Jim Pryor: Grading Rubric

As I say in the “Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper,” you’ll be graded on three basic criteria:

  1. How well do you understand what you’re writing about?

    This subdivides into:

    1A ("M") Your understanding of the course material you’re engaging with
    1B. ("Q") Your understanding and handling of the question prompt you’re addressing

  2. The quality of your arguments

    This subdivides into:

    2A. ("A") How cogent is your argumentation?
    2B. ("I") How much independent thought do you show?

  3. ("W") Is your writing clear, well-organized, and precise?

For each of the five categories above (1A/M, 1B/Q, 2A/A, 2B/I, and 3/W), we’ll give your paper between 0-5 points. Detailed examples of what each point corresponds to for each category are given below. Then we’ll add up all the numbers, and your grade will be determined like this:

   25 =    100%
23-24 = A  (95%)
21-22 = A- (91.5%)
19-20 = B+ (88.5%)
17-18 = B  (85%)
15-16 = B- (81.5%)
13-14 = C+ (78.5%)
11-12 = C  (75%)
 9-10 = C- (71.5%)
  7-8 = D+ (68.5%)
  5-6 = D  (65%)
  0-4 = F  (60%)
Not submitted = F (0%)

1A. ("M") Your understanding of the course material you’re engaging with

Do you present positions and arguments we’ve discussed in class accurately? What about ones you draw on from outside class (if you do that)?

5 points / Superior

Your paper displays a consistently strong command and understanding of the course material, reflecting careful reading of relevant readings and careful attention in class.

4 points / Proficient

Your paper displays a good command and understanding of the course material, with some gaps and small inaccuracies.

2-3 points / Satisfactory

Your paper displays some command and understanding of the course material, but there are significant gaps and inaccuracies.

1 point / Needs substantial improvement

Your paper makes some attempt to engage with the course material, but displays a weak command or understanding of it.

0 points / Unsatisfactory

Your paper makes no serious attempt to engage with the course material, and suggests little or no attentiveness to readings or to class lectures and discussions.

1B. ("Q") Your understanding and handling of the question prompt you’re addressing

How directly and fully do you address the question prompt? Do you clearly state what you’re trying to accomplish in your paper? Is it obvious to the reader what your main thesis is? Is your paper’s structure conducive to your goal?

5 points / Superior

Your paper shows you understand the question. You respond to it directly without irrelevancies or digressions, and arrive at a clear conclusion.

4 points / Proficient

Your paper shows you understand the question, and you respond to it directly. But you may occasionally digress or include irrelevant material, leave specific parts of the question not fully answered, or leave the conclusion of the paper implicit rather than stating it explicitly.

2-3 points / Satisfactory

You show some understanding of the question, but it is in some way imperfect, or your response is somewhat off-target, or the paper doesn’t arrive at specific, clear conclusion(s).

1 point / Needs substantial improvement

Your paper shows serious flaws in your understanding of the question or problem, or no clear conclusion to it is reached.

0 points / Unsatisfactory

Your paper shows you don’t understand the question you’re addressing, and you don’t respond to it.

2A. ("A") How cogent is your argumentation?

Do you offer supporting arguments for the claims you make? Is it obvious to the reader what these arguments are? Do you illustrate your claims with good examples? Do you explain your central notions? Do you consider objections? Do you present your opponents’ positions charitably?

5 points / Superior

Your paper is a strong display of cogent reasoning and argumentation. It does not add unnecessary steps or omit necessary ones. It engages with relevant, important objections.

4 points / Proficient

Your paper displays generally cogent reasoning and argumentation, but may add some unnecessary steps, or omit necessary ones. It makes a good effort to engage with objections, but does not always identify the most important or relevant ones.

2-3 points / Satisfactory

Your paper displays some capacity for cogent reasoning and argumentation, but there are noticeable gaps. It makes some effort to engage with objections, but not in much detail.

1 point / Needs substantial improvement

Your paper uses reasoning that contains significant errors or missteps. It engages with objections only minimally or in a perfunctory manner.

0 points / Unsatisfactory

Your paper doesn’t spell out its reasoning or engage with objections.

2B. ("I") How much independent thought do you show?

5 points / Superior

Your paper displays strong independence of thought by offering insightful perspectives that were not raised in class or the readings.

4 points / Proficient

Your paper displays significant independence of thought by developing ideas from class or the readings, putting them into a new context, or comparing or juxtaposing them in new ways.

2-3 points / Satisfactory

Your paper displays some independent thought, but mainly in a way that is limited to new examples or illustrations of familiar points.

1 point / Needs substantial improvement

Your paper puts ideas from class into your own words, or does a book report on one or more readings without seeking to analyze or critically engage with them.

0 points / Unsatisfactory

Your paper just rehashes the lecture notes or material presented in class.

3. ("W") Is your writing clear, well-organized, and precise?

Is your prose simple, easy to read, and easy to understand? Is it clear what the structure of your paper is? For instance, is it clear what parts of your paper are expository, and what parts are your own positive contribution? Do you say exactly what you mean? Does fuzzy language sometimes make your theses or arguments hard to understand?

5 points / Superior

Your writing is clear, grammatical, and well organized, with a clear structure. Your language is sharp enough for your goals.

4 points / Proficient

Your writing is mostly good, but shows some minor deficiencies in clarity, grammar, and/or organization/structure.

2-3 points / Satisfactory

Your writing is acceptable, but shows some notable deficiencies in clarity, grammar, and/or organization/structure.

1 point / Needs substantial improvement

Your writing is often unclear, and/or the paper lacks any identifiable structure. Its deficiencies could be set right only with significant rewriting.

0 points / Unsatisfactory

Your writing shows deficiencies in clarity and organization/structure so great that they could only be set right by rewriting the paper from scratch.

Thanks to Alex Worsnip for his grading rubric, on which this one is based.