Grading criteria

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Grading Criteria

All instructors of Writing for Business and Professions grade work according to the same standards. Please see Grading Criteria for Proposal Writing Classes for more information.

Grading Criteria for Proposal Writing Courses

(355:302 Scientific and Technical Writing and 355:303 Writing for Business and Professions)
The Grading Criteria for Proposal Writing Courses are intended to promote fair and uniform standards for evaluating papers and for determining final grades. These standards are important not only so that students in one section of the course can expect to be evaluated by the same criteria as students in another section, but so that instructors can know that they are evaluating students by the same criteria used by their colleagues.

Determining Grades for Attendance, Class Participation and Daily Work


Attendance is mandatory in all classes as it affects the individual and group learning experience. Latecomers are disruptive to the instructor and other learners, and interrupt the flow of learning.

Absent learners, without prior notice, medical note or accepted explanation will be marked as “ABSENT” for the class, and lose 100% of the attendance and participation points for the class.

Latecomers, may or may not be admitted to the class (at the instructor’s discretion) will be marked as “LATE”, and will lose 50% of the attendance and participation points for the class.

Repeated absences and / or lateness is indicative of a different situation and will be addressed by the instructor and/or program staff. “REPEATED ABSENCES AND/OR LATENESS” will result in additional reductions in attendance and participation points for classes.

All students are required to sign in for class.

All attendance and participation points for classes are recorded.

Classroom Participation

In-Class Participation

Students who prepare for class and actively participate in discussion are more engaged and learn more, and contribute to the learning experiences of other students. In addition to attendance, students receive points for qualitative contributions that advance the discussion. Students who participate by asking trivial questions or making uninformed or off-topic comments will not earn points.

  • Meaningful class participation is taken seriously, and students can use the feedback to improve their in-class contributions.
  • Grading is based on:
    • evaluation of the quality of the student’s preparation for class discussion
    • the substance of contributions made to discussion
    • aspects of general class citizenship (listening skills, responding to other students with respect, promoting on-topic discussion).
    • (Improvements in the quality of discussion are observed and noticed throughout the term. Consequently, students have the opportunity to improve the quality of their participation.
Online Participation

Class participation is not limited to in-class (face-to-face) participation. Online participation (through threaded discussions, blogs, hashtag postings, videos and social media) all contribute points to the Attendance and Class Participation grade.

Determining Grades for the Resume and Cover Letter

Since students are always in the process of revising the resume, instructors should direct their comments toward revision. Initial emphasis, especially in comments, should be placed on issues of audience. Problems of error and imperfect proofreading should be emphasized in the grade. However, comments should be directed toward identifying specific patterns of error.

  • Students must attach the job advertisement, since without it peers and instructors cannot judge audience expectations.
  • The resume should be ordered in a way that best responds to the potential employer's needs
  • The cover letter should offer significant details distinguishing the candidate and highlighting aspects of the resume in a way that clearly responds to those needs.
  • Instructors should try to require a high level of detail in the cover letter, since most students will write letters that are too short or that lack detail. Each document should be one full page in length.

The resume and cover letter assignment ought to have absolutely no errors of syntax, grammar, consistency, or tense. Errors in consistency (in spacing, parallel form, layout, capitalization, etc.) are especially prevalent. General sloppiness or failure to adhere to generally accepted principles (such as using active verbs) should also be considered.

Determining Grades for the Midterm Paper / Initial Sales Letter

A Range

A range papers have a strong understanding of audience, purpose, and the means of persuasion at hand.

  • They should offer a clear paradigm, where the student uses strong research and presents it with confidence.
  • There should be very few errors in writing.

B Range

B range papers have a clear understanding of audience and purpose.

  • They describe a problem and offer a solution that is justified by research.
  • They should also begin to set forth (or at least suggest or point toward) a consensus view (or paradigm) that will justify the project objective.
  • They are generally well presented and relatively error-free.

C Range

C range papers not only address a reader's concerns but begin to use or reference research to justify an approach to those concerns.

  • Often, they are making the appropriate gestures without reaching full potential.
  • They may try to define a problem and offer a somewhat justified solution, but the research is not yet fully sufficient or well enough deployed to make a solid case.
  • The research does not yet begin to gel into a paradigm, and sometimes the paper still exhibits some residue of the "report" format.
  • Alternatively, a student may rely too heavily on summary of sources and research findings, rather than having the source material directed toward a specific goal. Sometimes a C range paper relies too heavily on pathos rather than logos, which is usually a sign of insufficient research.

