Compsci 182s, Paper Criteria

The first paper will be an argumentative essay that is 4-6 pages long. A page longer is fine, 10 pages is not fine, three pages is not fine. You should create a thesis topic and support the topic with class readings and your own readings/research.

Grading on the 1-4 Scale

There are three categories each with a scale of 1-4 points (it's difficult to impossible to get a zero unless there's really no effort in the category.)

In each category, the grade of 1-4 are assigned as follows:


The first reading

After one reading the author's message and purpose for writing are clear. Relevant readings and literature are cited and the author understands the issues and has conveyed this understanding. The reader is convinced that the author has surveyed some relevant areas and has tried to use the knowledge gained from the survey in writing the paper. There are no serious flaws in facts or understanding.

The content and thesis

A careful (or second) reading helps in providing grades for this area. The thesis of the paper is clear and well-developed. Arguments relevant to the thesis and contributing to the paper form the foundation on which the work stands. Non-relevant or uninsightful examples are few (ideally are missing completely). The author has provided useful references that distinguish the work from the ordinary, and used these references to cover areas relevant to the paper. The author considers alternatives to the thesis and argues against them in the paper.

The organization and mechanics

The writing in the paper is powerful and good. Paragraphs are well-structured and the paper flows well. Transitions between sections and/or paragraphs are thoughtful, clear, and contribute to the paper. Spelling, grammar, and writing are done according to the style of the subject. If there are tense problems, comma issues, run-on sentences, poor grammar, then it will be difficult to earn a three in this category.

Grades will be based on an average of the three criteria above, yielding a grade in the 1-4 range. Here's another way of looking at the numbers.

Outline of Scoring

  1. 3.5-4: Excellent paper (some kind of A)

    The paper is well-written, goes beyond the superficial in analysis and understanding, shows evidence of reading and understanding beyond what has been discussed in class, addresses the topic incisively.

  2. 3-3.5: Good paper (some kind of B) Reasonable thesis statement and solid supporting arguments, but there's a lack of incisiveness, or the paper is formulaic. The arguments may be superficial, or some relevant and important point may be overlooked.

  3. below 3: Poor paper (some kind of C) Thesis is not well-defined, paper is hard to read, references are weak.

  4. 0 Not done or equivalent, F

How we Evaluate Papers

As an example of good and not-so-good papers, consider the paper topic from Spring 2009:

To write the first paper you'll use one of two articles that originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal as a starting point

You should likely search for commentary on these articles since it's not clear that the reporters really got the technical side of things right. You'll have to judge and figure that out.

You must create a thesis topic, you're writing an argumentative essay. Support your argument using class readings and your own research.

a not-so-good paper

a good paper