscript is approximately 2,000 words, excluding references and supporting materials.

Announcements: editor-reviewed, noncommercial notices or news of interest to CourseSource readers. Examples include announcements of meetings, workshops and conferences, funding opportunities, fellowships, and other opportunities that are open access to all qualified applicants. The length of an Announcement is approximately 300 words. When appropriate, include a link to more information pertaining to the subject of the announcement. All announcements should also contain your contact information. Announcements are submitted by emailing a Word file to the Managing Editor at coursesourceeditor@gmail.com.

Detailed information regarding article formatting and materials needed prior to submission can be found below in the General Guidelines section.

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Editorial Policies

Informed Consent:

The use of human subjects or other animals for research purposes is regulated by the federal government and individual institutions. Manuscripts containing information related to human or animal research will not be considered unless they clearly state that the research has complied with all relevant federal and institutional policies. An IRB protocol number (or your country's equivalent) must be provided if sharing data collected from students or participants (e.g., quotes, grades, survey responses). If the project is not deemed to be human subjects research by the IRB, the authors must provide documentation and a statement in their manuscript regarding the waived review.

Funding and Competing Interests:

Conflict of interest exists when an author, reviewer, or editor has financial, personal, or professional relationships that could inappropriately bias or compromise his or her actions. Presence of absence of perceived conflicts must be addressed with a Conflict of Interest statement on the manuscript’s title page. Sources of outside support for the creation of the resource must be named in the contributed manuscript.


All authors should have contributed directly to, been involved in drafting and revising, and approve the final article.

Style Guidelines:

CourseSource follows the style guidelines of the Council of Science Editors (CSE) Style Manual. Reference list formatting follows the guidelines of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) citation style.

To facilitate correct citation formatting, two Citation Style Language (CSL) files are available for use in Zotero or Mendeley: lowercase and capitalize-first. Instructions for how to install the CSL files to your citation manager and the difference between the two CSL files are available here.

The audience of CourseSource includes people who are new to teaching or who are teaching outside their scientific specialty. Therefore, CourseSource articles should have a writing style that supports the ability of novices to teach the materials. CourseSource style criteria include:

Simplicity, Clarity, and Readability:

  • Use sentences that are less than three lines long where possible.
    • Minimize the number of clauses in a sentence.
    • Minimize the number of phrases in a sentence that contain words such as “of” or “that.”
  • Keep the subject and verb of the sentence close to each other.
  • Use the least complicated words possible.

Active Voice:

  • Use active voice unless passive voice is essential for meaning.

First and Second Person and Imperatives:

  • Use a conversational tone that includes “I,” “we,” and “you.”
    • Example: “We liked how students responded to the challenge we posed.”
  • Use direct instructions.
    • Example: “Do not hand out the second page until students have turned in the first page.”

Replicability (Lesson, LessonPlus, and Teaching Tools and Strategies articles):

  • Include clear and direct step-by-step instructions. Provide and explain the materials, resources, and information needed to teach the Lesson, implement the course, or use the tools/activities. For Lesson and LessonPlus articles, it might be helpful to think of your Lesson Plan as a teaching “protocol,” analogous to an experimental protocol.


The authors must affirm that they either own the copyright to or have received written permission to use the text, figures, tables, artwork, abstract, summaries, and supporting materials. CourseSource applies the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License to all publications. Under this license, authors retain ownership of the copyright to their article, but allow anyone to download, reuse, reprint, modify, distribute and/or copy the article, as long as the original authors and source are cited. No permission is required from the authors or the publishers for these uses of the published materials.

Peer Review Procedure:

All article types are subject to peer review. Authors will submit their manuscripts through the online system at http://coursesource.msubmit.net/. Upon submission, the manuscript goes through an initial quality check by the Managing Editor to ensure that the article fits within the scope of CourseSource and has all required elements. After passing the initial check, the article is then assigned to an appropriate Course Editor (e.g., Genetics, Microbiology, etc.) who then assigns two reviewers to read and review the manuscript. Next, reviewer comments are sent to the Course Editor for collation and review. The Course Editor will then make a recommendation to the Editor-in-Chief whether to accept or reject the article. The reviewers, Course Editor, and Editor-in-Chief all routinely screen submissions for originality to ensure no works are plagiarized. Based on the extensiveness of the suggested revisions, the article will be accepted with minor revisions, sent back through peer review after major revisions, or rejected. Once the manuscript is accepted, it will be sent to a Senior Editor who will provide copy editing and may suggest final changes to the authors.

Editorial Review Procedure:

Announcements will be editorially reviewed by the Managing Editor.

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Online Submission Procedure

All CourseSource submissions (except Announcements) will be made through the online submission and peer review site: http://coursesource.msubmit.net/.

  • Create a user account: To register a brand new account, click the “New Users: Please register here” link on the home page. You will be asked to enter your Last Name, Email address, and Telephone Number so that the system may first determine if an account already exists for you. If the system determines you already have an account, your login name and a new, temporary password will be automatically emailed to you. If you need further assistance, please contact CourseSource staff directly at coursesourceeditor@gmail.com.

