Inquiry & Expression  

Grading Criteria

Inquiry and Expression instructors use the grading criteria below in the grading of essays; however, at the instructor's discretion, a student's process of writing the essay may also determine the essay's grade.
Guidelines for Grading Essays

An A essay: a superior essay, is characterized by the following features:

  • incisive, original, significant, and well-developed content

  • a clear and insightful thesis

  • a tightly woven, efficient structure that advances the thesis

  • consistent awareness of the essay’s audience (e.g., instructor, classmates, general public)

  • abstractions that are supported with well-chosen, sharp details

  • nuanced prose that exemplifies inventive stylistic techniques (e.g., varying rhythms, parallel elements, appropriate figures of speech)

  • fresh, precise, and appropriate diction

  • practically no errors in mechanics or documentation


A B essay: a good essay, possesses the following features:

  • coherent, developed content

  • a clear thesis

  • considerable awareness of the essay's audience and purpose

  • a cohesive and logical structure that includes effective transitional elements

  • moderate awareness of appropriate diction

  • prose that's clear and also uses some basic elements of sophisticated style (e.g., varied sentence lengths and structures, strong verbs, emphatic elements)

  • some errors in mechanics or documentation


A C essay: an acceptable essay, displays the following features:

  • content that attempts to support the essay’s thesis

  • an identifiable thesis that lacks clarity or development

  • some awareness of audience and purpose

  • a somewhat unified structure with some attempts at transitional elements

  • prose that is generally clear yet needs more careful revision for sentence variety, smooth phrasing, and word choice

  • frequent mechanical errors (e.g., sentence fragments, run-ons, verb tense shifts)

  • persistent problems with documentation


A D or F essay: an unsatisfactory essay, displays a range of the following features:

  • deficient, superficial, and/or confusing content

  • no identifiable thesis

  • an unclear central purpose and/or lack of audience awareness

  • a structure with clear gaps in unity or coherence
  • abstractions lacking concrete support

  • a preponderance of either excessively confusing or overly basic sentences
  • serious mechanical errors
  • serious errors in documentation