Guidelines for Grading An Essay
This exercise intends to take the mystery out of grading papers. It is true that many teachers and professors have their own “style” of grading. But all follow some general rules of thumb when they grade your papers.
essay must contain three essential elements.
First, the essay must provide a thesis statement (in the introductory
paragraph). The thesis statement
must encapsulate the main argument for the paper.
It must be clear and coherent, and it must answer the question that the
professor has put forth to the class. Second,
the essay must offer supporting evidence. The
writer must provide the supporting evidence in paragraph (not “bullet” or
list) form. Each paragraph must contain evidence that supports one idea
or concept that proves the thesis statement.
The writer must provide citations (in footnote, endnote, or paranthetical
form) for all evidence presented. Third, every essay must follow basic rules of format and
grammar. Every paper must contain a
beginning (introductory paragraph), a middle (several supporting paragraphs that
comprise the body of the paper), and an end (concluding paragraph).
Grammar is vital for essay composition. Sentence fragments, misspellings,
and improper punctuation denote a carelessly-written and poorly-conceived paper.
is an outline for the paragraph above:
Sentence “Every essay must
contain three essential elements.”
is the main concept of the paragraph.
Format and Grammar
you must play the part of the
professor. Here is a standard
guideline, adapted from several dependable sources (see footnote on previous
page), that you must follow as you grade a fellow student’s paper.
a record of each item missing, and subtract the total number of points from 100 (a perfect score).
Not all professors grade papers by deducting points in this fashion.
But for classroom purposes, we will assign point values. I have devised these point values to show you the relative
importance of the different elements of essay-writing.
Identify the Thesis Statement.
Does this paper have a thesis statement?
Does that thesis statement answer the question put forth in class by the
professor? Is the thesis statement clear? Do you
No thesis statement: -15
Thesis statement unrelated to question:
Examine each paragraph for the information below.
Examine the paper’s format and grammar.
paper have proper punctuation?
author provide full and complete sentences? There should be no sentence fragments or run-on sentences.
paper have consistent verb tense, voice, and third-person usage?
proper nouns capitalized?
last, you must recommend a grade for this paper. On your notecard, write a one or two sentence statement that
explains this paper’s argument. If this paper is so poorly organized,
conceived, and written that you are unable to determine the main idea presented
here by this author, then you must assign, automatically, a failing grade (F).
write your statement. Then, total
the points and subtract from 100. Write
this number on the note card, and then paper clip the note card to the paper.
This is your recommended grade. Please
include your name on the note card. Do
not write your name on your fellow student’s paper.
– sentence fragment
– word choice doesn’t express what you seem to mean
-- paragraph; or, you need to insert new paragraph
-- spelling error
-- comma splice
-- run-on sentence (2 independent clauses in 1 sentence
without punctuation or conjunction)
-- in margin means passage is confusing or obscure; over word or phrase
means I don’t
understand its meaning.
Form of pronoun doesn’t agree with antecedent; verb form doesn’t
agree with subject
-- incorrect verb form
-- strike out
more information on writing essays, see Peter Charles Hoffer and William B.
Stueck, Reading and Writing American
History: An Introduction to the
Historian’s Craft; and William Strunk and E. B. White, Elements
of Style. Other resources
for writers include The Chicago Manual
of Style : The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers (14th
Edition); Marjorie E. Skillin and Robert Malcolm Gay,
Words Into Type; and Kate L. Turabian, Student’s
Guide for Writing College Papers.