This explanation of grading derives from standards
for Advanced Placement exams. It outlines basic
elements of a good paper, and provides their grades according to content.
The Outstanding Paper and Essay (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 and Essay (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 sentences.
Use of evidence: Examples used to support most
points. Some evidence does not support point,
or may appear where inappropriate. Quotes well integrated into sentences.
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 and Essay (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 the quote.
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 Deficient Paper and Essay (C/C-)
Thesis: Difficult to identify at all, may be bland restatement of obvious point.
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
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 and Essay
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.