Menu Adam R Brown


Poli 110 (fall 2023)

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

Current syllabus:
Syllabus version: December 4th, 2023

Office hours and review sessions. See the online version of the syllabus for current office hours.

Office hours and review sessions. Drop into office hours for one-on-one help or attend a review session for group help, ending when questions cease. Email for an appointment if you need to see a specific person whose usual hours conflict with your schedule.


8:40-9:40a Brown
772 KMBL

2-3:15p Sarah
849 KMBL

5-6p Katie
Zoom (click here)


8-10a Anne
Zoom (click here)

12-1p Will
849 KMBL

1-2p Joe
849 KMBL

2-3:30p Savannah
849 KMBL

3:30-4:30p Sarah
849 KMBL
Not held 12/5


9:45-10:45a Katie
849 KMBL

2-3p Isabelle
849 KMBL

3-5p Joe
849 KMBL
Not held 12/6


8-10a Anne
Zoom (click here)

10-10:50a, Brown
772 KMBL

12-1:30p Sarah
849 KMBL

1:30-2:30p, Brown
772 KMBL

2:30-3:30p Savannah
849 KMBL

4-5p Derek
849 KMBL


11a-12p Will
849 KMBL

12-1p Review

2-4p Isabelle
849 KMBL

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

Teaching assistants. For quick questions that may be answered in a sentence or two, email whichever TA appears first; they shuffle with each reload. Please bring longer questions to office hours. Bring sensitive questions (emergencies, accommodations, etc) to Dr Brown.

wthoma20 <at> byu <dot> edu

savrex01 <at> byu <dot> edu

wkatie <at> byu <dot> edu

wdyoung3 <at> byu <dot> edu

sgore13 <at> byu <dot> edu

jbp75 <at> byu <dot> edu

minnick2 <at> byu <dot> edu

ilowe1 <at> byu <dot> edu

What's this course about?

The university catalog provides this description for Poli 110: "Origin and development of federal Constitution; national, state, and local governments and politics." To cover all that, I have organized this course into three major units:

Along the way, we will satisfy the social science general education requirement by discussing methods and theories used to study human behavior. Combined with a course on US history or economics, this course also satisfies the American heritage GE requirement. All the above motivates this course's official learning outcomes:

Required materials

Download free electronic copies of required books using this link:

Required: Kernell et al., The Logic of American Politics, 10th, 9th, or 8th edition. Download a free PDF (10e) through course reserve or buy used: 10e, 9e, 8e. Examples change in each edition, but core concepts change minimally. Caveat, though this has never arisen: Relying on an older edition does not provide grounds to appeal an exam question. Find practice quizzes at the book's website.

Required: Brown, Utah Politics and Government. We will use Utah's political system as a comparison point to the national one. Free PDF through course reserve or, if you prefer, buy on Amazon.

Required: You must follow American political news. Sign up for "The Morning," free from the New York Times, to ensure you see all stories I might use in quizzes. The newsletter is free, but clicking links to the NYT website will lead to a paywall. Consider a student subscription, or just ensure you read details about stories that appear in The Morning from other outlets. I have no particular attachment to the Times. Consume news from a variety of mainstream sources.

Optional: If you wish, consider these: American History: A Very Short Introduction and American Politics: A Very Short Introduction.

Assignments and policies

12% Quizzes (in class)
18% Enrichment papers (download instructions  and submit online)
20% Midterm 1
20% Midterm 2
29% Final exam (29% = 20% new material + 9% comprehensive)
1% Completion of student ratings

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

Course website. You will submit assignments through this website. Using the menu at the top or bottom of this page, click "log in" then "what's my password" to reset your password. Contact me with questions.

Attendance. I expect but do not require live attendance. When needed, join by Zoom (meeting 977 2133 8471, code poli110) or get recordings via Learning Suite (click "Online" then "Cloud Recordings"). If the technology fails, get notes from a classmate. You will almost certainly earn a better grade if you attend live.

Keep your peers healthy. Stay home if you experience vomiting, nausea, coughing, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, or other symptoms of flu, covid, strep, RSV, or other illness. Overnight vomiting is usually norovirus, not food poisoning; stay home. A negative flu or covid test is not license to spread a bad cold; stay home. Wash hands often, keep vaccines current, and stay home when sick. Keep TAs and me healthy too; we will gladly meet with sick students via Zoom rather than in-person if you email for an appointment.

