Menu Adam R Brown


Poli 110 (winter 2023)

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

Current syllabus:
Syllabus version: March 28th, 2023

See the online version of the syllabus for current office hours.

Office hours and review sessions. Review sessions are group Q&A sessions, concluding when questions cease. Come to office hours for one-on-one help. Bring sensitive questions (emergencies, accommodations, etc) to Dr Brown. Email for an in-person or Zoom appointment if you need to see a specific person whose usual office hours conflict with your schedule.


11-11:50a, Sarah
849 KMBL

12-1:30p, Ellie
849 KMBL


12-1:15p, Brown
Not held April 4
772 KMBL

2-3p, Autumn
849 KMBL


11-11:50a, Sarah
849 KMBL

12-1:30p, Ellie
849 KMBL

4-5:30p, Isabelle
849 KMBL


8:45-10a, Brown
772 KMBL

12:30-2p, Isabelle
849 KMBL

2-3p, Blake
849 KMBL


11-11:50a, Sarah
849 KMBL

12-1p, Autumn
Zoom (click here)

1-2:30p, Blake
849 KMBL

3-4p, Review session
230 KMBL

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

Teaching assistant contact information. Email TAs with questions that may be answered in a few sentences. Questions requiring longer answers may be met with an invitation to discuss your question in office hours. Each time you load this page, TAs will appear in a different order; unless you need a specific TA, distribute the workload by emailing the TA who appears first below. See the "Teaching Assistants" section later in this syllabus to learn what TAs can do for you.

sarahegore13 <at> gmail <dot> com

ilowe2479 <at> gmail <dot> com

elliemariemitchell1 <at> gmail <dot> com

perry101298 <at> gmail <dot> com

bwaddison513 <at> gmail <dot> com

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." Unpacking that, this course consists of 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. 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 buy on Amazon.

Required: Read news daily. Subscribe to "The Morning," free from the New York Times. The newsletter is free, but if you click enough links to the NYT website you will eventually hit a paywall. Consider a student subscription or get free access via the library. 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

9% Quizzes (in class)
7% Debate paper 1 (download instructions  and submit online)
14% Four enrichment papers, 3.5% each (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
Bonus Government meetings (download instructions  and submit online)

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

Course website. You will take in-class quizzes and 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 track attendance. When needed, join by Zoom (meeting 977 2133 8471, code poli110) or get recordings via Learning Suite. 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, norovirus, strep, or other illness. Overnight vomiting is usually norovirus, not food poisoning; stay home. A negative 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 you via Zoom rather than in-person for office hours if you email and ask.

In-class quizzes. Research shows that frequent low-stakes quizzes improve learning. In-class quizzes emphasize readings, recent lectures, and current events. I will drop your four lowest (or missed) quizzes.

Debate papers. You will submit several short papers (instructions ). To promote fairness, TAs do not see your name when grading. To even out different grading styles, you do not have a set TA; for each paper, TAs receive a random batch to grade. (By class vote, this assignment was replaced with enrichment papers beginning February 22.)

Late debate papers. Submit through this website by 5pm. I do not apply late penalties until midnight, but if website outages or other problems after 5pm cause you to submit your work late, that's on you. I deduct 10 percentage points per weekday, up to 3 weekdays and 30 points. I do not accept later submissions or waive penalties except to accommodate emergencies and disabilities; if you're unsure what qualifies, ask.

Debate 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. 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 a week, 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.

Enrichment papers. You will submit several short enrichment papers, graded pass/fail (instructions ). You may submit one each Friday through April 14. Once four pass, you are done. If one fails, you may resubmit it on a later Friday (assuming there is a Friday left), unless failure stems from plagiarism or an unapproved topic. Important: Attempting to submit two reports about the same activity will be viewed as academic dishonesty on the same level as plagiarism.

Late enrichment papers. These are not accepted late. If there is still a Friday remaining in the course, submit the next week instead. If there is not, you are out of luck.

Enrichment paper appeals. If your submission does not pass, resubmit it on another Friday if there is one left. If you resubmit it and fail a second time, you may email me requesting that I look at it. Specify the date of your resubmission so I can find the right one.

Exams. Though graded separately, I view debate papers as the open-ended portion of your exam. The portion administered in the Testing Center is multiple choice and untimed. After each exam, I will review each questions's statistics and drop faulty questions.

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

Extra credit. Each time you complete this government meeting assignment  (up to twice), I raise your course percentage by 1.5 points.

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 TA, no appointment needed. Receive one-on-one help with papers, review, test prep, and so on. If you need to meet a specific person whose hours conflict with your schedule, email for an appointment.

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, even if all you want is to introduce yourself. We are on each other's team.

Review sessions: We will hold frequent 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, when all you have is 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. 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-. Grades below C- are rare for those who attend consistently and complete all work. Other introductory social science courses have similar distributions. (I add extra credit after calculating curves.)

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: 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 means defending a position. Debate papers must have (1) a central claim, clearly stated as you open and close; (2) logical arguments (reasons) supporting your claim; and (3) compelling evidence supporting each reason.

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. 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.