Student Writing Assessment

Assessment Criteria

The criteria below represent essential elements of any successful, argument-driven academic essay. However, the overarching, encompassing feature of any successful writing process is the prevalence of rigorous, thoughtful revision, which reimagines and reworks any—and likely all—of the criteria listed below.

Central Claim

The central claim (often also called the “thesis” or “main point”) is a debatable stance or argumentative position the author establishes and advances throughout the essay. Good central claims do more than state the author’s opinion and instead reflect a complex thought or idea that needs to be explored, supported, and developed throughout the essay. In his book Rewriting, Joseph Harris helps us to better understand the central claim of an essay with these questions: “What issues drive this essay? What ideas does it explore? What lines of inquiry does it develop?” (Harris 16-17).

Development
A successful argumentative essay advances its core ideas or issues through sustained engagement and conversation with other writers and texts. This is at once about providing “examples” and “evidence”—complete with appropriate, correct documentation and citation—and yet also about stepping beyond the listing of examples. Successful development requires the author to carry an initial idea further, either by building on or extending the work of another author or by countering, arguing against, another author in order to more fully expand her own ideas.

Analysis
A necessary component of development, analysis builds on and complicates claims and evidence when the writer asks, “So what?” This question pushes the writer to offer reasons for the connections between her ideas and available evidence to support those ideas. Analysis shows why any evidence, examples, or citations are essential to advancing the essay’s central ideas and it also shows why those central ideas—the main ideas and central claim(s) of the essay—are important overall.

Organizational Focus
Organizational focus is defined by two main criteria: the presence of a core argument or set of ideas that are consistent throughout the paper, and logically connected paragraphs that take the reader through the author’s thought process as this core argument is developed, substantiated, and expanded. Sometimes students use the word “flow” to describe the organization of an essay; this can be a helpful term. With good “flow,” the progression of ideas make sense to the reader as she follows the author’s argument; there are no gaps, no surprising omissions or inclusions. In a paper with effective organizational focus each paragraph builds on and transitions smoothly from what comes before it in a logical progression of ideas.

Clarity of Prose
A successful essay demonstrates clarity of prose, which requires mastery of English grammar, usage, and mechanics, as well as careful proofreading. Such mastery may also involve the writer’s ability to manipulate usage to further advance and develop the central claim(s), ideas, and analysis of the overall essay. Word choice and grammatical structure often serve a rhetorical purpose, exemplifying the ideas the author is exploring.

Benchmark Language

ENWR 100

*A* papers present a strong and clear central claim, well supported with evidence and reasoning connected to the central claim. The paper is developed and organized for a reader’s ease of understanding. It demonstrates thoughtful textual analysis and engages with sources in a variety of ways, making use of summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation in a fluid manner. The prose is clear and highly readable, generally correct mechanically and displaying strength of voice; while non?standard English may be present, its use does not detract from and may enhance readers’ understanding.

*B* papers present a clear central claim adequately supported with evidence and reasoning. The essay is sufficiently developed and organized. It demonstrates textual analysis connected to the central claim and engages sources, making generally effective use of summary, paraphrase, and/or direct quotation. The prose is generally readable, although sentences are not always clear, and while non?standard English may be present, its use does not detract from readers’ understanding.

*C* papers present a central claim that may be vague or overly general and/or that may be weakly supported. Though evidence and reasoning are present, the essay may be unevenly developed or underdeveloped. Essay organization is functional but often not ideal, with areas of repetition and/or weak transitions. The paper engages sources, although use of summary, paraphrase, and/or direct quotation may be ineffective.  Analysis is present but may be limited or disconnected from the central claim. The clarity of the prose may break down with unclear sentences, although meaning is conveyed overall. Non-standard English may be present, but it does not significantly impact readers’ understanding.??

*D* papers may contain some strong elements, but they lack a central claim or have a central claim that is not easily identifiable or that is unsupported with evidence and reasoning. The paper may be undeveloped and/or organized in a confusing manner without a clear sense of rationale for paragraphing or order of ideas. The paper engages sources minimally, making limited use of summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation, and offering little to no relevant textual analysis.  The clarity of the prose may break down often with unclear sentences that significantly detract from readers’ overall understanding; non-standard English may be present and significantly impact readers’ understanding.