If the system does not find an existing account in the database, you will be directed to the registration screen where you can enter in your personal information and choose a login name and password. You may log in immediately after creating your new account. You will also receive an email with your selected login information.

  • Preparing to submit: Collect the following information before submission to aid in the process:
    • Author Information:
      • First, Middle, and Last names (All Authors)
      • Email Addresses (All Authors)
      • Institutions (All Authors)
      • Departments (All Authors)
      • Postal Address (Corresponding Author)
    • Manuscript Title
    • Manuscript Abstract
    • Manuscript Files:
      • Main text, primary image, figures, tables, and supporting materials (all in acceptable formats). A cover letter (or rebuttal letter, if appropriate) are required. Authors may also include other important files as related manuscript documents (e.g., copyright permissions, IRB review waiver)
  • Submission process: There are four steps to the submission process: Files, Manuscript Information, Validate, and Submit.
    • Files: This step guides authors through the file upload, description and order process. A PDF will be generated of all applicable uploaded files for the manuscript.
    • Manuscript Information: This step requires the following information from the authors:
      • Title and Abstract
      • Author Information
      • Metadata: a unique advantage of CourseSource is the ability to search for and filter articles by a plethora of criteria. The majority of criteria are assigned to each article at this point in the submission process.
      • Detailed Information (e.g., conflict of interest)
      • Journal Specific Information
      • Author Review Suggestions
    • Validate: This step will go over and ask for approval for all the files and information gathered for the submission.
    • Submit: This is the final step of the submission process where the manuscript is first reviewed for any missing information and then officially submitted to CourseSource.
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General Guidelines

These guidelines apply to all CourseSource article formats (except Announcements).

  1. Article Templates: Microsoft Word templates are provided for each article type. To ensure appropriate formatting, authors must enter their manuscript text into the appropriate CourseSource article template. Any submissions not using the template will be immediately kicked back to the authors.
  2. Document Format: The text of the article should be 1.5-spaced, in 12-point Calibri font, and with 6 point spacing after the paragraph. Use headers as appropriate to divide your manuscript into sub-sections (found in the Styles box on the Home tab). Use italics for Latin phrases, scientific names, and quotations from students or to indicate instructor speech. Employ bold font for emphasis. Reserve underlining only in the case of URL addresses. Figures and tables should not be included in the text document (upload separately); only their captions should be included.
  3. Links to Online Materials: All URL addresses in the text should be activated and ready to click. Indicate which font should be hyperlinked by using the underline font format.
  4. Figures: Figure files should be uploaded individually and must be provided as TIFF, JPEG, PNG, or EPS images at a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. Do not submit a figure in the form of a PDF or within a PowerPoint file.
  5. Tables: Table files must provided as a Word document using the provided Table Template. Any submissions not using the template will be immediately kicked back to the authors.
  6. Primary Image: Authors must submit a primary image that will be associated with the submitted article when it is displayed on the CourseSource website. Primary image file should be uploaded individually and provided as a TIFF, JPEG, PNG or EPS image at a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. Do not submit your primary image in the form of a PDF or within a PowerPoint file.
    • For a tutorial on converting PowerPoint files to Adobe Illustrator, please visit this website.
    • Prepare figures and tables at the size they are to be published:
      • Up to 1 column wide: width 4.23 – 8.47 cm
      • 1 to 1.5 columns wide: width 10.16 – 11.43 cm
      • 2 columns wide: width 14.39 – 17.57 cm
      • Physical length must be less than or equal to 23.5 cm
  7. Rich Media: Rich media files such as videos, audio clips, animations, recorded slideshow presentations, and interactive diagrams should be submitted as AVI, WMV, MOV, or MP4 files. If a desired file type is not included here, please email coursesourceeditor@gmail.com.
  8. Supporting Materials: Supporting materials can be submitted in any format mentioned above. For accessibility, please submit all materials in editable formats, if possible (e.g., no PDFs). Examples of editable files are Word documents (DOC, DOCX), PowerPoint files (PPT, PPTX), and Excel files (XLS, XLSX). Please title files “S#. Short title - short description”, where # indicates the order of appearance in your manuscript (see article templates for more information on naming).
  9. Peer Review: All Lesson, LessonPlus, Science Behind the Lesson, Teaching Tools and Strategies, Review, and Essay manuscripts will undergo peer review. Authors are highly encouraged to check their manuscript against the corresponding review rubric prior to submission (see the For Reviewers page).

Article Publication Charges

Authors will be expected to pay an article publication charge of $400 per manuscript. We recognize that $400 may be a barrier for authors. Thus, we have budgeted some funds to assist authors with costs—both a reduced fee of $200 or a complete waiver, depending on circumstances. During the submission process, authors will have the opportunity to request the waiver and explain their need.

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Citation Style for CourseSource Authors
Article Templates


  • Templates coming soon
Rubrics for Articles
Submission Website

To submit or check on the status of a manuscript for CourseSource, please log on to the CourseSource submission website.

New authors: you will need to create a new account for the CourseSource submission site, if you haven't already. Please note: this is different from your CourseSource account.