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Course Materials
Course Strategies

Course Outcomes

  1. Analyze current events in American politics using political science concepts.
  2. Describe the most important constitutional provisions in American national government and how they have changed over time.
  3. Explain the role individuals play in American government and what factors influence their behavior.
  4. Assess the functions and interactions of American political institutions.
  5. Evaluate how you as an individual can effectively participate in the political process.



Course Materials

Textbook: Government by the People, Revel edition (required) and Revel Course Access Code

The basic textbook for this course is Government by the People, Revel ed., national version. It is a comprehensive textbook that will introduce you to all of the major topics of the course while using many interesting examples, illustrations, graphs, and charts. Use the outlines at the start of each chapter to help you anticipate what is coming, and then review the material after you have read the chapter. Turn the chapter headings into questions, and then after you have read each section, see if you have learned the answer to the question implied by the heading. Do not ignore boxes and charts; they are often important in refining your analytic skills. Finally, use the glossary for terms you do not know. (One excellent review exercise is to list the terms in the glossary and see how many you can define.) In short, the textbook is your most important tool as you begin your study of American government.

The textbook will also include an access code for the online version of the textbook. The online version of the textbook has extra learning aids and content not included in the textbook.

*Note: There are multiple versions of this text. If you are planning to buy this text from a source other than the BYU Store, be sure to purchase the edition mentioned above.

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Other Selected Readings

A textbook must, of necessity, give only cursory coverage to topics that warrant an entire book. In fact, at the end of each chapter we point you to a list of books on the subject of that chapter. To give you a taste of this more detailed treatment, you will read two books that explore the founding and the judicial process. Both books—Founding Brothers and Gideon’s Trumpet—are written by excellent authors, and you will enjoy them so much that you’ll soon forget that you are reading for a class.

Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis (Vintage Books, 2000) is a historian’s analysis of many key people and events surrounding the early years of the American republic. Ellis tells the story of events ranging from the fateful Burr-Hamilton duel to the eventual reconciliation of Jefferson and Adams. He explores the personalities and actions of other significant founders, including Washington and Madison. With a penetrating look at some of the challenges, conflicts, and compromises of the early republic, it is certain to give you insights into the creation of this nation. The book demonstrates quite dramatically just how fragile the early republic actually was and how its success should not be taken for granted.

Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis (Vintage Books, 1989) tells the story of Clarence Earl Gideon, who was accused of burglarizing the Panama City Pool Room. Because he was poor and could not afford an attorney, he was tried without legal representation. Gideon appealed his conviction by himself all the way to the US Supreme Court. Anthony Lewis was The New York Times reporter assigned to cover the Supreme Court at the time. His story illustrates how the legal process works and introduces us to a compelling case: should the court have taken Gideon’s appeal? Was the case decided correctly? What rights to legal representation does the US Constitution provide or imply?

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This course is organized into eighteen lessons that cover the chapters in the textbook, with a computer-graded assignment accompanying each. There are also two instructor-graded assignments devoted to Founding Brothers and Gideon’s Trumpet.

Computer-Graded Assignments

Accompanying every lesson is a computer-processed assignment for you to submit. These assignments will be graded, and you will receive feedback on them. They require not only a factual grasp of the material, but an ability to apply concepts. These assignments are open book.

Instructor-Graded Assignments

You will be required to write two essays, one focusing on Founding Brothers and the other on Gideon’s Trumpet.

Remember to submit your assignments as Microsoft Word .DOC or .DOCX files. Name the file using this style—be sure to use your own name: POLI110_JaneSmith_WritingAssignment1.docx.

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There are two exams in this course: a midcourse exam and a final exam. Neither exam has a time limit. Both exams are closed book.

The midcourse exam consists of approximatley 50 multiple-choice questions very much like the computer-graded questions you will have answered for most of the lessons. The multiple-choice part of the exam is worth 10 percent of your grade. The midcourse exam also has a brief essay question which is worth 5 percent of your grade (for a total of 15 percent of your grade). The midcourse exam should be taken after lesson 9.

The final exam includes approximately 100 multiple-choice questions very much like the computer-graded questions you will have answered for most of the lessons. The multiple-choice part of the final exam is worth 20 percent of your grade. The final exam also requires you to answer one essay question which is worth 5 percent of your grade (for a total of 25 percent of your grade). The final exam should be taken after lesson 18.

