University of Exeter Handbook (Physics) Questions/Comments Department (Physics)

Creating and Editing Module Descriptors

Each module offered by the Department of Physics has a definitive description published on the WWW (e.g. PHY1021.html) and it is therefore essential that these are reviewed regularly for accuracy and currency as part of the annual monitoring process. Changes must be approved as follows:

Nature of changeAffectsRequires involvement of
Major Programme ILO's, other modules, method of assessment Education Committee.
Significant Module ILO's, style of assessment Director of Education, or Edcuation Committee where appropriate.
Minor Changes to syllabus not affecting ILO's, recomended texts, clarifications Handbook Editor, or Director of Education where appropriate

Some type of endorsement by the Director of Education and/or the Department Education Committee is required in most cases. Changes to module descriptors made during the year must be explained to affected students in an appropriate manner.

See also: Procedure for Approval of Amendments to Programmes and Modules


The system for maintaining module descriptors and programme specifications is designed to make processing and updating sets of hundreds of documents efficient and reliable. It makes heavy use of XML and templates, which means it is a bit picky about the input but the the benefit is that all manual processing is eliminated from the workflow.

The Mechanics

Start by reviewing the Department template for module descriptors which includes links to documents that will help you to specify appropriate Learning Outcomes and clarify what is expected of students at the various cognitive levels. Each published module descriptor is automatically generated from several sources of information:

  1. A database of Module Texts and Supplementary Texts (,
  2. a database of administrative information (,
  3. a description source file (e.g.PHY1021.src) that contains information supplied by the module instructors.

Please do not download the html version of the module descriptor and edit it. These are generated automatically from a plain-text source, the process is not reversible so you will be wasting your time.

Start by asking the Handbook Editor to provide one of the current 'PHYnnn.src' description source files to use as a template.

The module descriptor source to be edited by module leaders consists of a number of subsections identified by tags, e.g.

<a name='Rationale_start'>Rationale</a>

The content of a subsection which will appear in the final module descriptor is on the lines following the tag. Don't alter the tag, just put your content in the paragraph(s) below it.

Separate paragraphs by blank lines. If the first line of a paragraph starts with a <TAB> character then it is interpreted as part of a numbered list, when your description file is processed successive tabbed paragraphs will be numbered automatically (do not number the paragraphs yourself). Lists may be nested by starting paragraphs with two or more tab characters:

<TAB>This is the first item in the main list.
<TAB>This is the second item in the main list.
<TAB><TAB>This is the first item in a sublist.
<TAB>This is the third item in the main list.

Avoid equations and mathematical notation as far as possible. Where necessary text may be superscripted or subscripted as follows:

E = mc<SUP>2</SUP> don't drink the H<SUB>2</SUB>SO<SUB>4</SUB>

Accented characters are written as &laccent; where 'l' is the letter to be accented and 'accent' is the accent name. 'accent' may be any of acute, grave, uml, circ or tilde, and no spaces are required, e.g. Schr&ouml;dinger or Amp&egrave;re. If you edit the 'PHYnnnn.src' file using Microsoft Word make sure it is in 'Normal View' and 'Show ¶' mode. <TAB> characters are displayed as a horizontal arrow. Save the file as 'Text Only with Line Breaks'.

When you have made the required modifications, send your newly created file to the Handbook Editor for adding to the system.

Check the module descriptor carefully. To change or add to the module texts or supplementary reading inspect the titles already on recommended and supplementary texts list. If the book you want is already listed there for another module please notify the School Library Co-ordinator by email. Failing that, use one of the numerous online bookshops to find full publishers details of the book you want and again, email them. Changes to other subsections of the third section should be emailed to the Handbook Editor.

University of Exeter Handbook (Physics) Questions/Comments Department (Physics)