Cleveland State University

The Writing Center

How Professors Grade a Research Paper

This sheet is designed for grading research papers.  Scores range from 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Higher Order Concerns

What’s working:  tell the writer the best features of his or her text here

Focus                        1          2          3          4          5

A focus is the thesis or main point of your writing.  Is it clear?  Is the whole paper on the focus?  Write out the focus right here.


Development refers to the support you give your focus.

            Comprehensiveness         1          2          3          4          5

Are there enough quotes, paraphrases, examples, inferences, reasoning, opinions, forecasts?    Has the writer given a reasonable number of sources to be comprehensive on this subject for this assignment?

            Background Information            1          2          3          4          5

Has the writer from the beginning of the paper introduced the research cited appropriately (i.e. full name, year of book/article, general goals of research, context for research)?  Do any definitions or histories need to be given before the body of the paper begins?

            Integration of Sources      1          2          3          4          5

How well has the writer paraphrased and quoted so that the voice of the writer, not the sources, guides the text?  Is the in-text citation done well?

            Audience Adaptation        1          2          3          4          5

Is the text written for a college-level audience with appropriate vocabulary and length of explanations?  Are appropriate materials explained well?     Some potential problems occur when writers write seemingly for themselves without addressing an audience (and the text can be too personal or informal), or sometimes writers address only experts, making the text too dense and short.

            Argument     1          2          3          4          5

If the writer presents an argument, is it a full one?  Does it lack any information?  Does the argument follow through to a conclusion?  Does it include a rebuttal?  Is the rebuttal a fair one?  Has the writer respectfully treated the views of all sides?

Organization            1          2          3          4          5

Has the writer organized or structured the paper in the way that the discipline suggests?  That is, if it is a lab report, does it adhere to the proper structure?  If an argumentative essay, is it organized to present an argument?  Can the reader follow individual paragraphs—are they well organized?
Does the writer use meta-discourse (language about language) to direct the reader through the text?

Lower Order Concerns

Style               1          2          3          4          5

Style can be considered in terms of sentence patterns and diction.  Are the sentence patterns varied or all the same?  Variety produces more interesting reading.  Is the diction appropriate for a college-level assignment?  Is the diction appropriate for the discipline?  Has the writer included too many informal elements (e.g. cliché, contractions, the use of you or I, informal diction)? 

Mechanics    1          2          3          4          5

Mechanics refer to punctuation, spelling and grammar.  Could the writer benefit from a brush up on some grammatical points?  Could the writer learn new punctuation strategies? 

Return to WAC index

engaged learning
Mailing Address
Cleveland State University
Provost Office
2121 Euclid Avenue

RT Library 124
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
Campus Location
Rhodes Tower 124
1860 E. 22 Street
Office Hours
Mon - Thurs : 9:30 am-7:00 pm
Fri : 9:30 am-4:00 pm

For appointments call:
Dr. Mary McDonald
Fax: 216.687.6943
Dr. Mary McDonald , Director

Web Content Contact

This site contains files that require the free Adobe Reader to view.