Menu Adam R Brown


Poli 110 (fall 2019)

Professor Adam Brown (about me)
Office phone: (801) 422-2182
Office: 772 KMBL

Current syllabus:
Syllabus version: December 12th, 2019

My office hours: See grid below, or email for an appointment.

See the online version of the syllabus for TA names and contact information.

Teaching assistants. Unless you need a specific TA, email the TA whose name appears first below. (Names are shuffled each time you reload the page.) See the "Teaching Assistants" section later in this syllabus to learn what TAs can do for you.

Cassidy Crosby
cassidycrosby13 <at> gmail <dot> com

Ethan Carlson
ethan <dot> carlson3 <at> gmail <dot> com

Mitchell Bertonneau
mitchbertonneau <at> gmail <dot> com

Emma Miller
emmammill <at> yahoo <dot> com

Chris Joyner
cbjoyner4 <at> gmail <dot> com

Eliza Bennett
elizarbennett <at> gmail <dot> com

Nikki Smith
nikki <dot> alex <dot> smith <at> gmail <dot> com

Sophie Plantamura
sophieplantamura <at> gmail <dot> com

Jody Messick
jodymessick <at> gmail <dot> com

Cosmo Cougar

Office hours and group sessions. TAs and I hold individual office hours where you can drop in for one-on-one help. Beginning in week 3, TAs will hold group Q&A sessions to review readings and lectures; think of these as TA-led study groups. Find the "how to get help" heading below for more information.

Office hours and review opportunities for the remainder of the semester now appear at the very bottom of the syllabus.

What's this course about?

Here is the BYU catalog's course description for Poli 110: "Origin and development of federal Constitution; national, state, and local governments and politics." Let's unpack that. This course consists of three major units:

This course meets general education requirements. We will discuss the scientific methods, theories, and assumptions used to study human behavior to satisfy the social science requirement. This course also contributes to the American heritage requirement. See the GE foundation documents for detail.

All the above motivates this course's official learning outcomes:

Required materials (and ways to save)

Course reserve link:

Required to read, optional to purchase: Kernell et al., The Logic of American Politics. 7th, 8th, or 9th edition. A free PDF copy (8th edition) is available for download through course reserve, as are several hard copies (various editions, 2-hour checkout). If you prefer hard copy, buy used on Amazon: 7th, 8th, 9th. The examples change in each edition, but the core concepts change minimally. Still, a caveat (that has never been a problem in practice): Relying on an older edition does not provide grounds to appeal an exam question that draws on the current one. Pro-tip: Use the practice quizzes and other study resources at the book's website.

Required to read, optional to purchase: Brown, Utah Politics and Government. A free PDF copy is available for download through course reserve, as are a few hard copies (on 2-hour checkout). If you prefer hard copy, the press waives my royalty for BYU students, saving you 30%, but you must order directly from the press (online or 800-848-6224) and use discount code 6UTPO. Also in the BYU Store and on Amazon. We will use Utah's political system as a frequent comparison point to the national system. This book also helps satisfy BYU students' natural curiosity about Latter-day Saints and politics.

Required to purchase: An iClicker, iClicker++, or iClicker2. Those are Amazon links; buy used. The original iClicker usually sells cheapest (used). You must have your own, and you must register it using this link. Some courses use a different link, so be careful. Fresh batteries will probably last the whole semester. You receive credit only if you use your iClicker in the section you are registered for.

Required: Daily news summary from the New York Times. Visit this link and subscribe to the Morning Briefing email (remember to uncheck all the other possible subscriptions). I have no particular attachment to the NYT, and I encourage you to consume news from a variety of sources. But at a minimum, you should be familiar with the stories highlighted in this daily email—which may mean clicking through to read longer stories. After allowing a few free clicks each month, you'll hit the NYT paywall. Consider a student discount digital subscription, or get free access via the BYU library. I include news questions in iclicker quizzes but not in exams. News items from any day of the week are fair game.

