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Preparing Your Syllabus

Significance of Your Course Syllabus

The syllabus is a tool that sets expectations for your students. This is a place where you can set the tone for the course experience. You can modify the tone to your teaching style. The syllabus is a “place to get students excited about the semester” (Sinor and Kaplan, 2010).

Ways to Engage Your Students with Your Syllabus

  • Have students use clickers or posting online to key questions they answer by referring to your syllabus or answer questions in class.
  • Introduce the syllabus as a contract between you and your students.

How Your students Can Use Your Syllabus as a Tool

Your students can use your syllabus for multiple purposes. Although many students don’t immediately realize the value of the syllabus, you can help them understand that the syllabus can help them to:

  • Budget time for preparation throughout the semester
  • Collect resources ahead of class time
  • Review prerequisite material necessary for understanding new content
  • Make a decision about whether this class is appropriate
  • Find reference information when needed
  • Determine tips for how to study for the course

Key Sections of Course Syllabus at NC State

Course Description

  • Does your description excite or engage your students?
  • Does it set the tone for the course, i.e. discovery opportunity, intellectual challenge?
  • Does it provide an overview to the purpose for this course and how it fits into the curriculum of your department?
  • Does it convey an atmosphere of respect, collaboration, and participation?

Course Information

In addition to basic facts, does the course information provide information about:

  • How and when the students may contact you other than office hours
  • Other locations for the class besides the room assigned
  • Resources the students can use to help them study for the course
  • Other information particular to your teaching


  • Does your information help students decide if they’re adequately prepared for this course; i.e. what skills, experience and knowledge they need?
  • Do students know where to go to update their background to prepare?

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

  • What do you want your students to be able to do when they have completed your course?
  • How can you break down your goals into realistic, pragmatic, measurable and achievable student learning objectives?

Required Textbooks and Other Readings

  • Which readings are required and which are optional?
  • Where can students find the books for purchase?
  • How can students access E-Reserves?

Course Organization and Scope

  • List your topics with time to allocate to each
  • Integrate topics with course structure and teaching strategies
  • Move towards a week by week plan for the course

Schedule of Reading Assignments

  • Why did you select these readings?
  • What is the relationship between these readings and your course objectives?

Schedule for Homework, Quizzes and Tests

  • Description of all assignments with deadlines
  • Description of all quizzes and tests including dates
  • Samples of assignments and tests if appropriate
  • Rubrics you will be using to evaluate students’ work

How Grades are Determined

Explanation of how grades are determined and the relative value of the various evaluation components of the course, i.e., the portion of the grade that derives from quizzes, tests, final exam, projects, attendance, etc. Instructor’s conversion system from numerical to letter grading, if applicable. (from NC State Syllabus Policy)

Instructor’s Policies on Incomplete Grades and Late Assignments

Instructor’s policies on attendance, (excused and unexcused) absences, and scheduling makeup work. As part of their statement, instructors should include the web address to the University Attendance Regulation (REG02.20.3) so that students may be able to access university definitions of excused absences.

Instructor’s Academic Integrity Statement

  • University policy on academic integrity found in the Code of Student Conduct Policy ( POL11.35.1)
  • Utilization of the Honor Pledge: “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment.”
    The syllabus may specify that the Honor Pledge be signed on each test or assignment or that it is the understanding and expectation of faculty that the student’s signature on any test or assignment means that the student neither gave nor received unauthorized aid.
  • Your expectations concerning honesty in the completion of test and assignments

Expectations for Students with Disabilities:

To include the academic accommodations for students with disabilities

Statement on Laboratory Safety:

Or risk assumption in courses requiring physical activity or field trips

Statement on Extra Expenses:

An explanation of charges beyond that of textbook costs or explanation of “pass-through” charges, e.g., clickers, lane rental at the bowling alley, field trip costs, etc. or explanation of charges beyond that of textbook costs.

Statement on Transportation:

A notification to students of expected transportation accommodations e.g. students having to provide their own transportation to a field trip or internship site.

NC State tools

NC State Syllabus tool: Allows faculty to fill in fields to create syllabus which adheres to NC State Policy.
NC State Syllabus Policy: Links to attendance policy
General Education Program Requirements: The new General Education Program (GEP) for undergraduates at N.C. State was approved by the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost on February 1, 2008 to be effective beginning Summer II, 2009.

Further Resources

Sinor, J and Kaplan, M. (2010) Creating Your Syllabus. Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of Michigan.
Course Syllabus Template with Guide Questions (2007). Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. Washington State University.
Assessing Syllabi for Impact on Teaching (2007). Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. Washington State University.
Davis, B. G. (1993) Creating a Syllabus. Tools for Teaching. University of California, Berkeley.