ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Write a Syllabus

Updated on May 6, 2013

Welcome to my world, please take out a #2 pencil.

As a college professor, I am often asked "How in the world did you become a college professor?" It is my considered opinion that the smart people already had real jobs. Regardless of how I got here, somehow I am now responsible for composing syllabi for the courses they make me teach.

The word syllabus is Latin for "document that will never be read." It contains a broad overview of how a specific class will proceed. We college teachers work long and hard each semester to polish and refine our syllabi to meet the needs of modern students. It makes us feel better and it kills a little time between faculty meetings.

What's supposed to be in it?

A typical syllabus typically begins with identifying information. A quick scan at the top of the first page should reveal course title/number, section, meeting time, location, and semester. This crucial information allows students to understand precisely what they will be ignoring.

Following that should be book information. Most college courses require textbooks that effectively double the cost of tuition: it is therefore crucial to define the proper version and edition of the expected book. Federal law now requires colleges to publish book information before the semester begins. Students may then obtain copies from alternate sources. It's a really good thing when the syllabus actually matches what the college is publishing. I find that including a picture of the book cover, as well as the ISBN, greatly aids students in their search to locate online copies.


SLOs, or Student Learning Outcomes, are the foundation of the course. Each SLO represents a skill or talent that the student should acquire during the semester. A comprehensive set of well-written SLOs shines like a jewel and should be prominently displayed in a syllabus. Hordes of educators working in concert with experienced and caring administrators struggle mightily to compose these bits of wisdom defining precisely what will be generally covered in the course. Sometimes we follow them.

Grading Policy

Most institutions of higher learning insist that professors assign grades, much to the consternation of students. It is wise to clearly define how grades will be calculated before assignments are assigned. Students appreciate the opportunity to look back upon a semester of heartache and realize that they earned a 59% in the course because they never turned in any homework. It's nice to see everything laid out in black and white.

Withdrawal Policy

Pragmatism dictates that a syllabus clearly explains what to do in the event of catastrophic failure. We want everyone to get a trophy, but sometimes a chronic lack of attendance gets in the way. Students need to know how to bail out.

Withdrawing from a class has become complicated, surprisingly, with the advent of socially-funded higher education. A student borrowing tuition money from the government must navigate a carefully constructed bureaucracy: if they simply stop showing up, they might actually have to pay back their loans.

Reading Schedule

As previously noted, textbooks play a prominent role in college courses. They consume valuable resources such as financial aid and space in the backpack. Many college professors attempt to integrate the textbook into the course by assigning reading. We enumerate the Reading Schedule in the syllabus so each student may achieve maximum benefit from the material in the book.

We understand that students benefit from reading the book before they come to class. We prefer not to stand in front of the assembled masses and read from the textbook. It's our job to embellish and clarify what they already read.

During class, we may relate a real-world anecdote paralleling the assigned reading. I personally enjoy discussing current events that dovetail with what the students read before they came to class.

Whoop, there it is.

Thank you for reading. You are now ready for the final exam.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Thanks, Mark.

    • Mark Ewbie profile image

      Mark Ewbie 

      6 years ago from UK

      Funny and informative - the magic combination!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)