Assignments, grading, and important policies

10% Quizzes (mostly iclickers)
21% Debate papers (download instructions and submit online)
20% Midterm 1
20% Midterm 2
29% Final exam (29% = 20% new material + 9% comprehensive)
Bonus Enrichment activities (download instructions and submit online)
Bonus Government meetings (download instructions and submit online)

You are responsible for all the information in this syllabus, recognizing that a syllabus is a plan, not a contract. Check your email daily for updates, including your spam. Visit me or a TA with questions.

Course website. You will need to log in to the course website using a password I will provide after the add deadline. If you worry that your account has been compromised, inform me immediately.

What to do if you miss class. Please do not spread illness. If you have more than a minor cold, you owe it to yourself and others to stay home. You do not need to contact me with an excuse. No matter why you miss class, you are responsible for material you miss. Get notes from a classmate or two; just ask whoever sits near you, or attend a TA Q&A session to meet students interested in studying together. After reviewing those notes, the slides, and readings, visit me or a TA to ask your lingering questions.

If you must arrive late or leave early, you do not need my permission. Respect your peers by choosing a seat that minimizes disruption, and read the above paragraph about missing class.

iClickers, dropped quizzes, and (optional) enrichment assignments. Research shows that frequent low-stakes quizzes improve learning. Quizzes emphasize assigned readings, recent lectures, and current events. Because my goal is not to enforce attendance, I drop your 3 lowest scores—meaning I remove it from both the numerator and denominator. Each time you submit an (optional) enrichment assignment (up to twice) I will drop 3 more, making it possible to drop a total of 9. I may also provide opportunities to earn quiz credit for out of class activities (like course evaluations); these go into both the numerator and the denominator.

Written assignments are due at 4pm. Late policy: I accept late work only to accommodate emergencies and documented disabilities. If you're not sure what qualifies, ask. You will submit written assignments online. I provide a multiday submission window; submit early enough to preempt unforeseen circumstances. The system will accept submissions without penalty until midnight, but I consider all assignments due by 4pm. If an internet outage or technical problem with the website arises prior to 4pm, tell me and I will either fix the problem or extend the deadline. If a problem arises after 4pm, you will receive a zero.

(Optional) government meeting assignment. I encourage you to attend local government meetings to observe politics in practice. If you complete this government meeting assignment, I will raise your worst debate paper score (at the semester's end) by 15 percentage points, even if goes above 100. Complete it twice for 30 points.

Grade appeals process for written work. TAs and I are happy to discuss your graded paper with you and suggest ways to improve, which is usually more productive than revisiting past grades. Still, I value fair and consistent grading, and I take appeals seriously. Actual appeals must come to me—not a TA. Cool off for 24 hours before appealing, but submit your request within a week. To appeal send me a one-sentence email requesting that I review the grade, no justification needed. I will refer your essay to another TA. If the new TA assigns roughly the same grade, I will not change anything. Otherwise, I will adjudicate the discrepancy by reading your paper myself (without checking the original grade) and assigning a score. The grade I assign stands, whether it is higher or lower. (When there are only a handful of appeals, I skip the middle step and move directly to assigning a grade myself.) Because your grade can go up or down, do not appeal unless you are confident there was an error.

Missed exams. If you know of a conflict in advance, email me beforehand to arrange an alternative time. If you miss an exam because of unforeseen circumstances, contact me as soon as possible to work things out. Each exam will be in the Testing Center for several days. Take exams early enough to preempt unexpected problems.

Final exam mercy rule: If you do better on the final than on one or both of the midterms, then whichever midterm you perform worst on will have its weight reduced by 5 percentage points and the final will have its weight increased by 5 percentage points.

Do you have a disability? I want you to succeed. Please find the "equal opportunity" heading below.

