Criteria Used for Evaluating Written Work

Appropriateness. Does your essay answer the assigned question? Does your essay address the main topic stated in your thesis?


Clarity of exposition and argument. How clearly have you explained the arguments and concepts from the course material that are relevant to the assignment? How clearly have you expressed your critical evaluation of the arguments contained in the readings? Have you clearly stated the reasons behind your evaluations?


Critical understanding of the material. Have you demonstrated a detailed, thorough understanding of the relevant course readings? Is there any important part of an argument that you have not considered? Do your accounts of the arguments make sense in light of what you know about the larger context in which they are set?


Fairness to the authors' arguments. Are your interpretations of the authors’ arguments charitable? Have you done your best to interpret them as good, strong arguments? If you think a certain argument is badly flawed, can you identify any beliefs that the author may have held which would make the argument stronger than you first thought? If you have expressed doubts about whether a certain premise of the author’s argument is true, have you supplied an argument to show that that premise is probably or certainly false?


Coherence of your explanations and arguments. Does your essay make sense as a whole? Is it well-organized? At each stage of the essay, is it easy to tell what you are saying and how that fits in with what you have already said? Are there any conflicts between things you say at different points in the essay? Do your arguments flow logically from your premises to your conclusions?


Ability to anticipate objections to your point of view. Have you considered how the authors of the articles you discuss (or someone else who read your essay and disagreed with you) might respond to your arguments? Are your arguments open to any obvious objections? Have you committed any glaring errors of reasoning? Are any of the assumptions you make obviously false?


Creativity. Have you introduced arguments, examples not discussed in the readings or class? Have you presented your ideas in a unique way, an innovative way? Have you contributed your own viewpoints in a way that is innovative, fresh, exciting?

Documentation of works cited. Have you noted where you refer to the work of writers other than yourself? Have you included page numbers in parentheses in the text of your essay to mark where you refer to works on the course syllabus? Have you included full endnotes or footnotes to mark where you refer to works other than those on the course syllabus? Have you included a bibliography listing all the bibliographical information about books you refer to that are not on the course syllabus?