Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > The Syllabus

The Syllabus

Twenty years ago, many instructors would have described the syllabus as a “table of contents” or, alternatively, a “contract.” Today’s books on college teaching and course design are likely to draw on different metaphors: the syllabus is a map or travelogue, as it both describes the intended destination and explains why one might want to go in the first place (Nilson, 27).

The most effective syllabus goes beyond listing the logistics and the topics covered in the course – it (a) articulates the conceptual framework for the course; (b) introduces students to the key questions or problems facing experts in the field; (c) suggests the ways in which an understanding of the course subject matters; and (d) identifies the specific skills and knowledge students will be able to demonstrate upon completion of the course.

Typical elements of a syllabus include:

  • Title page (course title, quarter, date written, your name)
  • Contact information including your office hours
  • Course description and prerequisites
  • Student learning outcomes
  • Required material
  • Assigned work
  • A calendar or events including lecture topics, assigned work, and special announcements
  • Grading policies
  • Participation rubrics​ when appropriate
  • Course policies and student/teacher expectations (attendance, participation, tardiness, academic integrity, missing homework, missed exams)
  • Additional comments or advice to students

Required Information for DePaul Syllabuses

According to the DePaul Faculty Handbook (Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, p. 6) all syllabuses should contain the following information at a minimum:

  1. A rationale for the course stated in the context of the aims of the department and/or division;
  2. A statement on the types of instruction (i.e., lecture; lecture-discussion; lab, etc.);
  3. Specific materials required for the course (books, pamphlets, library materials, etc.);
  4. Proposed major and minor topics to be covered in the course;
  5. Specific required readings, and written and oral assignments (inclusion of tentative dates for such assignments is desirable);
  6. Specific descriptions of the criteria and methods (i.e., nature of quizzes and examinations) to be used by the instructor in evaluating students’ academic performance;
  7. Statement on plagiarism;
  8. Instructor’s office number and office hours for the term in which the course is being offered.

Sample Syllabus Statements

Academic Integrity

General Statement

DePaul University is a learning community that fosters the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas within a context that emphasizes a sense of responsibility for oneself, for others and for society at large. Violations of academic integrity, in any of their forms, are, therefore, detrimental to the values of DePaul, to the students’ own development as responsible members of society, and to the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas. Violations include but are not limited to the following categories: cheating; plagiarism; fabrication; falsification or sabotage of research data; destruction or misuse of the university’s academic resources; alteration or falsification of academic records; and academic misconduct. Conduct that is punishable under the Academic Integrity Policy could result in additional disciplinary actions by other university officials and possible civil or criminal prosecution. Please refer to your Student Handbook or visit Academic Integrity at DePaul University (http://academicintegrity.depaul.edu) for further details.

For more example syllabus statements, including abbreviated versions and versions highlighting areas of concern such as cheating and plagiarism, visit the Academic Integrity website.​​

Center for Students with Disabilities

Students seeking disability-related accommodations are required to register with DePaul’s Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) enabling you to access accommodations and support services to assist your success. There are two office locations:

  • Loop Campus – Lewis Center #1420 – (312) 362-8002
  • Lincoln Park Campus – Student Center #370 – (773) 325-1677
Students who are registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities are also invited to contact me privately to discuss how I may assist in facilitating the accommodations you will use in this course. This is best done early in the term. Our conversation will remain confidential to the extent possible.

Taken from the Center for Students with Disabilities.

Writing Center

I strongly recommend you make use of the Writing Center throughout your time at DePaul. The Writing Center provides free peer writing tutoring for DePaul students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Writing Center tutors work with writers at all stages of the writing process, from invention to revision, and they are trained to identify recurring issues in your writing as well as address any specific questions or areas that you want to talk about. Visit www.depaul.edu/writing for more information.

For a more comprehensive statement you can use, visit the Writing Center’s website.

Dean of Students Office

The Dean of Students Office (DOS)​ promotes student learning and ethical decision making in an inclusive and validating environment. Utilizing a comprehensive approach to student advocacy that is informed by DePaul’s Catholic, Vincentian, and urban mission, the office collaborates with students, staff, faculty, parents and community partners to support students in reaching their academic and personal success.
The Dean of Students Office is primarily responsible for administering and adjudicating violations of the Code of Student Responsibility at DePaul University. Additionally, the office provides the administrative withdrawal and absence notification process, and can help students identify campus and community resources in times of personal and/or family crises and medical emergencies. 

Online Teaching Evaluations

Instructor and course evaluations provide valuable feedback that can improve teaching and learning. The greater the level of participation, the more useful the results. As students, you are in the unique position to view the instructor over time. Your comments about what works and what doesn't can help faculty build on the elements of the course that are strong and improve those that are weak. Isolated comments from students and instructors’ peers may also be helpful, but evaluation results based on high response rates may be statistically reliable. As you experience this course and material, think about how your learning is impacted.

