General Grading Policy | Common Exam Errors 
 Written Assignment Evaluation Form  | How to Write Essays | Common Essay Errors

General Grading Policy for Prof. Pavlac

This page should help you better understand how your instructor constructs your grade.  

You, the student, earn your grade through work done for one of my courses. I, the instructor, evaluate your work according to how well it meets class objectives, fulfills requirements and reflects academic skills expected of college students (beginning levels for CORE classes, advanced levels for History Major classes).
Any and all students could earn an "A" on any assignment or for the course.  There is no grading curve.  

While grading can be imprecise, the instructor tries to grade assignments according to specific criteria.  Read the syllabus carefully for those criteria concerning every assignment.   The instructor also requires cover pages to assignments to help him grade without bias or favoritism.
It is your responsibility to understand why you have achieved a certain grade, and what steps you can take to maintain or improve your grade.
You are encouraged to consult with the instructor, , telephone (ext. 5748), voicemail messages or visits (Hafey-Marian 307) during office hours or by appointment, both before and after exams and written assignments.

The following general guidelines indicate what kind of work will earn a specific grade.

Work of poor quality deserves a D or even an F:
failing to turn in written work, tardiness, not participating in classroom activity, making serious errors of facts, and/or writing incomplete and superficial essays and exam answers which do not explain historical facts and concepts.

Work of an average quality gets a C:
promptly turning in adequate written work, regularly participating in classroom activity, making few errors of facts, and/or writing complete and competent essays and exam answers which reasonably explain historical facts and concepts.

Work of good quality rates a B:
promptly turning in well-thought out written work, usually participating in classroom activity, making no more than a few insignificant errors of facts, and/or writing thorough and interesting essays and exam answers which substantially explain historical facts and concepts.

Work of superior quality merits an A:
promptly turning in written work which shows extraordinary effort or skill, often contributing positively to classroom activity, making almost no errors of facts, and/or writing comprehensive and thought-provoking essays and exam answers which thoroughly explain historical facts and concepts.

For your protection, in case of errors of recording marks, you should keep copies of all exams and assignments until you have received official notice of your final grade.

General Grading Policy | Common Exam Errors 
 Written Assignment Evaluation Form  | Common Essay Errors

Common Exam Errors

Map Questions:

Short Identifications :

Exam Essays:  

Assessment of Written Assignments

It is up to the writer to make his or her writing suitable for the reader.  Here are two similes for thinking about writing::

1.  Reading is like going on a trip.  The introduction is the brochure that tells you where you are going (your thesis), and basically what you will be seeing along the way (your points).  The paragraphs are the important stops, like a church, a castle, and a museum.  Each paragraph describes each place in detail, but also connects it to the theme of the larger trip.  Bad writing is like bumps on the road, interfering with the pleasure of travel.  Changing the subject or including irrelevant points are like detours--distractions from the main journey.  Jumping to conclusions will only get the reader lost. A conclusion sums up where one has been.  After a successful trip, the reader is then left to reflect on the importance this trip has had for herself.  

2.  Reading is like eating a meal.  The introduction is the menu that lays out the courses.  The eater then knows what to expect and anticipate.  Each course is a paragraph, filling out the taste and design of each dish.  Courses out of order are like badly organized paragraphs -- confusing and distracting.  Bad writing is like badly cooked food--underdone or burnt with carelessness.  Well-chosen words and bright ideas are unexpected delights of spices or flavors.  A fine meal, like fine writing, results in a happy and satisfied customer (perhaps wanting more).  A bad meal, like bad writing, leaves the customer disappointed and with a belly ache.  

Grading is merely a formal evaluation of that reading process.  Assessment provides feedback on how well an assignment has met the required goals set by the instructor.  

The instructor will use the following marks throughout your paper.  You should use these to become aware of possible improvements in your writing.  

= Here is a good fact, detail or point. The more of these the better.
= You have an amazing or interesting point.
= You have misspelled this word, improperly capitalized it, or misused an apostrophe.  
= Your meaning is unclear.  Either I do not understand, or your sense is ambiguous.
= This statement is factually wrong.  Check your sources.
= Is this comment necessary? Omitting it might make your essay more concise.
= It is unclear how this remark is relevant to your argument.
= You contradict yourself.  Compare this statement to what you have written elsewhere.
= This statement is repetitive.
= Your writing here is awkward, because of a grammatical error or an imprecise style.
= You should delete this word, space or punctuation mark.
= Your language is too wordy.  Be concise.
= Wrong word:  I think you use this word incorrectly;  another choice might better express your intent.
= You exaggerate.  Be more modest or realistic in your description.
= You are using colloquial language or slang.  You should be more formal.
= This verb is in error.  For example, check for subject-verb agreement or proper tense.
= You should insert the appropriate punctuation mark.
= Here is a fragment, not a complete thought.  You need to write a complete sentence.
= You need a better transition between two sentences or between two paragraphs to show either their connection and continuity or a change in the direction of your argument.
= This sign indicates a paragraph problem.  Your paragraph may lack a coherent topic sentence or overall unity.  
= This passage should be single spaced.  Is it a citation, or a quote longer than three lines?

The instructor will use the following chart to grade some of your written assignments, based on his evaluation of how well you follow the instructions as to presentation, content and quality of writing.
You should use these evaluation criteria as a self-assessment guide while you complete assignments and for improvement on later ones. For more information, consult your printed syllabus, the paper presentation guide, and information below.