Do you have a university-excused absence letter? I treat university travel the same as other excusable absences such as illnesses, disabilities, personal and family emergencies, and so on. I have probably already built enough flexibility into this syllabus to accommodate your travel: The provisions for dropped quizzes are for you. I do not need to see your letter unless (1) you will miss an entire exam period, or (2) official travel will cause you to miss more quizzes than you can drop with enrichment assignments. Visit with me if you have questions.

A freshman FAQ: Nearly all faculty at BYU hold doctorates in their respective fields. Most exceptions you will encounter are adjunct instructors in the freshman writing program. Unless directed otherwise, address university faculty as Professor or Doctor So-and-So. ("Doctrine" means "that which is taught," and "doctor" originally meant "one who teaches.") Some students belittle my female colleagues without realizing it by calling them "Sister" while calling male faculty "Professor"; don't.

How to get help, and teaching assistants' role

Office hours provide drop-in opportunities for help, with no appointment needed. Both TAs and I hold office hours. See the schedule above. Receive one-on-one help with papers, lecture review, test prep, and so on. If you need to meet with a specific person whose hours conflict with your schedule, email for an appointment.

Q&A sessions: We will hold frequent Q&A sessions. We open by briefly highlighting essential or confusing material, then we take questions. Sessions adjourn when questions stop. Attendance is often low enough that these wind up as TA-led study groups, a great format for improving comprehension. See the schedule above.

Help with papers. Before writing a draft, bring an outline to office hours, since a good discussion will probably improve your argument more than asking me or a TA to read a draft. If you mostly want help with grammar or mechanics, visit the FHSS writing lab or the BYU writing center.

TA boundaries. It is inappropriate to ask a TA on a date or offer a gift before grades are posted. It is also inappropriate to offer a TA money for tutoring; their services are free to students in this course.

Difficulty, grade cutoffs, curving, and workload

Is this a weeder class? No. Weeders ensure only the "best" students enter a certain major. If your major requires "pre-major" courses, those are weeders. You can fail Poli 110 and still declare in political science.

Can non-majors succeed? Yes. Only 10-20% of Poli 110 students are majors, and majors perform no better on average than non-majors. In introductory GE courses, grades mostly reflect effort and dedication.

So grades are based on effort? No. But consider sage counsel from Thomas S. Monson: "Thinking is the hardest work anyone can do, which is probably the reason why we have so few thinkers.... What the public takes for brilliance is really the result of thorough, painstaking investigation and downright hard work." (In "Constant Truths," Pathways to Perfection.)

Do you curve? Uncurved cutoffs are 93.0+ A, 90.0+ A-, 87.0+ B+, 83.0+ B, etc. I never curve down. I curve up when needed by lowering cutoffs to ensure at least a quarter of students earn an A/A- and at least two-thirds earn a B- or better. Grades below C- are rare for those who attend regularly and complete all assignments. This distribution resembles those found in other introductory social science courses. I curve before adding bonus assignments to your score, so that students who choose not to complete optional assignments face no penalty.

How much time should students spend on this class? At BYU, "The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (source). BYU defines an A as "excellent," a B as "good," and a C as "satisfactory." Thus, an "average student" (29.5 ACT, 3.86 high school GPA) who is "appropriately prepared" should plan on 9 hours per week to "satisfy" (B or C) course requirements, while "much more time may be required" to "achieve excellence" (an A). More generally, an average student enrolled for 15 credits should plan 45 hours for school each week to maintain a B or C average. Plan on more time out of class than in.

Tips for success

Performing well requires (1) comprehending the material and (2) retaining what you have comprehended. Reexposure (reviewing notes, re-reading books, attending review sessions) boosts comprehension, but research demonstrates that retention requires different strategies.

Improving comprehension of lectures.

Improving comprehension of readings.

Improving retention. Retrieval aids retention more than reexposure does. Retrieval means forcing yourself to try remembering something. Retrieval boosts learning even more when you retrieve regularly. Retrieving for 15 minutes three times a week is more effective than retrieving for 60 minutes once a week. Your study should include only enough reexposure to ensure comprehension. After that, emphasize retrieval as your study strategy.