Your honest opinions about your experience in and commitment to the course and your learning may help improve some components of the course for the next group of students. Positive comments also show the department chairs and college deans the commitment of instructors to the university and teaching evaluation results are one component used in annual performance reviews (including salary raises and promotion/tenure). The evaluation of the instructor and course provides you an opportunity to make your voice heard on an important issue – the quality of teaching at DePaul. Don't miss this opportunity to provide feedback!

Developed by the Driehaus College of Business.

Internet-Enabled Devices: For Learning Only

While in the classroom, internet-enabled devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and smartwatches can ONLY be used for the purpose of learning as required by the instructor. No texting, emailing, or web browsing is allowed in the classroom. Violation will result in losing all of the 10% class performance grade.

Sexual and Relationship Violence

As a DePaul community, we share a commitment to take care of one another. Classroom relationships are based on trust and communication. Sometimes, material raised in class may bring up issues for students related to sexual and relationship violence. In other instances, students may reach out to faculty as a source of help and support. It is important for students to know that faculty are required to report information reported to them about experiences with sexual or relationship violence to DePaul's Title IX Coordinator. Students should also know that disclosing experiences with sexual or relationship violence in course assignments or discussion does not constitute a formal report to the University and will not begin the process of DePaul providing a response. Students seeking to report an incident of sexual or relationship violence to DePaul should contact Public Safety (Lincoln Park: 773-325-7777; Loop: 312-362-8400) or the Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator (Lincoln Park: 773-325-7290; Loop: 312-362-8066 or titleixcoordinator@depaul.edu). Students seeking to speak confidentially about issues related to sexual and relationship violence should contact a Survivor Support Advocate in the Office of Health Promotion & Wellness for information and resources (773-325-7129 or hpw@depaul.edu). More information is available at http://studentaffairs.depaul.edu/hpw/shvp.html. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these services and to seek help around sexual and relationship violence for themselves as well as their peers who may be in need of support.

Student Success

Your success is our number one priority at DePaul University. University resources to help you succeed include computer labs, free or discounted software, tutoring centers, health services, and services for designated groups, such as veterans and students with disabilities. Visit go.depaul.edu/success​ to learn more.

Lynda.com Online Training

DePaul students, faculty and staff have free unlimited access to Lynda.com, which offers a large library of video tutorials across a range of topics, from how to use popular software titles such as Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office to practical advice on saving time and being productive. Visit bit.ly/depaul-lynda to learn more.​

Service Learning - Protection of Minor Children Policy

Students placed at community organizations that work with minors (under 18 years of age) are required to complete the Illinois Mandated Reporter training designed to help them understand the state mandated reporter laws and requirements for recognizing and reporting child abuse. Training must be completed prior to beginning service at the site. Students should complete the mandated reporter training in D2L by week two of the quarter. ​

Other Considerations

Conceptual Framework of Course
In its review of recent literature on cognition and learning, the National Resource Council found that "organizing information into a conceptual framework allows for greater 'transfer'; that is, it allows the student to apply what was learned in new situations and to learn related information more quickly" (17).

The specific skills and knowledge students will possess upon leaving the course.
Articulating clear and specific learning outcomes for students will help them develop control over their own learning; they'll be able to grasp what is expected of them, measure their progress with respect to the outcomes; and seek help in the areas that continue to elude them.

Value of Course
Consider explaining to students how they might use what they learn in your course in their other classes or, better yet, in their everyday lives.

Degree Requirements

Informing your students of where the course fits in with their degree program and DePaul career as a whole helps create a sense of continuity and purpose.

Avoid Ambiguous Grading Criteria
“Evaluating student work is hard enough as it is, and students will challenge grades. Make sure you can calculate grades objectively. It’s probably a bad idea to give a lot of weight to a subjective factor such as class participation, unless you’re teaching a small symposium and can clearly justify how you assess each student’s achievement” (Weir, 2009).

Develop a Cast-in-Stone Policy on Excuses
“The less wiggle room, the better. My own policy — stated in the syllabus — is that the only accepted excuses for late work or missed exams are documented medical emergencies or requests from an academic dean. No exceptions. All others receive a half letter-grade deduction for every 24 hours (or portion thereof) an assignment is late. Sound unreasonable? I get fewer complaints than when I made case-by-case decisions. Everyone thinks his or her excuse is legit. Do you want to judge? Not I” (Weir, 2009).

Further Reading

Grunert, J. (1997). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Nilson, Linda. (2003). “The complete syllabus”. Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company. (Available at the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment).

Wasley, Paula. (2008). “Research Yields Tips on Crafting Better Syllabi.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(27), A11.

Wasley, Paula. (2008). “The Syllabus Becomes a Repository of Legalese.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(27), A1.

Weir, Rob. (2009). "Dancing With Kate Smith." Inside Higher Education.

Write the Syllabus from Carnegie Mellon includes practical information on when to write a syllabus, general advice, and writing creative syllabi.

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