MY GRADING STANDARDS FOR PAPERS (sample "A" papers below)
100-95 A = excellent (i.e., perfect) the difference between a high school & college paper---------------------> The research paper--the difference between high school and college
94-90 A- what a thesis is-----> What are the components of a good thesis?
89-87 B+ how to outline your paper--------------------> What is an argument proposal, and how do I write one?
86-83 B = a good paper how to format your paper-- How do I format my paper?  Format & style guidelines
82-80 B- how to cite sources> MLA Format for citing sources
79-77 C+    
76-73 C = average college writer    
72-70 C-    
69-67 D+    
66-63 D    
62-60 D-    
59-0 F    


  Paper is formatted according to the formatting guidelines that I have provided.
  Paper contains a strong thesis that is an original idea.
  The writer includes details and examples from the readings.
  The writer has a clear sense of audience (not always the professor).
  Paper avoids logical fallacies (faulty arguments).
  Paper is organized logically & coherently.
  Transitions provide smooth, logical shifts from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph.
    Each paragraph advances the thesis and does not backtrack or go off on tangents.
    Each paragraph has a topic sentence that supports the thesis or advances the paper's argument.
  Paper uses primary and secondary sources effectively (see sample "A" papers).
    A literary research paper examines and analyzes literature.  This means that the paper contains quotes from the literature as evidence to back up claims the writer makes.  Quotes also illustrate points the writer makes.
    The paper remains free from long stretches of quotations that stand unanalyzed.  Long quotes indicate that the writer has padded the paper.  I want to read your ideas, not re-read a text I already know.  Also, remember that a quote can never stand alone; the sentence that follows the quotation must always tell the reader why the quote is there.  What does it add to your paper?
  The paper is free from grammatical and spelling errors,
    A paper should be put through spell check and then proofread more than once for mechanical errors. 
  Contains a lively, intelligent, and interesting human voice that speaks to the reader in an efficient style (no wordy sentences;  no stilted voice).
  Writer uses an extensive vocabulary but uses that vocabulary correctly.  In other words, do not use words you do not normally use; it is obvious when a writer relies on a thesaurus.
  Paper is free from cliches, mixed metaphors, sexist language, colloquialisms, informal language.
  Paper is free from contractions ( Contractions are appropriate in giving birth, not in the writing of formal papers). 
  Paper avoids vague terms (it, that, these, those, they, them, and the like).  Prefer specific or detailed words to vague words.  Do a word search to find vague terms and change them if necessary. 
  The writer avoids passive voice.  Do a word search to find words like "is," "was," "are," or other linking verbs.  These usually indicate passive sentence construction.
  Click here for other common errors to avoid in formal papers.
  Sentences vary in length and structure.
  The essay is consistent in tone and in point of view.
  Writer uses a variety of rhetorical strategies such as repetition, contrast, and rhetorical questions.
"A-"--All the elements of an "A" paper with some style problems
All the elements of an "A-" paper with:  
  Ideas are less clearly arranged
  Examples from primary and/or secondary sources used less effectively (i.e., some quotes are left standing alone or are not incorporated seamlessly into the writer's sentences).
All the elements of an "B+" paper with:  
  Weaker organizational structure.
  Essay develops one or two major points but skimps on the rest.
  Paragraphs have good topic sentences with some but not enough supporting detail.
  Transitions appear strained or forced.
  Word choice could be better.
  Relatively free from grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  Problems with more complex grammar and punctuation traps.
  Sentences varied but at times are dull and ordinary.
  Sentences awkwardly phrased at times.
  Lacks less polish or imagination.
  Weaker use of sources (some quotes are left unanalyzed);
"B-" PAPER--
All the elements of a "B" paper with:
  Organization needs work at the paragraph level.
  Sources engaged only minimally (the literature is referred to but not incorporated into the text as a quote).
"C+" PAPER--
All the elements of a "B-" paper with:
  Organization very weak at paragraph level.
  Needs some work at the sentence level.
  Many wordy sentences and incorrectly used vocabulary.
All the elements of a "C+" paper with:
  No clear thesis; or thesis does not answer the "so what?" question.
  Paper is underdeveloped, because paper's idea (thesis) not clear to student.
  Summary of the literature is provided rather than an analysis (reads like a book report).
  Writer frequently deals with generalizations without supporting them with specific facts, examples, or illustrations.
  Quotes are too long or not used at all (leads me to believe that you do not understand the material or have not read the material).
  Sentence structure is generally correct but lacks variety (over-reliance on simple sentences rather than complex ones).
  Attempts to organize--transitions mechanical.
  Frequent errors in spelling and punctuation.
  Essay is padded (wordy) and/or repetitious.
  Multiple style revisions necessary--writer tends to use cliches, jargon, or slang; essay contains vague, imprecise words.
  Writer not sure of voice (writer may try to write in a very formal, "scholarly" manner, for example).
  Essay fails to fulfill most of the requirements of the assignment or does not follow most of the directions given.
  No thesis at all.
  Student does not appear to understand assignment, but attempts are made to write something based on student's understanding.
"D"/"F" PAPER--
  No thesis, or thesis states the obvious.
  Writer clearly lacks knowledge of the subject or awareness of the topic.
  Essay appears to be a mechanical exercise without purpose.
  No developed voice.
  Essay does not meet the requirements of the assignment.
  No apparent organization plan.
  Paragraphs not related to a specific central idea.
  Essay lacks logical transition.
  Essay is full of generalizations without supporting examples, details, or facts.
  Word choice is limited.
  Words frequently misused or confused.
  Language is frequently cliched and unoriginal.
  Writer fails to understand the basic principles of grammar.
  Frequent errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling throughout the essay.
  Essay is vague, wordy; or the paper is too short.
Sample undergraduate "A" papers (you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to open):
English 300-level Sample papers: English 297 Sample papers:
Paper #1 Sample #1
Paper #2 Sample #2
English 400-level Sample paper: Sample #3
Paper #1 Sample #4
Paper #2 Sample #5