Students sometimes do not understand how a paper is graded. The
explanation of grading here derives from standards for Advanced Placement exams,
and is called a "grading rubric". Note that this is the standard expected of
good pre-college students. It outlines basic elements of a good paper, and attaches grades
to them. The basic grade of a paper derives from its content. The difference between the
higher and lower grades here may depend on issues such as presentation.
The Superior Paper (A/A-)
Thesis: Easily identifiable, plausible, novel, sophisticated,
insightful, crystal clear.
Structure: Evident, understandable, appropriate for thesis.
Excellent transitions from point to point. Paragraphs support solid topic sentences.
Use of evidence: Primary source information used to buttress
every point with at least one example. Examples support mini-thesis and fit within
paragraph. Excellent integration of quoted material into sentences.
Analysis: Author clearly relates evidence to
"mini-thesis" (topic sentence); analysis is fresh and exciting, posing new ways
to think of the material.
Logic and argumentation: All ideas in the paper flow logically;
the argument is identifiable, reasonable, and sound. Author anticipates and successfully
defuses counter-arguments; makes novel connections to outside material (from other parts
of the class, or other classes) which illuminate thesis.
Mechanics: Sentence structure, grammar, and diction excellent;
correct use of punctuation and citation style; minimal to no spelling errors; absolutely
no run-on sentences or comma splices.
The Good Paper (B+/B)
Thesis: Promising, but may be slightly unclear, or lacking in
insight or originality.
Structure: Generally clear and appropriate, though may wander
occasionally. May have a few unclear transitions, or a few paragraphs without strong topic
Use of evidence: Examples used to support most points. Some
evidence does not support point, or may appear where inappropriate. Quotes well integrated
Analysis: Evidence often related to mini-thesis, though links
perhaps not very clear.
Logic and argumentation: Argument of paper is clear, usually
flows logically and makes sense. Some evidence that counter-arguments acknowledged, though
perhaps not addressed. Occasional insightful connections to outside material made.
Mechanics: Sentence structure, grammar, and diction strong
despite occasional lapses; punctuation and citation style often used correctly. Some
(minor) spelling errors; may have one run-on sentence or comma splice.
The Borderline Paper (B-/C+)
Thesis: May be unclear (contain many vague terms), appear
unoriginal, or offer relatively little that is new; provides little around which to
structure the paper.
Structure: Generally unclear, often wanders or jumps around. Few
or weak transitions, many paragraphs without topic sentences.
Use of evidence: Examples used to support some points. Points
often lack supporting evidence, or evidence used where inappropriate (often because there
may be no clear point). Quotes may be poorly integrated into sentences.
Analysis: Quotes appear often without analysis relating them to
mini-thesis (or there is a weak mini-thesis to support), or analysis offers nothing beyond
Logic and argumentation: Logic may often fail, or argument may
often be unclear. May not address counter-arguments or make any outside connections.
Mechanics: Problems in sentence structure, grammar, and diction
(usually not major). Errors in punctuation, citation style, and spelling. May have several
run-on sentences or comma splices.
The "Needs Help" Paper (C/C-)
Thesis: Difficult to identify at all, may be bland restatement of
Structure: Unclear, often because thesis is weak or non-existent.
Transitions confusing and unclear. Few topic sentences.
Use of evidence: Very few or very weak examples. General failure
to support statements, or evidence seems to support no statement. Quotes not integrated
into sentences; "plopped in" in improper manner.
Analysis: Very little or very weak attempt to relate evidence to
argument; may be no identifiable argument, or no evidence to relate it to.
Logic and argumentation: Ideas do not flow at all, usually
because there is no argument to support. Simplistic view of topic; no effort to grasp
possible alternative views.
Mechanics: Big problems in sentence structure, grammar, and
diction. Frequent major errors in citation style, punctuation, and spelling. May have many
run-on sentences and comma splices.
The Failing Paper
Shows obviously minimal lack of effort or comprehension of the
assignment. Very difficult to understand owing to major problems with mechanics,
structure, and analysis. Has no identifiable thesis, or utterly incompetent thesis.
Adapted from a internet post by Patrick Rael
<prael@polar.Bowdoin.EDU>, " Re: what to say to students",
[H-Teach@msu.net], 2 April 1996