12.701 Course Description

Instructor: Michael Spall

Print version
Text Size: Change text to small (default) Change text to medium Change text to large


The objective of this course is to create a forum for the reading, discussion, and understanding of some of the fundamental papers in physical oceanography. The course will cover 3 main themes with four weeks spent on each area.  Primary topics for this semester are: the Southern Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and topographic effects. Within each topic, the selection of papers will highlight key advances or new ideas with both theoretical and observational papers.


The class will meet once a week, for one and a half hours, to discuss the selected paper (papers if appropriate). The paper's content will be presented to the class by one pre-assigned student (on a rotational basis).  The setting is very informal and group discussion is expected throughout.  The presentation should address the technical aspects of the paper (what, why, how it was done) as well as the implications of the results and the structure and clarity of the paper.  All students are expected to read the paper in question prior to class and come with questions.  The presenting student is expected to read one or more related papers. They are also welcome/encouraged to seek the help of the instructor, other faculty members, or the authors of the paper for clarification.  The discussion should end with by addressing how this paper has influenced the field since its publication, maybe by way of subsequent papers addressing the same subject, or through the introduction of a new idea or technique that has had broader influence.

The course is graded as Pass/Fail based on class preparation and participation.


The primary goal of this course is to provide a complementary perspective on some of the fundamental problems in our field by considering some of the individual works which, when pieced together, contribute to the more cohesive description of how the ocean works. The `discussion format' of the class  is meant to encourage students to consider the many different aspects  of the work in question including motivation, approach utilized, and implications for the broader context. The course is also intended to help students develop basic analytical and critical skills in paper reading and, therefore, writing. Finally, students will benefit from the practice in synthesizing information and making oral presentations.


WHOI logo

Last updated February 1, 2024
© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. All rights reserved