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What Information Should I Include in My Syllabus?

A syllabus, or course outline, defines the goals of a course and describes classroom activities, readings and other assignments, and course policies. Conventions for structuring a syllabus vary across disciplines, but what follows is intended to provide suggestions about what can be included. This page also contains a link to several exemplary syllabuses for additional ideas.

Syllabi are intended primarily as information for students, though sometimes colleagues and administrators also consult them for evidence of the instructor's expertise. A comprehensive syllabus can be a useful teaching tool. At a minimum, it should tell students

  • why learning this material might be important (course goals)
  • what students will be learning (course content)
  • when the material will be taught (schedule)
  • how it will be taught (instructional procedures)
  • when students will be required to demonstrate their learning (assignments and examination dates)
  • how students' learning will be assessed (evaluation) and the final grade determined

In October 2012, Faculty Council approved Resolution 2012-11, On Guidelines for Course Syllabi, establishing guidelines for course syllabi appropriate to various learning environments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the several professional schools. The resolution also stipulates that a syllabus should be provided to students no later than the first day of class and should be retained by the department, curriculum, school for at least four years, the normal career of an undergraduate student.

In September 2012, the Administrative Boards of the General College and College of Arts and Sciences approved a similar Statement on the Contents of a Course Syllabus.

Sample Syllabi

For an example of a syllabus from the humanities, click here.

For an example of a syllabus from the social sciences, click here.

For an example of a syllabus from the natural sciences, click here.