English 216, Literature,
Technology, and Society: Invented Worlds
What is an "A Paper"? A guide for my classes
Have you heard the old saw that an infinite number of chimps, working on an infinite number of word processors, would eventually type out Hamlet? All of you are a lot smarter than any number of primates, but you don't have an infinite number of weeks to get things "perfect" for me or any other professor. I hope this page will demystify how I grade written work.
In general, as I grade papers I consider errors in thinking--cloudy thesis statements, digressions, missed transitions, failures to follow the assignment--as the most serious errors. No paper with even a single error of those sorts would earn an A. While I do not give as much weight to grammatical and stylistic errors, at least early in the semester, when they begin to detract from my reading of your paper (I have to stop and say "huh?") they hurt your grade. See my Pet Peeves list for details.
Use your spell-check, have a dictionary handy, and use Writer's Web to check on mechanics and grammar. Always read your final draft aloud; you will catch dozens of small errors that way. Even though you might have your paper critiqued in an editing group for class, you will want to start early, see the Writing Fellow, and as needed for additional help, make a follow-up appointment with the Fellows or a tutor at the Writing Center .
Exceptions are possible, and these characteristics
of various papers are not carved in stone; a paper that does several things
very well and one poorly might not fare as badly as one that does everything
in a sloppy way:
An A paper about two texts or subjects would also include a superb sense of organization--it would not simply be "two mini essays." See the Writer's Web worksheet on Multiple-Subject Papers for more information.
B: No problems with organization and would include a clear, creative thesis and strong use of sources and analysis. The essay might contain a minor error in interpretation of an idea or source. A paper might earn a B for grammatical errors that distract the reader. This paper would be original and interesting, but it would not be outstanding in the way that an A paper would be.
C: Follows the assignment , but isn't very original in doing so. The essay has a clear thesis, if the assignment calls for that. Might have several lapses in transitions between points, a few unsupported arguments, or a few sources not supported or analyzed. Still, it shows effort on the writer's part. Some C papers have strong arguments and support but have many grammatical or mechanical errors.
D or F: Normally there are one of three reasons for a paper earning a D or F.
First, the writer did not follow the assignment. Second, Any paper lacking a thesis or controlling idea, if the assignment mandated that, would probably earn a D. Third, a paper that did not support its arguments logically or with sources might earn a D, even if it were fine otherwise.
I've rarely assigned a D on the basis of grammar and style alone; normally, something has to be seriously wrong with the focus, support, and organization of a paper for it to earn a D.
An F paper is similar to a D paper, but
the errors are even more pronounced or the paper is simply not completed