assess several dimensions of student writing in upper division classes. Your
paper grade will be calculated by an equal weighting its quality of writing,
content, and analysis. If a paper is deficient in its proofing and/or use of
citations, these grades will also be averaged into the calculation of your
QUALITY OF WRITING
writing should flow smoothly and logically, so that your arguments unfold and
transition in a systematic way. Your main ideas, examples, and concepts must be developed sufficiently so that they can be easily
understood; I should not have to read meaning into the text (rely on my
previous understanding of the topic on which your are writing) in order to
follow your argument.
Your writing should flow smoothly and logically. Ideas and concepts must be
developed sufficiently so that they can be easily understood; I should not
have to read meaning into the text (rely on my previous understanding of
the topic on which your are writing) in order to follow your argument.
For your argument to be presented in the
clearest fashion possible, you must pay close attention to the
macro-organization of your essay. The key to writing a well-structured
analytic essay is beginning with a strong thesis
statement (a clearly written sentence in the first paragraph that identifies
the paper's main argument). The rest
of the essay should be structured around paragraphs that each begin with an
sentence. The first sentence of each paragraph needs to do
two things: 1) explain how the material in that paragraph advances the
paper's main argument; and 2) summarize the main point/s of the paragraph. Since
many students struggle with organizational issues, I have prepared
a separate on-line handout that explains these macro-organizational concepts in
A organization papers use effective topic
sentences to organize the entire body of the paper (each paragraph) around a
coherent, sustained argument.
A essays remain focused from start to finish, avoiding unrelated tangents as
well as long, unwieldy paragraphs that combine several distinct arguments or
B papers present a clear argument, but also have a number of paragraphs that either do not clearly
and logically link back to the author's thesis statement or that fail to
systematically group ideas into a tightly-focused argument that stays on
topic. B essays stay focused on the paper's argument most of the time, but
occasionally wander or present arguments that are not clearly linked to the
paper's main point.
Many or most paragraphs in a C paper begin with sentences that fail to
carefully explain how these paragraphs link back to the essay's main argument.
At a minimum
C papers provide a reader with at least some sense
of organization by grouping sentences around identifiable topics rather than
haphazardly putting unrelated materials together.
D papers pay little or no attention to the logical development of
ideas, such that the author's argument is extremely difficult to follow from
one section of the essay to the next.
of writing. When writing papers for my classes, write as though your
target audience will be made up of individuals in a professional work
setting who are well educated, but who also who do not have a close
familiarity with the themes and research that you will be covering in your
essay. Your prose should be as clear, elegant,
and professional in tone as possible. Make sure to proofread
your essay--rereading every sentence very closely--to catch any instances of
awkward or imprecise wording. You should always rewrite any sentence that does
not say exactly what you want it to say, being careful to assure that
sophisticated words are appropriate for the context in which you are using
you proofread the sentences within your essay's paragraphs,
you also want to make sure that
ideas smoothly flow together by using effective
transitions between sentences that deal with different issues. I
have prepared an on-line handout with a
checklist of a common problems that you should verify before submitting an
essay in my class.
A papers are polished works in all aspects, showing that their authors
have taken great care to make their writing as smoothly flowing and focused as
possible. A papers demonstrate that a student not only has proofread carefully the entire essay to remove all grammar glitches, but also has reread
each sentence to make sure that information is presented eloquently. A
papers judiciously select words to communicate ideas precisely,
they use transitions to link distinct ideas within paragraphs, and they
provide internal structure to help the reader tackle long paragraphs. Finally, A papers
not only incorporate many short quotes and evidence drawn from the readings
(see next section), but also smoothly integrate
these quotes and data.
papers communicate most ideas clearly, but show some degree of carelessness
with respect to sentence transitions, grammar, word choice,
phrasing, and syntax (the ordering of words in a sentence);
all arguments in B papers are readily understandable, but these papers
have a number of instances on each page where ideas could
have been presented in a more
straightforward and elegant manner.
C papers read as though the student author has rushed the writing with minimal attention to detail. Many or even most paragraphs have obvious, even if minor, issues. These essays typically
use poor sentence transitions, contain numerous
with regards to phrasing and word choice, and have obvious syntax glitches
that careful proofreading should have caught.
D papers are
written in such a way that it is either difficult to tell what the author is
trying to say or with so many basic errors in grammar, word choice, and syntax
that the essay falls short of the minimal standards that must be met for a
student to receive full credit in a college course that has a major writing
content of your papers must apply the most appropriate evidence data,
and concepts covered in seminars and all assigned readings. Please be
advised that your essay will earn a D or an F grade for content if it is unclear that you have completed significant portions of the course's
assigned readings as they relate to your paper topic.
