What Your Grade Means


A+, A, A-

Your paper has a clearly expressed focus that is introduced at the outset of the paper either in the form of a thesis statement or in the form of a question.

Your main idea is analytical, rather than merely descriptive. (A reasonable reader could conceivably disagree with you.)

Your introduction sets up a clear road map for what’s going to happen in the rest of the paper.

You introduce textual material to develop and support your main idea and offer analytical insights about the material you cite.

Each of your body paragraphs is organized around a single idea that helps to support and develop your thesis. This idea is signaled in the paragraph’s topic sentence.

Your conclusion does more than merely summarize or restate the arguments made in the paper. It points to the larger implications of the claim you are making.

Your writing is clear, effective, and largely free of surface error (grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc…).

The reader finishes reading the paper having learned something new about the subject/text in question.


B+, B, B-

Your paper has a main idea that has strong potential.

However, one or more of the following problems is detracting from its execution: You fail to articulate your idea clearly in your introduction.

Your main idea is largely descriptive; it needs further development to become analytical.

You introduce a strong idea, but fail to ground it in textual evidence, or you introduce insufficient evidence, or you include quotations, but fail to analyze them.

You sometimes lapse into plot summary.

You may have excellent ideas, but your writing is not clear enough to communicate your ideas effectively.

Your writing is hampered by frequent errors in grammar, punctuation, diction, etc….

Instead of introducing a progression of ideas over the course of the paper, your essay repeats the same basic formulation over and over. Your conclusion offers a summary, but doesn’t add to the paper by anticipating the reader who asks, “So what?”


C+, C, C-

Your paper has real problems in one or more of the following areas:

Conception – If there is a main idea, it’s difficult to detect, vague, or ill-conceived.

Use of Evidence – Failure to introduce appropriate or sufficient textual evidence to support your main idea.

Language – Your writing is simply not clear enough to convey ideas effectively.   Your language is overly-abstract, convoluted, or simply has too many mechanical errors to allow the reader to detect the author’s underlying meaning.

Your writing may be clear, but the paper falls far short of the guidelines presented by the assignment, either in terms of its length or in terms of its approach to the topic.


D+, D, D-

Your paper exhibits some of the same shortcomings as a “C” paper. However, it has also been submitted late, and has been penalized accordingly.

Your paper deviates in significant, dramatic ways from the requirements of the assignment.



In preparing this paper, you have used another author’s words or ideas without attributing them to their source. This is not only a violation of the assignment guidelines; it is PLAGIARISM, and it is a serious academic offense.   Students who plagiarize will receive an “F” for the work, whether the plagiarism extends to the entire paper or only to a single idea.  All cases of plagiarism will be reported to the Dean of the College and in many cases, plagiarists will receive an “F” for the course.