Grading Standards for College Papers


This document describes the standard by which student essays will be evaluated. The rigor of this standard confirms the value of an ECU degree.


Very good. Detailed understanding of the text; sound organization; few or no mechanical mistakes; clear, unambiguous sentences, perhaps with a touch of elegance. In the best A papers, a lively and intelligent voice seems to speak; it has something interesting to say, says it clearly and gracefully to an appropriate audience, and supports it fully. The thesis of the paper goes beyond what was said in class and the relevance of the topic to the text as a whole is explicit.


Good. Clear thesis, organization and continuity; probably some minor mechanical errors but no major ones; ideas that are reasonable and anchored in the text. Thought has obviously gone into the paper; it is solid but not striking. Papers with theses that are original but not well-connected to the text in question, or papers that are competent but remain on a surface level of analysis, tend to fall into this range. Work might be needed on stylistic points such as wordiness and unclear transitions.


Good enough. This grade indicates the acceptable standard for graduation from East Carolina University. A weak, fuzzy thesis and perhaps illogical arguments to support it; a certain amount of confusion about what the text actually says; numerous minor mechanical errors and perhaps some major ones; examples given for their own sake or to prove that the writer has read the text, not to prove a point; organization rambles or disappears; words are misused; proofreading is weak. There are some ideas here, but the writer needs help and work to make them clear to another reader.


Not good enough. Thesis missing; major mechanical problems; poor organization; serious misreadings of the text; long stretches of plot summary; the paper is much shorter than the assigned length—the writer doesn’t really have a point to make.


The paper is plagiarized in part or in whole, or it shows general weaknesses even graver than those of a D paper.


Adapted from statements by Eleanor Courtemanche, Harry Shaw, and the Vassar English Department.