Understanding Syllabus Assignments

Class Policies and Assignments Explained
Robert J. Young

Note: While not all of my courses have all of the following components, this information should prove helpful to any student taking my classes. This page explains the various components of my syllabi, and the expectations communicated by specific assignments.

A major challenge to most students is the matter of reading. I expect students to read, if not for specific content and testing, for orientation in the subject material. Students who do not have rapid reading (scanning and processing) skills are encouraged to consult materials such as Adler's How to Read a Book to become familiar with various ways to handle reading materials.
In addition to required or recommended texts, most of my courses include a course bibliography either as part of the syllabus or a separate handout. Generally, course bibliographies are separate from the required or recommended textbooks, although required and recommended textbooks may appear in the course bibliography.

Required texts are used as textbooks in the class, and the student is expected to read the texts and become familiar with the content of the texts regardless of the level of class discussion or presentation related to the texts. The student should raise questions concerning the materials in the texts and integrate text content into the overall learning of the class. If a student does not understand material in a text, questions beyond the discussion should be raised in class.

Recommended texts are suggestions for students desiring to make good book purchases in addition to required texts. If material from recommended texts is required reading, such texts are placed on reserve in the college library.

Bibliographic listings are of two kinds: required readings and suggested readings.
Required Readings: Students are often required to read materials that are not a part of the textbooks they purchased. Such required readings are placed on reserve in the library.
Recommended Supplemental Readings: Students may be encouraged to read recommended supplemental readings which are not a part of class discussion or presentation. Such readings provide perspective in the content of the course and will likely be useful in answering subjective test questions.

Readings (general information):
Each student should attempt to complete (or at least become familiar with) the required readings for the course as soon as possible in the order suggested by the professor.
Students should not consider supplemental reading lists complete. In almost every class, additional volumes available in the college library will prove invaluable. Nor all of the volumes listed available in the college library. A number of good books and readings may be found which are neither on this list nor in the college library. The student is encouraged to explore the subject matter of the class. Special attention should be given to increasing awareness of recent periodical literature.

In many of my classes, each student is asked to write one or more papers which discusses class materials or related topics. Of interest to the professor, and hence, to the grade of the paper, is the quality of the discussion, i.e. thoroughness and breadth of discussion, relevance, overall awareness of the area, supporting materials, organization of the treatment, etc., concerning the topic or book being treated. Papers must be more than exercises in freewriting. Papers should exhibit thoughtful organization of materials which adequately treat the topic or book. Major materials should not be excluded from the paper, and the paper should seek to make thoughtful application of the topic to the student's situation. The student must manifest in the paper an awareness of the topic, demonstrating research methodology as well as conclusion.
The Bible department has adopted Turabian (5th ed.) as the style manual for upper level work. Students must follow this style manual unless prior permission is obtained.
The research paper guidelines will be used in assigning a final grade to the paper. Some papers may have some components graded separately. If so, the overall weight of the paper in the class grade or the importance of individual items may be altered. Such changes are clearly outlined in course syllabi.
Papers must be supported by scholarly research, well documented, and must manifest independent thinking. If papers are presented in class, the schedule for papers will be discussed in class and will generally correspond to class discussion. If papers are presented in class, each student will make a brief presentation of his or her paper in class and will lead the class in a discussion of the issues raised in the paper.
The paper must be typed, doubled spaced, and of appropriate length, not including the title page and bibliography which must conform to Turabian. (Papers should not be single spaced unless specific permission is given by the professor. Page assignments are designed to reflect doubled spaced work, 27 lines per page.) Shorter papers of 5 pages or less do not need a title page. Such papers should place all pertinent information in a block--student name, assignment description, date due, date submitted if different from date due, class and professor--single spaced and justified right beginning one inch from the top of the page. The title of the paper (if applicable) should appear three spaces below the last line of the information block, centered on the page. All papers, regardless of length, must be in proper academic form, with no plastic or other binder, on white paper and black ink in a single font of at least 10 and not more than 12. Footnotes, not endnotes, are required when applicable. Papers must not be justified. Justified papers cannot reflect appropriate spacing as required by Turabian, and will lose at least one letter grade (10%) for mechanics.

In some courses, annotated bibliographies of the required reading materials for the course are assigned. It is expected that the student will reflect on these readings in the development of the paper discussed above. In some courses, students are asked to submit a paper composed of abstracts of articles or books applicable to the class. Students may write abstracts of articles they have read firsthand. Abstracts found in other sources, both hardcopy and internet, may be cited, but a copy of the abstract as published must be attached to the paper with sufficient documentation to allow appropriate matching of the citation and the article. Each student should work independently in this task. Students who surface relevant materials not found by other students will generally receive additional credit.

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Last updated March 22, 2008.