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This might be a bit of a strange question, but here goes:

I am proposing my own course for the first time and am currently working on the course abstract (meaning the summary of the course that'll go up in the course catalogue, department website etc). Now in the abstract I obviously try to talk about the contents of the course and sell it to students. My course proposal (and later my syllabus) will have weekly required readings and a bibliography.

Now, again, this might sound strange, but I am wondering whether everything I say in my abstract needs to be backed up by readings from the required readings/bibliography? Basically, if I were to footnote the abstract (obviously course abstracts usually don't have footnotes), would I need to be able to footnote every statement in the abstract with works from the required readings/bibliography? Or (as I think) am I mixing up an academic abstract/article with a course summary here?

To give an example: Let's say I propose a course on the history of public health in Europe and mention in the course abstract that we will also cover the impact of major political events on public health administration and then one of the examples of such events I list is World War I. Would that be okay even if none of the readings listed in the syllabus deals with this as long as I mention it (based on other materials) in one of my lectures later on in the actual course?

My thinking is that as long as I cover everything mentioned in the abstract later in the course in my lectures and/or seminars that should be fine and it doesn't matter whether or not the required readings/bibliography in the proposal/syllabus cover it.

Is this correct?

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    Look at the matches between course abstracts and course syllabi and talk to professors at your school to get a sense of the extent to which they usually match. I doubt that there's a "have to" requirement. May 27, 2023 at 1:16
  • @EthanBolker Mmh, a bit difficult. I would need to read all their required readings wouldn't I? Also, syllabi are not necessarily public (apart for a few for intro classes) May 27, 2023 at 6:31

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This answer is institution dependent and only based on my experience. You should make sure that your syllabus and description follow whatever guidelines your university has.

Most course descriptions I have come across are not very detailed. They are meant to be very broad overviews of what is covered and, as you say, to "sell" the class to students. Required readings in a course syllabus are (let's be realistic) generally more of suggestions for students anyway. Whatever specific topics your course covers should be addressed in the syllabus. The same goes for weekly reading assignments. You may chose to include extra relevant external sources as suggested readings but you don't have to "cite" everything you intend to cover in the description (meaning you don't have to point to a specific reading for every topic).

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  • Thanks, this is useful. To be honest, my Department is pretty laissez-faire on these issues, meaning people just seem to do things like these as they see fit. One clarification: "The same goes for weekly reading assignments. You may chose to include extra relevant external sources as suggested readings but you don't have to "cite" everything you intend to cover in the description." When you say this, do you mean I don't have to list readings for everything I promise to cover in the abstract of the course or elsewhere in the syllabus? May 27, 2023 at 7:35

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