Grading Criteria

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The most important part of any graded paper is the feedback.  Written feedback is designed to point out a paper's strengths and weaknesses, so that you can capitalize on the former and eliminate the latter.  It is a good rule of thumb to read the comments on the paper before considering the grade or score.  The grade itself is a rating based on the accumulated feedback: a large number of positive comments usually leads to a good grade; a large number of critical flaws in the paper diminishes the grade.  Grammar, spelling, and mechanical problems are usually marked or corrected quickly, especially for papers in upper level courses (since these are not designed to teach writing skills), and minor errors usually do not detract from the overall grade (unless they become persistent or distracting from the content).  Consider the feedback carefully. It will help you improve future argumentative writing.


The “A” Paper

The “B” Paper

The “C” Paper

The “D” Paper

The “F” Paper

Clearly defined focus and purpose

Mature writing style and sentence structure

Material engages the reader’s interest

Impeccable clarity of thought

Excellent sense of organization

No major grammatical errors

Precise, engaging word choice


Clearly defined focus and purpose

Excellent sense of organization

No major grammatical errors

Paper possesses most attributes of an “A” paper but has some nagging flaw: a writing style that has yet to mature, a tendency for less than precise word choice, one of two cases of shaky and imprecise logic, or an egregious grammatical mistake



Shows limited grasp of how to focus on a topic, organize it, and avoid egregious grammatical errors

Logic may be sound, but the writer sometimes makes a general statement without needed support to back up the claim

No major grammatical errors

Sound organization

Style needs improvement (sentence variety and tone warrant consideration)

Carelessly weighted word choices and misleading statements

Frequent but non-major errors in source attribution format (MLA style)


Topic does not have adequate focus, developing multiple conflicting ideas or an overly broad and vague topic that cannot be sufficiently developed within the length of the paper

No coherent organization: key structural flaws (transitions, introduction, conclusion)

Major grammatical errors force the reader to fight through the text

Major logic or evidentiary flaws

Serious errors in source attribution and formatting (MLA style)


Paper does not follow assignment directions (topic, format, length)

Errors in all major categories (purpose, organization, grammar, style)

Egregious errors in source attribution and formatting, bordering on plagiarism (if constituting plagiarism, then disciplinary action may also be warranted)



“A” Level

“B” Level

“C” Level

“D” Level

“F” Level

Offers analysis and synthesis, supported by examples from the texts

Offers supportive comments to other students

Collaborates fully in group exercises

Attentive and taking notes

Prepared for class, with marked texts and notes

No undocumented absences

Offers analysis of the text

Can provide supportive examples during the discussion

Collaborates in group exercises

Attentive to the discussion

Prepared for class, with marked text or notes

Rare lateness

Any undocumented absences

Sporadic contributions to discussions

Offers expository information (facts) during discussions, but not analysis

Distracted and inattentive

Has read the text, but has not marked or prepared notes

Several undocumented absences and/or occasional lateness

Does not contribute to discussions

Present for group exercises, but does not offer substantive contributions

Has not read the assignment

Inattentive: unapproved use of electronic devices, wandering out of class frequently, etc.

Frequent absences, documented or not

Frequent lateness

Does not contribute to discussions

Does not participate in group exercises

Has not read the assignment or brought the text for reference

Inattentive: unapproved use of electronic devices, sleeping, texting, websurfing, etc.

Frequent undocumented absences or lateness

Comment Glossary

The following terms may appear in my comments on your paper: