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A clear set of standards or a rubric will help students set realistic expectations about the course and grades. You may not want to include these standards in your syllabus but by providing them in some forum ahead of time students will be able to write more effective papers.

Sample Language

From Jessa Lingel, COMM "Doing Internet Studies"

Grades will be assigned according to the following rubric.

  • A 95-100 Superior work that meets all assignment criteria and also demonstrates excellent writing skills
  • A- 90-95 High-quality work that meets all assignment criteria and demonstrates good writing skills
  • B+ 87-89 Average-quality work that meets all or most assignment criteria and demonstrates acceptable writing skills
  • B 83-86 Average quality work that meets all or most assignment criteria but lacks in acceptable writing skills
  • B- 80-83 Below-average work that meets some but not all assignment criteria, demonstrating only basic comprehension of material and writing ability
  • C 70-79 Below average work that meets few assignment criteria and fails to engage with material in a substantive way

From Michael Gamer, ENGL 101 "Jane Austen and Adaptation"

"A" or "A-" indicates outstanding performance, work that is above and beyond both my expectations and the work of your peers. It is interesting, lucid, nuanced, and, frankly, more impressive than the vast majority of the other work. It knows what it is examining, how it is going about examining it, what it wants to argue, and why the argument is important to make.

The "B" range of marks indicates that the student has tackled an interesting and challenging problem and has succeeded in elucidating it. The student has thought analytically and systematically, as well as beyond perfunctory treatment of the question. If the paper is marred by anything, it is a lack of independent thought. Most often, "B" papers know what they are exploring and make sound arguments but do not explain why the argument needs to be made.

A "C" indicates an adequate delineation of a thesis, but the argument does not succeed because it does not fully develop the issue. There may be some notable lapses in logic, a sparseness of detailed examples and a noticeable lack of illustrative demonstration of the major points. Often a "C" paper is competent enough, but its paragraphs are not structured by the argument and instead either make the same point, or may not make any point at all until the end.

A "D" indicates inadequate work, usually written the night before handing it in. An essay that merely parrots what has been said in class, or that merely paraphrases or summarizes what a text seems to say also gets this mark.