In-class quizzes. Research shows that frequent low-stakes quizzes improve learning. In-class quizzes emphasize readings, recent lectures, and current events. To keep stakes low, I award several points simply for participating in each quiz. I administer quizzes using Kahoot. Use your netID as your Kahoot nickname or you will not receive credit. For flexibility with illness, emergencies, disability, or official travel, I drop your four lowest (or missed) quizzes; if excusable reasons cause you to miss more than I drop, contact me.

Enrichment papers. You will submit several short enrichment papers (instructions ). For each, you will complete a brief activity then connect it intelligently to course material. If your average after 6 submissions exceeds 87%, I will bump you to 100%, making this functionally pass/fail as long as you do good work. To even out different grading styles, you do not have a set TA; for each paper, TAs receive a random batch to grade.

Late papers. Submit assignments as PDFs using this interface. I consider assignments due by the close of the business day (4:45pm) so I can help you if technical or website issues arise. As a grace period, I do not assess late penalties until midnight. However, if a technical problem after 4:45pm renders you unable to submit without my help, you will incur a late penalty. I deduct 10 percentage points per weekday, up to 3 weekdays and 30 points. If health, disability, or emergency delays you, contact me as soon as you can. Late penalties are to keep you current, not to punish you when life happens.

Paper appeals. TAs and I are happy to discuss ways to improve future papers, which is usually more productive than revisiting past grades. Still, I value fair and consistent grading, so I take appeals seriously. Because an average above 87% gets bumped to full credit, I will only consider appeals that affect your ability to stay above this average, since any other appeal is moot. Appeals must come to me, not a TA. Wait 24 hours after receiving your grade; re-read the assignment instructions, your submission, and grader comments; then, within two weeks, send me a one-sentence email requesting a review, no justification needed. I will read the paper without checking the grade and assign a score—which stands, whether higher or lower. If there are many appeals, I may first refer your essay to a new TA, reviewing it myself only if the two TA scores differ.

Exams. Open-ended writing is confined to enrichment papers. Exams are multiple choice, untimed, and in the Testing Center. After each exam, I will review each questions's statistics and inform you if I drop faulty questions.

Content of exams. I prepare one question bank based only on readings—proportionate to pages, so mostly but not exclusively from the textbook—and another based only on lectures. I intend for all questions to link to the terms or review questions found in the textbook and lecture slides; for non-textbook readings, I intend for all questions to link to the study questions that appear in the schedule below. I draw half the questions from the reading bank and half from the lecture bank, with a similar number of questions for each day of class. To the extent that readings and lectures overlap, the banks will overlap also, but remember that each tends to contain some amount of unique material. Thus, you can probably earn a C without doing any readings, but you are unlikely to do much better. See "Tips for Success" below for ideas on reading the textbook more effectively.

Missed exams: Email me beforehand if you will miss an exam. If you miss due to emergency, contact me promptly.

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.

Disabilities. You deserve an equal chance. Please find the "Inclusion, accessibility, and discrimination" heading below.

University-excused absences. I treat university travel the same as other excusable absences, such as illness. I do not need to see your travel letter unless you need to reschedule an exam or official travel will cause you to miss more quizzes than I drop. Visit me with questions.

A tip. Some students unwittingly belittle my female colleagues by calling them "Sister" while calling men "Professor" or "Doctor"; don't. (Nearly all BYU faculty hold doctorates. "Doctor" means "teacher" or "learned one" and was used by scholars for centuries before physicians coopted the title. It is related to "doctrine," meaning "that which is taught," hence "doctorate.")

Getting help

Times and locations of office hours and review sessions appear at the top of this syllabus.

Office hours provide drop-in opportunities for help from me or a teaching assistant (TA), no appointment needed. If you need to meet a specific person whose hours conflict with your schedule, email for an appointment. TAs can help you with almost anything I can—test prep, studying, papers. Only questions about disability accommodations, emergencies, or other personal matters need come directly to me.

Office hours are not limited to course-specific questions. I especially encourage first-generation students and students who feel they are scraping by at the margins to come visit me or a TA, even if all you want is to introduce yourself. We are on each other's team.

Review sessions: We will hold several review sessions. We might open by briefly highlighting essential or confusing material, but we mostly take questions. Sessions adjourn when questions stop.

Help with papers. Come early, even with only an outline, since a good discussion early on usually improves your argument more than asking me or a TA to read a complete draft. If you mostly want help with grammar, 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 pay a TA for tutoring; their services are free. TAs are your peers; treat them kindly, directing any frustrations toward me, not them.

Difficulty, grade cutoffs, curving, and workload

Is this a weeder class? No. Weeders ensure only certain 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. I am under no obligation to fail some percentage of you.

