Preparing a Syllabus

Participants in the session on developing a course syllabus at the 2009 workshop on Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences brainstormed and came up with the following ideas for how to break down the types of information contained in a syllabus and a list of elements that potentially be included (or considered) under each heading.


  • Instructor's name
  • Course title
  • Room
  • Meeting time
  • Office hours
  • Prerequisites
  • Required field trips or extra sessions
  • Special accommodations for exams
  • A sense of the time commitment expected
  • Drop/add deadlines


  • Grading
  • Class attendance
  • Exam make-ups (suggestions- 24 hrs to notify me if you missed an exam)
  • Late work
  • Academic honesty
  • General classroom etiquette (cell phones- one suggestion: if it rings it is mine for the hour; laptop use, texting, late arrivals, talking, sleeping, reading newspaper...)
  • Participation
  • Incompletes
  • Turn-around time on graded assignments (how quickly can they expect to get material back)


  • Textbooks
  • Materials on reserve at the library
  • Website: what's available, how to access it
  • "Clicker" technology: details
  • University writing center or other forms of university support (e.g., Crisis Center...)
  • Information about the library
  • Study hints
  • Hints on how to succeed in this course
  • Space for names and email addresses of 2-3 classmates, give them time to fill this out to insure they have access to peer-support in the course


  • Course goals
  • Why is the material important/relevant
  • How does it fit into the curriculum
  • A list of 3-5 learning objectives
  • Topics to be covered and why they will be covered in a particular sequence
  • The student's responsibility in the learning process


  • This is your chance to set the tone for the course. Think about whether you want to sound firm, approachable, demanding, accommodating...
  • Possible to personalize the syllabus with images or appropriate cartoons

Other thoughts

  • Review the syllabus carefully with the class
  • Make it clear that you can change this at any time. Changes can be announced in class and highlighted on the website.
  • Include questions on the syllabus on the exam?
  • Be as specific as possible