General Studies Writing Program
GSW Paper Evaluation Rubric
The GSW Rubric
Click on the link to access The GSW Rubric Sheet (PDF opens in a new tab).
The GSW Rubric is a two-sides form to be completed by the instructor at the time the paper is evaluated. One side of the rubric provides six basic perspectives from which the instructor evaluates the writing: audience, organization/theme structure, development, syntax, word choice, and grammar/usage/mechanics. Beneath each major rubric heading are lists of sub-categories. The reverse side of the rubric provides an area for more detailed instructor commentary.
The GSW emphasis on writing as a process is best served by using the rubric as an educational tool which engages students in their own evaluation process and provides them with a careful analysis of the paper's strengths and weaknesses.
The Rubric Approach
Following the holistic evaluation of an essay, GSW instructors use the rubric to evaluate each major element of the essay. By marking the extent to which the essay meets or exceeds these standards of effectiveness, instructors provide detailed analysis in support of the holistic evaluation.
The GSW Rubric is not intended as a substitute for an instructor's narrative comments but rather as a complement to them.
The following is a breakdown of the GSW Rubric with explanations of each section.
- Category I - Audience
This category refers to writing strategies which affect an audience's perceptions of student work. Students are ordinarily expected to write in a semiformal style for various college-educated audiences and, therefore, need to determine how to write to the needs and expectations of diverse groups. Students must be especially aware of the possible biases and beliefs of the various audiences. They must also determine wat each audience will see as logical and informative and must use a tone and point of view that the specific audience can appreciate.
- Category II - Organization/Theme Structure
This category refers to the overall design of the work and the relation between the thesis and its supporting arguments. The work needs to have a stated or clearly implied thesis and any necessary qualifiers to make it precise. The thesis needs to be focused enough to be covered adequately in an essay of moderate length. The thesis also needs to be substantiated by appropriate evidence and a clearly organized, fairly reasoned argument. However, students should be encourages to move beyond rigid, formulaic organizational patterns such as the "five-paragraph theme." It is important that the work reflect an arrangement that is comprehensive, coherent, and engaging; sophisticated organizational structures are thus encouraged because they can help throughly explain complex ideas.
In addition to a clear and logical arrangement, the work must contain the necessary transitions which explain how the thesis and its reasons or ideas are related. Connections are needed from paragraph to paragraph and within each paragraph. These cohesive ties should be written so that the work flows smoothly from one thought to another, allowing readers to see the connections among developing ideas and between each idea and the overall thesis.
- Category III - Development
Development refers to the parts of the work which flesh out the thesis and its argument. The main ideas which support the thesis must be explained fully. Thus, the work needs to include details such as illustrations, definitions, analogies, narratives, and descriptions. The work's development should include specific information drawn from either reading material or personal experience, depending on the topic.
While details need to support and develop each idea, they do not relace the idea. furthermore, they should not merely repeat or reassert the ideas they are designed to explain. This concept applies to the body of a work as well as to its introduction and conclusion. The introduction needs to develop a lead into a clear thesis. In the conclusion, development should lead to an appropriate ending (either closure or expansion) which is free of needless repetition. In general, development should consist of interesting and useful information -- information which enhances the audience's understanding and appreciation of the essay's ideas while maintaining the essay's focus.
- Category IV - Syntax
This category relates to the specifics of sentence correctness and efficacy. The individual sentences within a work must be relatively free of structural errors, such as fragments, run-on sentences, non-parallel constructions, and misplaces modifiers. In addition, the sentences must reflect the writer's control over the complexity of the ideas presented.
While complex sentences constructions are necessary to a work, variety and style are also important. The writer needs to exhibit control over sentence variety and length by using shorter constructions for emphasis and longer constructions for continuity. In general, sentence variety and complexity provide the work with any overall sense of coherence and style.
In addition, the sentences should be free of wordiness and obviously inflated syntax, and they generally should be in active, rather than passive, voice. In short, they should be appropriately styled.
- Category V - Word Choice
This category refers to the actual words used in a work. Each content word needs to be precise enough to add meaningfully to the work. To the extent possible, each word should also have connotations appropriate to its context. Both abstract and concrete words (as well as general and specific words) add to the content, and there should be a relative balance of both within any written work. Such a balance indicates that both specific ideas and their development are present. However, students' writing at the first-year level often contains too many abstract or general terms and too few concrete, specific ones.
At the sane time, the language should be interesting and flavored with a variety of words. An essay may exhibit the writer's expanding vocabulary, but it should not sounds like a thesaurus. Ideally, the work will show evidence or the careful use of a dictionary as well as an understanding of how word choice can contribute to an appropriate tone.
Precision and variety are not the only requirements of language in a passing work. The work should be free of cliches and trite idiomatic expressions, as well as general wordiness and repetition, as all of these detract from the energy of the work. Student writers must also attempt to eliminate biased/dehumanizing/sexist language and confusion about the nouns to which pronouns refer.
- Category VI - Grammar/Usage/Mechanics
This category appears last on the GSW rubric, and this placement is intended to suggest that final editing should be the last part of the writing process. "Grammar" and "usage" refer to the conventions of edited American English for both writing and speaking. The use of verbs and their auxiliary forms, nouns and pronoun forms, as well as adjective and adverb forms should conform, under most circumstances, to the accepted conventions.
"Mechanics" indicates the conventions of spelling, punctuation, quotation, and capitalization that are expected by most members of an educated American audience. Word omission or repetition and errors in manuscript form are also listed in this category. Because differences of opinion about the various conventions are inevitable, A Writer's Resource will serve as the grammar/usage/mechanics guide for GSW courses. Each item on the GSW Rubric is followed by a number that corresponds to the appropriate section of A Writer's Resource.