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Rubric, Grading

Rubric, Grading – A rubric is a system for determining whether or not an essay fulfills its prompt—a way of grading essays. Generally, we grade on four big ideas:

  1. Thesis – Is your main idea clear and powerful? Can it be proved through research? Does it have the weight of common sense behind it?
  2. Evidence – Is your essay convincing? Does your evidence fit your thesis?
  3. Structure – Does your essay develop, with a clear introduction and a supporting main body?
  4. Prose – Is your actual English-language writing any good? Have you made lotss of errrorrs? Have you proofreaded your ownnn paper?

Each area is graded on a simple 1–4 scale. An overall 4–6 is a low grade (an F or C-). An overall 16 is perfect, an A+. An overall 12 is a B: You did a good job, but there are areas that can be improved. I weigh a thesis more than the rest of your paper. If I can understand that you’ve thought about what I’ve asked you to think about, then I’ll be happier than if you rattle off nonsense, even beautiful nonsense.

Of course, an essay rubric may seem a little abstract to a student, who probably thinks about an assignment’s success in terms of letter grades. Here is an example of a rubric I gave out before grading a rough drafts of a 10-page research paper on literature, immigration, and concepts of the ethnic:

  • A:  You wrote 6+ good pages including an introduction, an exhaustive argument employing 3 different archives/genre/media, and a sketch of a conclusion. Not every word needs to be perfect, but the meat of the paper is there. Most of all, you are clear and convincing; I understand what you are trying to prove, and your evidence supports your argument.
  • B:  You wrote 4+ good pages that are fairly convincing. You need to polish your prose and clarify your evidence in a few spots (perhaps expanding into new archives or simply deepening your reading of your present ones), and perhaps your introduction can use a lot of work. But overall, a solid paper on its way toward an even higher grade.
  • B-/C+:  Same as above, but difficult to read due to basic prose errors. A few errors = B-. Many, many errors = C+. You put in effort when it came to research, but left the writing for Friday night.
  • C:  Your idea makes sense, but you didn’t really research it and thus have no proof. Or, your idea makes sense, and you did research it—but you’ve only turned in one or two pages of bulleted notes. You can still pull out a great paper, but you’ll have to work hard to do so.
  • F:  Your idea makes absolutely no sense. In almost every case, this is simply because you didn’t attempt the assignment. (For example, for one assignment on ethics and Frankenstein, a student turned in a decently well-written paper defending the legalization of marijuana—making no mention of science ethics, Romanticism, Shelley, etc. This paper was a clear F. Its prose couldn’t save it from the fact that it made absolutely zero sense, given the class and the assignment.)
  • 0:  You didn’t turn in anything!
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