Liberal Studies Essay Grading Guidelines

The A Paper

•  has a well-defined focus and a strong thesis.

•  provides a strong introduction and conclusion.

•  presents careful, original, and creative thinking.

•  displays a smooth, logical, and coherent organization of the material. The reader does not stumble or hesitate over the sequence of facts or ideas.

•  gives relevant and sufficient supporting evidence that is used consistently.

•  is written in an informative and thoughtful manner. Examples or comparisons are carefully chosen. Occasionally there is a vivid image or deft comparison.

•  conveys immediately a sense of person behind the words: an individual voice speaking firmly and clearly from the page.

•  has varied sentences, with rhythm and emphasis appropriate to the meaning. Phrasing is often fluent, even graceful. Sentences read well aloud, and are structured in a sophisticated way.

•  uses well-chosen words that are accurate and sensitive to connotations.

•  demonstrates depth of reading of the relevant material and uses a vocabulary and a conceptual framework consistent with the level of the course.

•  has very few mechanical errors [grammar, punctuation, and spelling].

•  uses punctuation that is appropriate and helpful to the reader.

A-range research papers also incorporate carefully chosen secondary source arguments into the paper in a fluid, thoughtful, clear, and relevant manner.

The B Paper

•  has many of the characteristics of the A paper but may be somewhat uneven in quality.

•  has reasonably sound content that may be a little thin. Examples or illustrations may be slightly forced or exaggerated.

•  is generally clearly organized so that the reader does not stumble over sequence.

•  may display less creativity or sophistication  in its reading of sources than an A-range paper.

•  may have a weak introduction or conclusion .

•  uses relevant supporting evidence consistently, but not always sufficiently .

•  has only, at most, minor mechanical errors [grammar, spelling, or punctuation] that do not interfere with the flow of the argument or the intellectual focus of the paper.

•  has a workable thesis.

•  uses words clearly, although phrasing may be pedestrian, awkward, or wordy.

B-range research papers also correctly cite secondary sources, but the research element is less engaged than in an "A" paper: it does little to extend the work beyond basic understanding of secondary sources.

The C Paper

•  lacks engagement with the material and may be characterized by insufficiently developed thought.

•  may present adequate information and ideas that are nonetheless thin or unconvincing.

•  has a thesis, but one that may need more explanation or supporting evidence , that is too narrow to be arguable , or that is too broad to be adequately supported. The argument may suffer from some inconsistency or irrelevancy.

•  might lack an introduction or conclusion  .

•  might have a structure that is not entirely coherent  .

•  may summarize rather than analyse narrative (especially for papers on literature).

•  may make assertions without argument or defence.

•  occasionally shows unclear organization, causing the reader to stop and re-read previous material to be sure of meaning.

•  presents sentences with little or no structural variety.

•  may be characterized by wordiness, clichés, or poor word choices. Unnecessary words and phrases make the writing loose.

•  may have several mechanical errors: grammar (such as fragments, run-on or fused sentences, subject/verb agreement problems, comma splices, reference errors), spelling, and punctuation errors that hinder the reader's ability to follow the argument easily, and demand editorial correction for clarity.

C-range research papers

•  may also make arbitrary references to secondary sources, as if filling a quota.

•  may also use secondary sources to substantiate obvious points of exegesis, or in place of a close reading of the primary text.

•  may also make vague or non-specific references to a secondary source.

The D Paper

•  shows limited knowledge of the subject matter  .

•  has a thesis that is extremely weak or has no thesis .

•  has little evidence or generally irrelevant evidence .

•  may suffer from serious inconsistency .

•  is cluttered by technical errors that overwhelm readers' ability to make sense of the writing. The paper may make some sense, but only when the reader struggles to find the sense. Writers of "D" papers have little control of their material.

•  May not answer the question to which the paper is a response.

D-range research papers also have poorly chosen sources that are inadequate, or not fully documented. Secondary source references appear arbitrarily selected , as if the writer is filling a quota. Secondary sources may be used to substantiate obvious points of exegesis or in place of reading the primary text.

The F Paper

(any of the following is reason for a failing grade)

•  shows inadequate knowledge of the subject matter .

•  inadequately addresses the question.

•  does not have a thesis  or has an inappropriate thesis for the topic .

•  has serious structural problems .

•  is incoherent and confusing .

•  has an excessive number of technical errors .

The Liberal Studies Department would like to acknowledge and thank the English Department at VIU for the use of their excellent grading guidelines in developing the above.

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