A content papers show a mastery of the
course materials by judiciously reviewing and analyzing all of the pertinent reading
and seminar materials. A papers carefully support their arguments
with the best available evidence, short quotations, and concrete examples drawn from the
B content papers show
strong evidence that the student author has closely reviewed the pertinent
seminar and reading materials. While B papers draw considerable
evidence from reading assignments,
they are less consistent than
A papers in supporting
arguments with the best available evidence. In B
content papers, one or more major arguments would have been stronger if the
author had made better use of short quotes, concrete examples, and/or
C content papers
demonstrate a basic understanding of the key course
materials relating to the topic on which the student is writing. These papers
make at least passing references to most of the assigned readings related to
the writing topic; however, many or most of the author's relevant points are underdeveloped. In
C content papers, many
arguments would have been stronger if the author had made better use of
carefully selected short quotes, concrete examples, and/or
D content papers inaccurately represent major facts and concepts, do not engage (including having appropropriate citation) the relevant readings/materials, or reproduce long tracts of reading materials that have only vague links to the essay's topic. In 'D' papers, it is unclear whether or not the student author understands major class concepts as should be the case if the student has completed the minimum course requirements.
You also want to make sure that you are analyzing
major concepts and carefully applying them
in a way that makes it clear that you
understand them well.
Papers receiving an A
provide original arguments and analysis that demonstrate a mastery of theoretical concepts
such that the student clearly is able to apply concepts and evidence to issues beyond what we have
discussed directly in class.
B papers typically exhibit no problems with facts, but have moderate
original interpretation and analysis with regard to theoretical
concepts; these papers go beyond what we have discussed in
class, but contain few or no arguments that are not directly replicated from
C papers accurately reproduce arguments made in our seminars, but
otherwise demonstrate limited contemplation on the part of the
student author. Most major arguments in
C papers are conceptually underdeveloped.
D papers indicate that a student does not understand and/or
simply cannot articulate major class concepts that have been addressed at length
in seminars and/or assigned readings.
GRAMMAR AND CITATION
Proofreading. College-level papers should be free of all but the most
incidental of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. This is especially
the case with upper-division coursework. Your overall essay grade will be marked
down considerably (up to ten percent) when your paper has numerous basic grammar or spelling glitches that should
have been caught by careful proofreading. For an overview of
grammar issues with useful suggestions on fixes, you should see Purdue University's
Online Writing Lab. I also have posted
a short grammar guide from a political
science writing manual. Before submitting any paper, please make
sure to double check for
these common issues:
random capitalization. Do not use capital letters with a term or phrase just
because it is important; instead, follow the basic rules of
Poor punctuation makes it harder to read your argument. Be sure to
review your usage of hyphens (-), m-dashes (either or --), colons (:) and semi-colons
(;). As a rule, simply guessing about the correct use of punctuation will
not get it done for you: more students consistently use the forms of
punctuation I list above incorrectly than do so correctly. Whenever you are
not sure about a grammar rule, please check a stylebook or a reliable
internet grammar reference source.
proofread your paper to make sure that you are using commas correctly.
Because most students struggle with using commas, I have linked
checksheet to this webpage to help you review the rules for correct comma
specifically instructed otherwise, all essays
submitted in my courses must have full and properly-formatted citation. All
evidence or ideas drawn from sources other than your own brain, even if they are
from a single source that
I have assigned, must be properly cited.
If you are using parenthetical citation
(i.e. the full citations for your sources are not listed in footnotes or
endnotes), you must include a bibliography at the end of your paper. If
you use material from lectures, you should cite this material (Setzler lecture,
October 11, 2001). Keep in mind that whenever possible, you should cite material from specific pages in your assigned texts rather
than citing class lectures. For more specific information on when you
must provide citations and how you should format your citations and
bibliography, please see my web page handout on
Papers that fail to use proper citation will be severely marked down. Without
exception, instances of plagiarism (cases where a student attempts to gain
academic credit by submitting an essay in which a significant portion of the
writing has been copied or paraphrased from any other author, the internet, or
another student) will be reported and punished according
to university policy.
Mark Setzler, 2000-2007. The
pages on this website are intellectual property. They may not be reproduced
without my written permission.
Current students and faculty members at High Point University may reproduce
any and all materials on the website for their own use.