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The Purpose and Content of a Syllabus

The Purpose and Content of a Syllabus

Author: Alison DeRudder

Choose the right course for your needs and interpret the syllabus to understand success criteria.

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what's covered
This tutorial covers the purpose of a syllabus in higher education and the components of a syllabus. Here is what will be discussed:
  1. The Purpose of a Syllabus
  2. The Elements of a Syllabus

1. The Purpose of a Syllabus

A syllabus is a document that you will receive generally on or before the first day of class. The purpose of this document is to outline the objectives of the course and what you are expected to do as a student in the class. In other words, this document should help you understand how to be successful and get the grade you want. You will get one syllabus for each class you enroll in.

A syllabus can come to you in different forms. It can be printed out on paper and handed out in class. It can be included in an email from your instructor as an attached document. It can be made available on a course website. No matter what format your syllabus arrives in, it is a key to your success in the course. The syllabus is essentially a handbook or instruction manual for your course, and just like if you were building furniture rather than your education, you’re going to want to read the directions carefully to make sure everything goes well for you.

2. The Elements of a Syllabus

A syllabus is generally written by your instructor and contains all kinds of information pertaining to your course. Your syllabus will usually begin with the basic details of the course, such as the course name and number, your instructor’s name and contact information, and the time and location that the course meets, or the course website, if applicable.


Below is an example of what a syllabus may look like.


Next you would typically find a summary of the course and possibly a section on the goals or objectives of the course. This is an area you will want to Most syllabuses (or “syllabi” if you really want to get into the collegiate mindset) will include information about specific policies and procedures having to do with attendance, participation, grading, academic honesty, the use of technology, and much more. Often, a syllabus concludes with a schedule or calendar of readings and assignment due dates. You may be wondering what to do with all of this information. The next tutorial discusses how to use the syllabus.

This tutorial covered what a syllabus is, its purpose and its contents.