Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center
Tools for TAs and Instructors

Grading Written Assignments

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The stack of papers on your desk seems bottomless, and mid-way through the paper you are reading, you cannot remember what the student is arguing. Now you have to go back and re-read the paper. On top of this, you are not even sure what constitutes a good and bad paper anymore.

We have all been overwhelmed by the grading process. Though many of the tips below may appear to be time-consuming, they can in fact lead to a reduction in grading time and more importantly, a more productive, fruitful use of that time.

Invest Your Time Earlier in the Process

Working Through the Pile Holistic Grading
Holistic grading involves looking at the paper as an entire document instead of distinguishing content from form. It might help to write out a description of what constitutes an A, B, and C paper. The following paragraphs are illustrative:

Grading With Checklists
Evaluation sheets or checklists permit:
However, some graders find segmenting the paper into specific items counter to their holistic understanding of writing. Others dislike using points that may add up to more or less than the grade the paper seems to merit.

Sample Checklist

The paper...
Addresses the topic or question
Accurately presents assigned authors' viewpoints
Provides sufficient textual evidence to support the argument

The introduction...
Is present in the paper
Includes a clearly stated thesis
Indicates how the paper is organized
The body...
Contains a complete discussion and support
Each paragraph...
Includes a topic sentence
Develops one main idea
Has a transition sentence linking it to the next paragraph
The conclusion...
Recaps the thesis statement and the essay's main points
Presents a closing statement of the writer's position
Organization and Development
The entire composition
Is logically organized
Has a solid argument with supporting evidence
Main points
Are relevant to the thesis statement
Are discussed without too much repetition

Is concise and precise
Is free of misspellings
Is free of grammatical mistakes
Lacks incomplete sentences
Uses correct punctuation
Includes subject/verb agreement
Uses pronouns correctly
Is free of jargon and cliches
Cites references correctly

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