Department of English Language and Literature

Dr John Phillips


Assignment Standards


Not all good essays will conform strictly to the following standards but the ones that diverge from them will do so only because they have mastered the standards already and can make fruitful and productive transgressions.



---An introduction which situates your main idea, the thesis, in relation to the larger theoretical issues discussed throughout the course, and which clearly limits the thesis to the particular text (or, more realistically, portion of the text) you are going to argue about; the best introductions characterize the argument you make in your paper.

---A clearly stated thesis, which shows original thinking and insight, which analyzes the text and makes an argumentative claim about it (a claim which fulfills the Criterion: Why should this interest your reader?), rather than simply narrating or describing it; the thesis should maintain a double focus, up at some larger issue and down at the details of the text.

---Topic sentences at the start of each paragraph which do three things: relate directly to the thesis, act as transitions between paragraphs, and clearly state the idea that the paragraph will develop.

---Paragraphs which fully develop the idea from the topic sentence, and which begin and end with your own words making your point.

---Varied and interesting sentence structure with effective verbs, avoiding over-reliance on to be.

---Specific evidence from the texts, including quotations integrated into your own prose, to support your claims.

---Precise diction.

---No factual errors.

---No redundancies.

---No narration, except as evidence.

---Very few grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

---A conclusion that is relevant to the argument of the paper.



---An introduction that sets the scene, but perhaps doesn't fully articulate what is at stake theoretically, or wanders somewhat, not quite meeting the Why is this Interesting? Criterion.

---A thesis that is fairly clear and well thought-out, but relies too much on narration or description.

---Topic sentences that, for the most part but not in all cases, relate to the thesis, set forth the idea to be discussed and make transitions.

---Paragraphs that develop the ideas from the topic sentences, but have occasional repetition or redundancy, or which use quotations as argumentative crutches.

---A few poorly written sentences, some choppiness, wordiness, too much reliance on to be.

---Evidence from the text, but not all of it specific or clear.

---Some imprecise diction.

---The occasional redundancy.

---Few grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

---A conclusion which doesn't quite sum up the paper.




---A wandering, or over-general introduction, leaving the reader wondering exactly what you will be writing about and why anyone should care.

---A thesis which is primarily narrative or descriptive, but which does tend towards something.

---Topic sentences that do not always relate to the thesis, make transitions, and clearly state the idea to be developed in the paragraph.

---Paragraphs that don't fully develop the topic sentence.

---Scattershot diction.

---Repetition and redundancy abounding everywhere.

---Repetitious sentence patterns, choppiness, wordiness, overuse of to be.

---Weak, general or spotty evidence from the text; few or no quotations, too much reliance on narration.

---More grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors.

---An abrupt or trailing-off conclusion.



---A very weak introduction.

---A barely decipherable thesis.

---Topic sentences that dont relate to the thesis, almost never make transitions and which fail to set up the paragraphs they start.

---Paragraphs that wander away from the topic sentences.

---Incessant never-ending repetition and redundancy.

---Repetitious sentence patterns, lots of choppiness, run-ons, wordiness, overuse of to be.

---Little evidence, or evidence easily refuted, from the text.

---Numerous diction problems.

---Numerous grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.

---Hasty dashed off conclusion


There are two sorts of F grades possible: a response or paper that is not handed in is calculated as a Zero; a paper which is an honest effort but fails to fulfill the assignment is marked as an F and calculated accordingly.


Anyone found to have plagiarized a paper will fail.