Grading Criteria

The following general criteria for grading academic term papers are used in many colleges and universities. They are included here to help CES students understand the standards that CES professors generally use as they evaluate student writing.

The "A" Paper

The two principal characteristics of the "A" paper are:

1) Its rich content: The information is presented in such a way that the reader (yes, even the professor) feels significantly taught by the author, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph; however, that does not mean that the student and the mentor must agree. Students are graded on their academic ability and not on their agreement with the professor's theological position.

2) Its flawless mechanics: The "A" paper is marked by stylistic finesse: the title and opening paragraph are engaging; the transitions are substantive rather than superficial; the phrasing is tight, fresh, and highly specific; the sentence structure is varied; and the tone contributes to the meaning of the paper. And, all of the mechanics of the paper, e.g., the grammar, punctuation, footnotes, references, citations, and bibliography are nearly flawless. A rule of thumb for "A" papers with regard to mechanics is that they should not have more than one mechanical error for every five pages.

The "A" paper leaves the reader with a sense of having read a complete, satisfying piece of work.

The "B" Paper

The "B" paper is significantly more than competent. Besides being almost free of mechanical errors (one mechanical error for every 2 or 3 pages), it delivers substantial information in both quality and interest. The "B" paper is logically ordered, well developed, and unified around a clear organizing principle that is apparent to the reader from the beginning of the paper. The opening paragraph draws the reader in. The closing paragraph both concludes the argument that has been developed in the paper and is thematically related to the opening. The transitions between paragraphs are for the most part smooth, and the sentence structure is skillfully varied. The use of words in the "B" paper is precise and concise. The "B" paper offers readers substantial information with few rhetorical or mechanical lapses.

The "C" Paper

The "C" paper meets the assignment's general requirements; it has some mechanical errors (one or two per page), and it is reasonably well organized and developed. The actual information it delivers, however, is not very interesting. One reason the "C" paper is dull is that ideas are presented in the form of vague generalities that prompt the confused reader to ask questions such as "How many?" "When?" "In every case?" and "Why?" "Proof?" The "C" paper also falls short stylistically: the opening paragraph may do little to draw the reader in; transitions between paragraphs may seem unclear; sentences, besides being choppy, sometimes have grammatical errors; and word choice is often repetitious and imprecise.

The "D" Paper

This paper resembles a rough draft. It may reveal some organization, but what is presented is neither clear nor effective. It may contain the germ of some good ideas, but these are not well developed or unified around a clear thesis statement. Sentences may be awkward, or ambiguous. "D" papers appear to have moved directly from the writer's brain to the page; the writer does not seem to have thought about how to develop ideas or present them effectively. And, the "D" paper has many consistent mechanical errors.

The "F" Paper

The "F" Paper fails to meet the assignment's requirements in a variety of ways. Its treatment of subject is superficial or inappropriate. The prose is garbled or stylistically primitive. "F" papers are filled with mechanical errors. In short, the ideas, organization, and style fall far below the level of acceptable college writing.

How many quotations should be used in an academic term paper?

We have had students ask us how much of their paper may be quotes and how much should be their own writing. Here is the rule of thumb:

No more than 20% of your paper should be quotes.

Anyone can list a bunch of quotes; there's no academics to that. One student's paper was primarily all quotes. If you remove all of the quotes in his paper, it would have been only a few pages long, and it would not have made any sense at all. We have made students entirely redo their papers when there are too many quotes.

The academic term paper must be primarily the student's original writing that shows that the student (1) has learned the material researched and (2) is doing his or her own work.

One MAJOR KEY with regard to how many and how long your quotes should be is this:

A term paper should be written in such a way that a reader should be able to be read the entire paper and be able to skip all of the quotations and it still make perfect sense.

So, if your paper had all of the quotes removed from it, it should still flow well and make sense to the reader. In other words, the student is not to let someone else do his or her argument. The quotations are there to buttress and support the argument, not make it.

Students, please keep this in mind as you do your academic term papers; professors, please keep this in mind as you grade your students' academic term papers.

More about Grade Points & Grade Point Average.