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Evaluation Criteria for Freshman Composition

Project Grades

Successful projects will include and/or demonstrate:

For more information on these attributes or qualities or to find more detail about them, consult the Shepherd University Writing Program Handbook.

All of the above five qualities will be assessed when evaluating projects in addition to the specifics of individual assignments. The relationship between the qualities and specific letter grades is, of course, complex. Nevertheless, grading is guided by a holistic judgment of performance, using as anchor points the following descriptions of papers that merit various letter grades.

The descriptions begin with the “B” essay, since it provides a base of effective writing against which to measure exceptional (“A”) papers as well as those that demonstrate competence (“C”) or various degrees of failure (“D” and “F”).

“B” Essays (80-90). Projects in the B-range demonstrate considerable competence in all five qualities. These projects show thoughtfulness by making insightful statements about a topic, statements that suggest that the writer has engaged in sustained consideration of the topic and undertaken a careful analysis of ideas. These projects make a clear claim—whether stated explicitly or implied—and offer relevant evidence, convincing reasons, textual references, or other kinds of appropriate support for assertions. The organizing structure of a “B” project should fit the purpose, and connections between parts should be clear, with effective transitions. Appropriateness of method and delivery for a particular audience should be carefully considered and executed with dexterity. Finally, the “B” project has few deviations from the conventions expected in college-level composition and design; if there are mistakes, they do not interfere seriously with comprehension or readability.

“A” Essays (90-100). These projects are better than “B” essays, but they need not exceed the standards for a “B” on every quality. Rather, an “A” is best described as an project that does something exceptional in at least one of the categories, while meeting the general standards for a “B” project. Often the “A” is distinguished by unusual thoughtfulness and critical thinking, evincing a level of insight or creative understanding that is exceptional in writing by first-year students. An “A” might also be warranted because a project is particularly effective in its rhetoric or style: perhaps claims are supported with especially cogent or well-developed reasons, or the overall quality of organization and expression marks the project as an outstanding example of design and writing by first-year students.

“C” Essays (70-79). Projects in the “C” range typically fall below the expectations for “B” essays in thoughtfulness, effectiveness of claims and support, and/or clarity of structure. The controlling ideas and central claims in a “C” essay may be clear enough, but they will be predictable and not especially thoughtful; often the ideas will have come directly and without modification from reading assignments or class discussions. The support offered for assertions will be underdeveloped or less than fully convincing. Though a reader may not get lost, a “C” project will seem disorganized in places, and at times the reader will struggle to follow the transition from one point to another. The project may contain enough instances of awkward organization or phrasing, clichés, inappropriate usage, or errors in mechanics or grammar to affect an academic reader’s assessment of the writer’s competence and care.