*F* papers have not addressed the assignment in terms of form, content, length, deadlines, and/or other requirements. Papers that violate the university’s policy for academic dishonesty will earn an F.

ENWR 105

*A* papers present powerful, engaging arguments and central claims. In an A paper, the writer’s central claim is clear and yet also complex and sophisticated. The central claim and core ideas of the essay are supported by compelling evidence, logical reasoning, and analysis. Relevant sources are integrated and documented appropriately. The essay is highly readable because it is organized for the reader’s ease of understanding, and the paragraphs and sentences are clearly, articulately written and enhance the overall effectiveness of the essay.

*B* papers present strong central claims and arguments that are well supported with evidence, logic, and analysis. Relevant sources are integrated and documented appropriately. The essay is organized appropriately and the prose is clear though it likely does not have the articulateness of an “A” paper.

*C* papers present central claims and arguments that a reader can follow but that may be only partially supported by evidence and examples. Organizational focus and analysis may be weak, suggesting that significant revision is needed. Often there is evidence that the author has either misread or only superficially read the text or sources under analysis; sources may not be integrated well or documented appropriately. The prose is generally readable, though sentences are not always clear and errors are sometimes distracting. 

*D* papers are either unsuccessful in presenting central claims and arguments, or present arguments that are essentially unsupported. D papers may vary in length, but the paragraphs are frequently organized in a way that confuses rather than guides readers. External sources are often not present or well-integrated; sources are likely not documented correctly. Papers that are written in prose that is confusing will receive Ds, though not all D papers will have confusing prose.

*F* papers are unsuccessful in presenting and supporting arguments, either because they contain no central claims or, if they do, these claims are poorly developed. Essays are organized and written in a confusing manner, and prose is often inaccessible for the reader. Sources are typically not documented at all or not documented correctly. Often the essay does not meet the expectations outlined in the assignment.

ENWR 106

*A* papers present powerful, engaging arguments and central claims that present the author’s original interpretations of literary texts. In an A paper, the writer’s central claim is clear and yet also complex and sophisticated. The central claim and core ideas of the essay are supported by compelling evidence, logical reasoning, and analysis. The author demonstrates sophisticated close reading of the text(s), appropriately documented and integrated external research, and a clear understanding of relevant literary genres. The essay is highly readable because it is organized for the reader’s ease of understanding, and the paragraphs and sentences are clearly, articulately written and enhance the overall effectiveness of the essay.

*B* papers present strong central claims and arguments that are well supported with evidence, logic, and analysis. The author demonstrates close reading of the text(s), appropriately documented and integrated external research, and a clear understanding of relevant literary genres. The essay is organized appropriately and the prose is clear though it likely does not have the articulateness of an “A” paper.

*C* papers present central claims and arguments that a reader can follow but that may be only partially supported by evidence and examples. Organizational focus and analysis may be weak, suggesting that significant revision is needed. Often there is evidence that the author has either misread or only superficially read the text or sources under analysis; the author may lack familiarity with relevant literary genres and sources may not be properly documented. The prose is generally readable, though sentences are not always clear and errors are sometimes distracting. 

*D* papers are either unsuccessful in presenting central claims and arguments, or present arguments that are essentially unsupported. D papers may vary in length, but the paragraphs are frequently organized in a way that confuses rather than guides readers. The essay lacks close reading and familiarity with appropriate literary genres; external research is likely not incorporated as appropriate and documentation is often incorrect. Papers that are written in prose that is confusing will receive Ds, though not all D papers will have confusing prose.

*F* papers are unsuccessful in presenting and supporting arguments, either because they contain no central claims or, if they do, these claims are poorly developed. Essays are organized and written in a confusing manner, and prose is often inaccessible for the reader. Often the essay does not meet the expectations outlined in the assignment.