Can non-majors succeed? Yes. Only 5-15% of Poli 110 students are majors. Majors who take this course perform no better on average than non-majors, nor do seniors perform better than freshmen. In introductory GE courses, grades heavily reflect effort and dedication.

So grades are based on effort? No. But consider 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" (from "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. At the end of the semester, I curve up if needed by lowering cutoffs to ensure at least a quarter earn an A- (or better) and at least two-thirds earn a B-. I do not assign grades below C- to anyone who attends regularly, completes all work, and otherwise shows evidence of real effort.

How much should I study? "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" should plan 9 hours/week, but "much more time may be required" to "achieve excellence" (an A). College classes assume more work outside class than in. In high school, a typical AP US Government class has 180 hours of classroom time (5 hours per week, 36 weeks) to cover less material than we cover in 42 lecture hours.

Tips for success

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

Improving comprehension of lectures.

Improving comprehension of readings.

Improving retention. Retrieval aids retention more than reexposure does. Your study should include only enough reexposure to ensure comprehension; after that, emphasize retrieval as your study strategy. 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. Ideas:

Improving your writing. Writing in the social sciences usually requires defending a position. Enrichment papers are less rigorous than upper-division writing, but your analysis section should still have a point that you defend with clear logic.

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 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 scores 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 come get help. Don't wait for a volcano to fill your windshield.

Honesty and plagiarism

Writing submitted for credit must consist of your own ideas presented in your own language. When appropriate, you may include ideas from others if clearly identified by appropriate introduction ("According to...") and citation. Direct language must additionally appear in quotation marks. Take care while gathering material for your papers to track sources and to differentiate quotations you have jotted down from paraphrases you have written. Do not copy language from chatbots. Even unintentional plagiarism has consequences. Violations may result in a failing grade on an assignment or in the course. Serious violations may result in university action. Read more in the university catalog. A thesaurus does not eliminate plagiarism. Please review this short infographic about plagiarism  by Emily Myers.

Inclusion, accessibility, and discrimination

"We strive to create a community of belonging composed of students, faculty, and staff whose hearts are knit together in love. ... We value and embrace the variety of individual characteristics, life experiences and circumstances, perspectives, talents, and gifts of each member of the community and the richness and strength they bring to our community" (BYU Statement on Belonging). "The Lord expects us to teach that inclusion is a positive means toward unity and that exclusion leads to division" (Elder Gary Stevenson).

Mental health and stress management

Many lifelong mental illnesses emerge in adolescence and early adulthood. If you experience frequent sadness, worry, fear, inability to focus, nightmares, forgetfulness, or mood changes; if you are withdrawing socially by avoiding friends and activities; if you experience significant changes in sleeping or eating habits; if you are abusing alcohol, medications, or other substances; or if you are thinking about hurting yourself, then please talk to somebody. Mental health concerns, crime, family problems, 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 confidential counseling and stress management services for free to full-time students. For immediate concerns visit

Marginalized groups

President Nelson has taught, "The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God's children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent! During the Savior's earthly mission, He constantly ministered to those who were excluded, marginalized, judged, overlooked, abused, and discounted. As His followers, can we do anything less?" He also taught, "Any abuse or prejudice towards another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture or other significant identifiers is offensive to our maker."

Elder Ballard has taught, "I want anyone who is a member of the Church, who is gay or lesbian, to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do. We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing." He has also taught, "We need to ... eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. ... [T]he blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God."

People may feel vulnerable or marginalized at BYU due to their race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religious views, age, and so on. Join me in creating a compassionate learning environment where "all may be edified by all." Please visit with me if I may help you.

Accommodating disabilities

BYU is committed to providing a learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Examples include vision or hearing impairments, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, emotional disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety), learning disorders, and attention disorders. If you have a disability that impairs your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (UAC) to request a reasonable accommodation. The UAC can also assess students for learning, attention, and emotional concerns. Going further: If you have a disability, please visit the UAC to request an accommodation letter, which will spare you from needing to explain yourself over and over to each of your instructors. The letter will not disclose your disability, and I will not ask, but it will recommend to your instructors appropriate accommodations. Even if you are still waiting on the UAC letter, please talk to me about appropriate accommodations.

Title IX and sex discimination

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, BYU 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. Dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are also prohibited forms of sexual misconduct. 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, class discussion, email, or social media post. (This means I am a mandatory reporter; if you are unsure what that means, please ask.) Incidents of sexual misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at, 801-422-8692, or (24 hours) 1-888-238-1062. BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by sexual misconduct, including the university's Victim Advocate. Find further information at

Reading schedule

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