Improving your writing. Writing in the social sciences means defending a position. Debate papers must have (1) a central claim, clearly stated as you open and close; (2) logical arguments (reasons) that support your claim; and (3) compelling evidence that supports your reasons.

General suggestions

A matter of a few degrees. Consider a true story related by Dieter Uchtdorf:

In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. This error placed the aircraft 28 miles (45 km) to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before, and they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus....

By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.

It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees....

Remember: the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways...

Though he had a different point, we can apply this story to school: Good grades don't go to those who never make mistakes, but to those who recognize when they go off course and take prompt corrective action. If an exam or paper early in the course comes back with a lower score than you hoped, then read and apply the study tips listed above. Visit me or a TA for help. Don't wait until the volcano has filled your windshield.

University policies and resources

Plagiarism and cheating

While all students sign the honor code, there are still specific skills most students need to master over time in order to correctly cite sources, especially online sources, as well as deal with the stress and strain of college life without resorting to cheating. As your professor, I will notice instances of cheating on exams or plagiarizing on papers. Even if the plagiarism was unintentional, it will have serious consequences for your grade. General information about the honor code can be found at Details about Academic Honesty are found in the university catalog

Writing submitted for credit at BYU must consist of the student's own ideas presented in sentences and paragraphs of the student's own construction. The work of other writers or speakers may be included when appropriate (as in a research paper or book review), but such material must support the student's own work (not substitute for it) and must be clearly identified by appropriate introduction ("According to so-and-so...") and punctuation (such as quotation marks) and by footnoting or other standard referencing. Take care with your notetaking to track sources and to differentiate quotations you have jotted down from paraphrases you have written. Unintentional plagiarism caused by sloppy notetaking is still plagiarism.

Substituting another person's work for the student's own or including another person's work without adequate acknowledgment (whether done intentionally or not) is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a violation of academic, ethical, moral, and legal standards and can result in a failing grade not only for the paper but also for the course in which the paper is written. In extreme cases, it can justify expulsion from the university. Because of the seriousness of these consequences, students who wonder if their papers are within these guidelines should visit the Writing Lab or consult with their professor or TA. Useful books to consult on the topic include the current Harbrace College Handbook, the MLA Handbook, and James D. Lester's Writing Research Papers.

Counseling and stress management

Most lifelong mental illnesses emerge in adolescence and early adulthood—the typical college students' age. If you experience frequent sadness, worry, fear, inability to focus, nightmares, forgetfulness, or extreme mood changes; if you are withdrawing socially by avoiding friends and social activities; if you experience significant changes in sleeping habits or eating habits; if you are abusing alcohol, prescription medications, or other substances; or if you are thinking about hurting yourself, then please talk to somebody. You may find that all is well, but please find out.

Mental health concerns and stressful life events can affect students' academic performance and quality of life. BYU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS, 1500 WSC, 801-422-3035, provides individual, couples, and group counseling, as well as stress management services. These services are confidential and are provided by the university at no cost for full-time students. For general information please visit For more immediate concerns please visit

Equal opportunity

Disabilities: Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (801-422-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the UAC office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Office at 801-422-5895, D-282 ASB

Going beyond the boilerplate language above: If you have a disability, please visit the University Accessibility Center to receive an accommodation letter. Then, contact me to inform me of the accommodation letter and to request specific accommodations based on it. The letter will not disclose the disability and I will not ask. I will work with you to identify appropriate accommodations supported by the letter. If you wish to discuss accommodations, I am happy to schedule an appointment at any time, including outside office hours if needed.

Discrimination and sexual misconduct: In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "sexual misconduct" prohibited by the university. University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of sexual misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of sexual misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day). BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by sexual misconduct, including the university's Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university's Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university's Title IX Coordinator.

Reading schedule

Dates and deadlines are subject to change. You can also view the reading schedule in calendar format.