Essay Grading Rubric

The table below provides a general sense of how essays are graded. The expectations remain the same no matter what your level of education, all that changes is matter of degrees. For instance, what counts as "a significant amount" of research varies from first year undergraduate to master's student. The categories are not weighted equally but are considered in the context of the others.

While every effort is taken to make grading as transparent as possible in order to give students the most opportunity to excel, a degree of subjectivity is inherent in the process. If you feel that you have met the criteria for a higher grade, by all means discuss this with your professor but be prepared to listen and learn from their explanation.


(Body of Paper)


a significant amount of independent, scholarly research was undertaken

the majority of sources are from peer-reviewed publications, those that aren’t are used as primary research only.

research is solidly within the parameters of the analysis and thesis argument

an original and provocative thesis is clearly stated at the beginning of the paper

the method of proving that thesis is established early on and justified on scholarly terms

the thesis provides the backbone of analysis and reaches a satisfying conclusion based on what was proposed at the beginning

based on excellent research and an original thesis, the analysis is strong, and clearly follows established research questions

the research is artfully woven throughout the analysis, shoring up and thoughtfully supporting the argument

new information is well contextualized and serves to propel the argument towards a satisfying conclusion

the paper is easy to read, analysis flows expertly

language is sophisticated without being jargonistic

terms of analysis and argumentation are clearly laid out and well-defined

TimesRoman 12pt, double spaced, 1-inch margins, page numbers

a cover page provides pertinent information

the bibliography follows a recognized scholarly style

citations are thorough and well documented throughout the paper


a reasonable amount of independent, scholarly research was undertaken

sources are mainly from peer-reviewed publications

research is sound but predictable

an interesting but predictable thesis is clearly stated at the beginning of the paper

the thesis tends toward more description than argument, leading to a weak conclusion

the methodology is there but isn’t clearly laid out, or is laid out but not followed through on an expert level

the analysis is good but there are some significant weaknesses or lapses

the paper occasionally drifts off-topic or into territory that isn’t adequately supported by the research

the research questions are interesting but potentially unrealistic in terms of the type and/or level of research undertaken


the paper is well written but suffers from some significant grammatical inconsistencies or spelling errors

language is clear but lacks scholarly depth

there are some lapses in definition and explication of terms

segue between points in the analysis are weak

the paper basically follows the technical requirements, with a few minor exceptions

citations are solid but not thorough, with some noticeable omissions


the minimum amount of independent, scholarly research was undertaken

sources also rely on non-scholarly publications

research is weak and unoriginal

the thesis is fundamentally descriptive or dependent on a value judgment (good/bad, right/wrong)

the method is vague or poorly laid out

the argument fails to reach a satisfying conclusion, with the paper simply petering out


analysis is uninteresting or uninspired, tending toward description

research questions are poorly laid out and inadequately explored

the research does not adequately support the analysis

there are significant but not quite major problems in grammar and spelling

language is unclear and/or shallow

terms are not well defined and analysis leaps erratically from point to point

there are some significant problems with the technical requirements of the paper that affect the strength of its analysis

citations are weak and/or the bibliography is incomplete


less than the minimum amount of independent, scholarly research was undertaken

sources depend heavily on non-scholarly publications

research is weak and unoriginal, but also fails to adequately support the argument


there is no easily identifiable thesis and/or little in the way of method

there is no conclusion because no argument was established early on

research questions are not identified at the outset

there is little interaction between research and analysis

what is supposed to pass as analysis is little more than description

major problems with grammar and spelling

language is murky, confused and difficult to follow

there is a paucity of definitions or context for analysis

there are major problems with the technical requirements of the paper that affect the strength of the analysis

there are next to no citations and/or no bibliography or it does not follow a scholarly style


little to no research undertaken, scholarly or not

little evidence of scholarly research in the paper

there is no thesis and/or no method

the conclusion is deeply flawed or outright non-existent

analysis is nearly non-existent, weak, minimal and unsupported by research

language is sub-par for university, riddled with grammatical and spelling errors

analysis is difficult to follow and lacks any sense of flow


the paper does not follow a scholarly format in either technical or citation format.