Information about the Course
Course name, number, meeting times, number of credits
The professor lists the location of his or her office, office hours (times that he or she is in the office and available for meeting with students), phone number, email, and website, if relevant.
Textbook, supplemental books, and articles are listed. Books generally are available in the campus bookstore and sometimes are on reserve in library. Articles are sometimes offered for purchase in the book store, other times are on reserve in the library, and increasingly common, are available on a course or library webpage.
Most syllabi list the items that compose your grade, for example, midterm, paper, and final, as well as the percent each item is worth.
Additional sections often discuss each course component. You might find a section on exams, for example, that lists information about when they occur, what form they take, as well as the professor's policy on making up exams. Pay particular attention to sections discussing papers and other written assignments. Look for information about the assignment. What are you expected to do? When is the final assignment due? Are you expected to consult the professor prior to beginning your paper or project? Is a first draft required? If so, when?
Many professors count participation as part of the grade. Often they will include a section in the syllabus describing what they mean by participation and how they assess it. If not, then ask. Professors sometimes say that they simply record it and provide few details on how. If that's the case you might consider visiting during office hours in a few weeks to inquire about your participation, whether it is satisfactory, and whether the professor has any suggestions, just to be safe. Many times participation is used as a synonym for attendance and professors may list it in order to address students who do not show up for class.
Many professors provide guidelines for class behavior, often in the form of what not to do. Common items address the use of cell phones and laptops, tardiness, respecting others, talking in class, and attention. Sometimes guidelines for class discussions are included. In this section or sometimes a separate section, professors often will list their policies regarding late assignments and their make-up polices. Pay particular attention to these policies and use them to guide your behavior.
Most syllabi include a schedule listing due dates for reading and other assignments.
Reading lists are particularly common in graduate classes. Professors list additional readings that are pertinent to the topic. Usually the list is exhaustive. Understand that this list is for reference. Professors likely will not tell you this, but they don't expect you to read the items on the reading list. If you have a paper assignment, however, consult these items to determine if any are of use.