Grade: A B C D F
Thesis: striking interesting discernible weak none
introduction: complete developed acceptable fragmentary omitted
conclusion: comprehensive substantial satisfactory incomplete missing
Organization: focused unified apparent confused chaotic
transitions: versatile smooth obvious simplistic devoid
� structure: well-crafted coherent intact undeveloped disordered
Evidence: precise sharp adequate poor lacking
source citation: thorough consistent present infrequent absent
use of details: original supportive sufficient scarce rare
Style: authentic proper sensible awkward deficient
sentence: effective clear conventional flawed incoherent
word usage: purposeful descriptive correct imprecise stilted

Some Strengths:
neatly presented; correct length; few grammatical errors; clearly organized; imaginative; rhetorically successful; effective tone; shows effort; you seem to understand the basic material; good examples; good ideas
Some Weaknesses: slang; clich�s; contractions; spelling errors; apostrophe errors; too many quotes; sentence errors (fragments, run-ons); wrong format for citations and/or Bibliography; introduction does not present plan or purpose; conclusion lacks summary
Some Suggestions for Improvement: refer to the instructions and requirements described in the syllabus; write with more formal diction; use the past tense; use the active voice more; proofread;
do more research; provide more details for evidence; explain points in more depth; focus more on your thesis; please see me with this paper during office hours or by appointment

How to Write Essays (Further explanation of the above form) 

Make sure your paper has a thesis statement:  one sentence that concisely presents your argument.  Avoid repeating the wording in the syllabus used to describe your paper's purpose.  Take a stand, show a direction with a thesis.  You are not simply presenting a report, but trying to argue a point of view.  Clearly present your thesis in both your introduction and conclusion, explicitly listing as well the kind of information you use to support it.   
The introduction of your paper is important.  A stranger should be able to read it and know what the assignment is about, and how you, specifically, are going to deal with it.  Your first paragraph, the introduction, should start with an exordium, a general lead in to the topic.  You should introduce the topic clearly, and focus it with your thesis statement.  You should also describe how, with what main points (usually the key ideas of your paragraphs), you will develop your argument.  These key ideas should be reemphasized in your conclusion.  In short essays of 4-7 pages, the introduction should only be one paragraph long.  Beware of breaking it up into several paragraphs. 

Your paper needs a clear organization in order for the instructor to easily read and readily evaluate your ideas.  As mentioned above, you should indicate your general organization in the introduction and again review your key points again in the conclusion.  In historical papers, it is common to use a chronological sequence to organize your ideas.  But a thematic approach may be more useful.  Whichever structure, or combination thereof, you use, inform the reader in your introduction.  See the simile above of taking the reader on a trip.  

Make sure you have solid paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence, usually the first one, which clearly defines the subject of that paragraph.  Each paragraph should be one significant argument for your thesis.  Only information pertinent to that subject should be included in that paragraph.  Further, specific details and generalizations should show some sort of structure or flow.  And transitions, whether single words, short phrases, or a full sentence, should connect ideas both within and between paragraphs in any essay.  

Your use of evidence is key to showing the quality of research and defending your thesis.  Every piece of information used should provide context or contribute to supporting your paper's purpose.  Other information is irrelevant, and should be left out.  Be sure to adequately describe or define any historical people, institutions or events that you mention.  Go into detail for those that help develop your argument.  

Be sure to use a wide variety of sources in order to be well-informed about the paper's topic.  Especially do not use one source too much on any one page;  instead select information from several books or articles.  Cite any information that is not general knowledge.  If you are allowed to quote, each one must also be cited.  
Citations help the reader understand where you got the information from to make your argument, and help the reader to find that information for himself.  
For more information, on citations, click here.  

A smooth style is likewise important.  Even though this class is not an "English" or a "writing" course, proper communication always counts.  Complete sentences should have both a subject and a verb.  Carefully consider your choice of words.  They should reflect the proper tone (usually formal) and properly describe the concept or action which you are trying to explain.   

My interpretation of a formal style includes several components.  You should write as if you are addressing a respected adult.  So avoid colloquial (familiar) language, especially common slang, but do not get too high-falutin', fancy, or flowery with your writing.  Your words should genuinely come from you.  Write in the third person.  You should leave out references to your own self or person (such as with "I feel..."). Do not involve yourself in the paper--be objective.  Nor should you address the reader ("You are probably wondering..." or "As you know...").  Avoid rhetorical questions.  You should not include contractions (such as "don't;" spell it out, as in "do not").  Always use last or family names of people you discuss--you are not on a first name basis with any figures of history (unless they only have a first name).  

General Grading Policy | Common Exam Errors 
 Written Assignment Evaluation Form  | How to Write Essays | Common Essay Errors

Common Essay/Written Assignment Errors

Try to avoid these mistakes which students make too often:  

Format (not following guidelines listed in the syllabus, handouts or the paper presentation guide) has:  


General Style has:

Content, where the writer:  

Citations have:  


General Grading Policy | Common Exam Errors 
 Written Assignment Evaluation Form  | How to Write Essays | Common Essay Errors

This page has had

hits since 9 February 2007.
Copyright © MMVIII by Brian A. Pavlac
Last Revision: 20 August 2008
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