Faculty Handouts on Assessing Writing

GRADING CRITERIA - Professor K. Doyle, Union College

An F paper is clearly not the student's own work.

A C or C- paper has no identifiable argument linking its paragraphs together. It is often riddled with grammatical errors and plot summary.

A C+ paper may have interesting points in its individual paragraphs, but it does not make a coherent argument with a logical progression. It may try to make an assertion, but that assertion remains unclear. It is often riddled with grammatical errors and plot summary.

A B- paper's thesis contains an identifiable argument, but the execution of that argument needs a lot of work. The structure of the paper usually needs to be more carefully thought out. Often its paragraphs consist mainly of plot summaries or quotations without much analysis. They are not linked to the thesis logically or thematically. When a paragraph does contain analysis, there may be interpretive errors, such as events or quotations taken out of context, or misunderstood passages. Its format is not entirely correct. Its grammar needs help.

A B paper contains a solid logical structure to back up its thesis, though that structure may contain a flaw or two (either logical or analytical). Its style is probably a bit clunky, its tone unremarkable. It has fewer grammatical errors than a B- paper. Its format is generally correct.

A B+ paper has very few grammatical errors, and flows fairly well from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, idea to idea. There are no glaring logical or structural flaws in its argument. It satisfies the format requirements and the argumentative requirements of a paper, but does not move beyond them.

An A- paper has a thesis with some extra complexity or inspiration beyond merely making an argument. Its prose is clear and its flow is remarkably good. Its tone betrays the writer's enthusiasm for, and investment in, the argument he or she is making. Grammatical errors are nowhere to be found. It shows a mind alive and at work.

An A paper's thesis is enthusiastic and complex, but goes the extra step of inspiring reflection. The entire paper is rhetorically crafted so as to engage and hold the reader’s interest. It may have a catchy beginning or a particularly striking conclusion; it may use metaphors or similes particularly well (or to unify the paper). It usually employs several different types of analysis, and/or engages multiple issues at once without confusion.