Writing a Syllabus
A good syllabus provides more than just a list of course readings. Be sure you:
- Provide a general overview of the course, including any pre-requisites for the course. Define course and learning objectives.
- State your name, office address, office phone number, and e-mail address. (State whether you prefer e-mail and how often you check/read it.)
- List your office hours (at least three hours per week, not all on the same day or at the same time slot on multiples days, for example, MWF 10-11 or TR 12:30-2).
- List the names, contact information, and office hours of any teaching fellows or other instructors.
- List the books and other materials (such as clickers) that you expect the students to purchase, and state where to buy them as well as any other logistical information needed such as log number of an item that the students can purchase at the copy center.
- List any items that the students will be expected to read, including information on how they can access the readings.
- List the course website’s URL and state what materials and links the students can find there. Be sure you put the syllabus on the web page!
- List the classes and other events that the student is expected to attend (lectures, discussion sections, laboratory sections, museum visits, field trips, special events, etc.); provide dates and times if known, or state that these will be announced in class.
- State your policy regarding absences (be specific: absences from lectures, from labs, etc.), missed work, make-up exams, etc.
- List the times of the examinations. Note that most undergraduate classes should hold final examinations, and that the final exam must be scheduled at the time during the main exam period that has been assigned to the main (lecture) section of the course as given in the table found in the BU Schedule of Classes.
- State your grading criteria. For example, average of midterm exams: 25%, final exam: 35%; term paper 40%. If there are any complexities (for example, the midterm exam average will be the best two out of three), state these clearly.
- State clearly your policy regarding work that is handed in late.
- State clearly your expectations regarding independence of work. For example, if you want to encourage collaboration, state the extent of the collaboration allowed on different types of assignments.
- Remind the students of their responsibility to know and understand the provisions of your school’s Academic Conduct Code. State clearly that you will refer cases of suspected academic misconduct to the Dean’s Office.
- Provide as detailed a schedule as possible of lectures (what will be discussed on what dates), assigned readings, discussions, laboratories, etc. State that the schedules and topics are subject to change, in which case announcements will be made in class as appropriate (but try to change as little as possible).
Consider using structures such as tables to organize the information in your syllabus. Students will find the information more readily — and you will probably be able to update it more easily, too.
Prepared by Professor Alan Marscher, CAS, and updated by Professor Janelle Heineke, SMG.
Please view the sample syllabi: