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Grading Guidelines

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Author: William Ramsey

Grading Guidelines For Professor Ramsey: What The Grades Indicate

An “A” paper has these characteristics:

  • It focuses directly on the assigned topic.
  • It has a clearly stated thesis and statement of procedure.
  • It accurately explains the pertinent background ideas, arguments, concepts and debates.  It successfully focuses on precisely those background details that really matter for the paper, and provides a clear explication in the writer’s own voice.
  • It develops an interesting and original line of argument.  The argument need not succeed, ultimately, but it demonstrates considerable reflection and insight.  The author explains his or her own position clearly, and makes a lucid and compelling case for it.  Examples and analogies are germane and properly incorporated in the argument.  If the paper considers a counter-argument (and most “A” papers do), the counter-argument focuses upon a real weakness of the main argument, to which the writer then provides a compelling rebuttal.
  • The paper is well organized and individual paragraphs have clear and distinct roles in the development of the paper’s thesis.  The paper progresses in a coherent and lucid manner.

There are virtually no mechanical errors; i.e, the spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. is all fine.

A “B” paper has these characteristics:

  • It often lacks one of the central characteristics of an “A” paper. For example, a typical “B” paper will explain everything accurately and be well-organized and have few mechanical problems, but it will lack originality – it mostly rehashes the lectures and the readings.  Or a “B” paper will have an interesting and original idea, but it will be somewhat unclear how the idea is to be understood and/or the argument for it is not very cogent.  Or a “B” paper might be well-organized and offer a good argument, but the author makes a major mistake in explaining the ideas of others.  It is possible to get a “B” on a paper by simply not providing a thesis for the paper, or by not sufficiently proofreading an otherwise quality paper.  Occasionally a student will get a “B” on a paper that is excellent but does not follow the assignment (papers of this nature will often trigger plagiarism alarms).

A “C” paper has these characteristics:

  • It often lacks two of the central characteristics of an “A” paper.  It might be poorly organized and mis-describe some aspect of the background material.  Or it might lack a thesis and also be unoriginal.  
  • Alternatively, a C paper may do many things in a second-rate way.  For example, it may have a somewhat unclear thesis, devote too much space to irrelevant background material, have an argument that is only slightly original and somewhat unclear, and have more than just a few spelling and punctuation problems.  

A “D” paper has these characteristics:

  • It often lacks three or four of the characteristics of an “A” paper.  It might lack a thesis, fail to accurately explain background material, and offer an unoriginal argument that simply rehashes the lectures.  
  • Alternatively, a “D” papers may just be an extremely poorly written paper, with little organization and structure and a very significant number of mechanical errors.  Many papers written the night before wind up as “D” papers because there is no time for required proof-reading and re-writing.  

An " F” paper has these characteristics:

  • It fails to do much of anything seen in an “A” paper .
  • It is turned in too late.
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