F range

Reasons why a midterm letter might receive a grade of F include:

  • Fails to fulfill the basic requirements of the assignment (e.g.: minimal or missing bibliography, no in-text citations).
  • Develops a very personal argument without sufficient reference to others (so that it should really be a letter to the editor rather than a project proposal).
  • Fails to use or cite research, or uses inappropriate research.
  • Focuses on the methods (how) while ignoring the researched justification (why).
  • Presents an overly broad, or unfocused, or inappropriately large topic.
  • Follows a "report of information" format, without a clear objective or application structuring the paper.
  • Fails to address a specific audience.
  • Exhibits a high level of error which interferes significantly with meaning.

Determining Grades for the Oral Presentation

The oral presentation is both an "oral draft" of the final paper and an exercise in public speaking. Therefore, there is a need to balance the sometimes competing issues of content (including research, organization, and visual aids) with recognition of the form or style (including delivery, eye contact, and polish).

One should focus most, though, on how well the presentation gives evidence that the student is prepared to write the final paper for the class, and our comments should focus most on how the student can revise the project for the final paper.

A - B range

The strongest presentations (A and B range) feature clear organization, convincing logic, excellent references to evidence, clear and useful visual aids, and a confident delivery style.

C range

Weak (or C range) presentations tend to have scant evidence, few or indecipherable visual aids, poor organization, or an especially problem-ridden delivery.

Determining Grades for the Final Paper

A Range

An A paper has all of the qualities of a B paper, and distinguishes itself in at least some of the following ways:

  • Sets an especially challenging or original task that the student fulfills.
  • Demonstrates excellent or innovative research, which is well ordered and cited.
  • Organizes the research into a clearly and carefully delineated paradigm.
  • Uses graphics that are highly effective at conveying information.
  • Has almost completely error-free writing.
  • Has a degree of stylistic polish that exceeds the commonplace (though this alone does not make an A paper, it is often a contributing factor).
  • Exhibits a remarkably attractive appearance and visually appealing design.
  • The best A range projects are those in which the writer does more than merely import an existing paradigm into a new situation. There should be some attempt to modify the model and make it case-specific, expanding the paradigm.

B Range

A paper in the B range generally does most of the following to some extent:

  • Clearly describes or quantifies the problem or need to be addressed.
  • Has a sense of the paradigm or theoretical frame used to define the project.
  • Engages (and does not ignore) the difficulties suggested by the research or the plan.
  • Uses source materials well and places them in a logical relation to other sources and the thesis.
  • Responds to the needs or concerns of the likely audience (or funding source).
  • Strives to persuade the reader.
  • Seems feasible as a real world project.
  • Uses visual aids that are well explained and integrated into the proposal.
  • Guides the reader through the argument (using good transitions, sign posts, forecasting, etc.).
  • Has mostly error-free writing.
  • Often, a B range paper has a strong literature review but a weak plan, or alternately, an imaginative and well developed plan of action that is insufficiently supported by research.

C Range

Papers usually fall into the C range if they have some of the following characteristics:

  • The level of research, organization, and logic are sufficient to demonstrate a basic competency.
  • The paper puts information in action and is not merely a report or summary.
  • The argument shows signs of promise even if it is not fully unified or fully developed.
  • The research, while sufficient to pass, does not seem to fulfill all of the needs of the student's argument. Perhaps certain essential facts are missing from an otherwise acceptable paper.
  • The writer ignores important difficulties or avoids dealing with salient issues.
  • The writer has not fully engaged with or considered the audience's concerns about this project.
  • The solution does not follow logically from the problem.
  • The paradigm does not mesh with the practice, or is not clearly delineated.
  • Generally, a paper that is competent but fails to organize the research into a paradigm will receive a C+ grade.
  • The visual aids are especially weak or carelessly prepared.
  • The level of error is high or shows signs of general and repeated carelessness.

F Range

Reasons why a final proposal might receive a grade of F include:

  • The paper is plagiarized, in whole or in part. (Instructors must bring all plagiarism issues immediately to a Writing Program director.)
  • The paper does not meet the basic requirements of the assignment (e.g.: no visual aids or no bibliography, missing crucial sections).
  • The writer does not use sufficient or appropriate documentation (i.e.: very few, very old or completely inappropriate sources) or does not support points with references.
  • The paper is written in the form of a report, and fails to focus information toward action.
  • The paper depends largely on undirected summary.
  • The level of basic organization interferes dramatically with the paper's meaning. For example, the paragraphs do not follow logically or there is no apparent organizational structure.
  • Problems of sentence-level error (especially grammar and syntax) are so severe that they interfere with the paper's meaning and appear to be both serious and irremediable without another semester of work.
    • Examples of serious error include sentence fragments, subject-verb agreement errors, or an over-reliance on simple sentences without transitions between them. Less severe (and passable) problems include spelling errors, misused apostrophes, and bad proofreading.
  • The writer does not project a basic competence in writing.