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Demonstration that you have read and understood the material constitutes a C grade. It is rare in my classes for students to earn a C without doing the reading and working hard at comprehension and retention of factual knowledge. Grades beyond a C are earned by students who integrate material well and apply ideas and concepts to what they have read. The B range of grades goes to students who do these more demanding things well, while the A range is reserved for those who do it very well. To receive an A, you must demonstrate that you have analyzed all of the course material by performing exceptionally well on assignments and exams, as well as being clear, thoughtful, and cohesive in your writing. The A student also makes explicit connections to the material in the books while formulating answers. Students who can recall facts and use them to support a coherent answer will receive higher scores. There is no quota of grades in this class. Everyone can receive an “A” grade by demonstrating superior skills and knowledge.

The following table shows how much each assignment and exam is worth in terms of percentage.

Assignment Weight of Grade
Lesson 1 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 2 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 3 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Instructor-Graded Assignment 1 12%
Lesson 4 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 5 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 6 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 7 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 8 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 9 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 10 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 11 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Midcourse Exam 15%
Lesson 12 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 13 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 14 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 15 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Instructor-Graded Assignment 2 12%
Lesson 16 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 17 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Lesson 18 Computer-Graded Assignment 2%
Final Exam 25%

Your final grade will be determined by the following percentages:

Grading Scale
A 93–100
A− 90–92
B+ 87–89
B 83–86
B− 80–82
C+ 77–79
C 73–76
C− 70–72
D+ 67–69
D 63–66
D− 60–62
E (fail) 0–59

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Course Strategies

Success on exams comes from doing the readings in a systematic and thorough way and examining your comprehension as you go. When you think about it, identifying the major concepts and facts that will appear on an exam is not difficult. Therefore, during your reading and study, you should first read to identify what you need to know and remember. Textbooks like the one you will be using make this task easier by organizing with headings and subheadings, providing chapter outlines, putting key terms or glossary terms in bold type, and providing review questions and summaries at the end of each chapter. The key terms and concepts are generally found in the glossary, headings, or thesis paragraphs. After reading each chapter, you should be able to define the terms and concepts and state how they are significant to our study of American government. You should read with an agenda; the agenda for each chapter should be, “What do I need to learn and remember from this chapter?” If you do this, you will do very well on exams in all of your classes.

Before you start reading the first lesson in this course, take a few minutes to get to know the textbook and how it is organized. Textbooks have headings and subheadings that highlight the points the authors think deserve attention. Look for ways the authors and publisher use photos, graphs, charts, boxes, and summaries to aid in your learning. Read the preface and the table of contents. Students often skip over the preface, but it can give the reader insights into how the book is organized, how the authors intend to approach the subject, and whether the authors have a distinctive point of view. Scanning the table of contents will give you a sense of how topics are related and the sense of relative weight given to each.

Before you read the assigned readings for any given lesson, read through the lesson itself. In the discussion material, I will highlight important points and give you an overview of the subject. I urge you to read through the self-check and computer-graded questions before you begin reading the textbook so that you will be on the lookout for the answers. As you read through the course materials, and especially as you review for each test, try to anticipate what will be asked on the exam. Pay particular attention to the major subject headings in the textbook and course, searching for overarching themes. Often you will be given a number of essay questions out of which you must answer only one. Make certain to read through all of the questions and then reread the ones you choose to answer, noting critical words and phrases. Take advantage of any hints the questions give you about what you should emphasize in your response. Also take the time to write a brief outline of your answer. This will help you smooth out the transitions in your essay, give your essay a directional flow, and put the proper evidence of your argument in the right places. Making an outline also helps you clearly formulate ideas and budget your time.

Learning about American government and politics will help you apply your mind to important questions, stretch your reading and writing abilities, and explore processes and institutions you likely know little about. This subject also has important real-world implications. How and why has the American government survived when so many governments fail? What is your role and responsibility as a citizen in a constitutional democracy? How can you make a difference in your local, state, and national governments? Hopefully this course will better prepare you to respond to these issues as you face them throughout your life.

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to 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 t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at https://titleix.byu.edu/report 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 http://titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


18 computer-graded assignments and 2 instructor-graded assignments. These may not be resubmitted.


2 computer-graded proctored exams a Mid-course exam and a Final exam.  You may not retake the exams. You must pass the final exam with at least a 60% in order to pass the course.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514