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SNL Paper Rubric

In general, thoughtful, critical and clear responses to an assignment or competency will Pass. Papers in which the writing obscures or impedes an instructor’s ability to assess learning will Fail. This includes papers that do not address the assignment, fail to cite sources, or with serious organization or grammar problems.

An excellent essay

will:



  • offer a unique or particularly insightful response to the assignment;
  • contain a clear purpose, a compelling introduction, a nuanced thesis or main idea and a thoughtful conclusion;
  • recognize and thoughtfully address complexities;
  • contain strongly supportive details, a judicious sense of evidence;
  • be logically developed and quite well organized;
  • use a style and tone appropriate to the purpose and audience;
  • smoothly integrate correct citations for any words, facts or ideas from a source using either MLA or APA citation;
  • show sophisticated sentence variety and paragraph development;
  • be virtually free of grammar and usage errors.

For further explanation of rubric criteria, see the SNL Paper Rubric Explanations page.

A strong essay

will:

  • respond to the assignment or competency in depth;
  • contain a clear purpose, a strong introduction, a thoughtful thesis or main idea and an effective conclusion;
  • recognize and address complexities;
  • contain supportive details, a good sense of evidence;
  • be logically developed and well-organized;
  • use a style and tone appropriate to the purpose and audience;
  • include correct citations for any words, facts or ideas from a source using either MLA or APA citation;
  • offer adequate sentence variety and paragraph development;
  • be virtually free of grammar and usage errors;
  • lack the verbal skills, organizational strength and insight of an “excellent" essay.

For further explanation of rubric criteria, see the SNL Paper Rubric Explanations page.

A satisfactory essay

will:

  • respond to the assignment or competency, demonstrating solid conceptual understanding;
  • contain a clear purpose, thesis or main idea, introduction and conclusion that all work together;
  • recognize complexities;
  • contain sufficient details and other evidence to support claims;
  • display competence in logical development and organization, although essay may exhibit occasional organizational or argumentative weaknesses;
  • use a style and tone appropriate to the purpose and audience, although there may be minor lapses in either;
  • include generally correct citations for any words, facts or ideas from a source using either MLA or APA citation, although there may be minor mistakes in formatting;
  • display general control of sentence variety and paragraph development;
  •  may have a few grammar, word usage and mechanical errors, but they do not obscure the reader’s understanding of the essay.

For further explanation of rubric criteria, see the SNL Paper Rubric Explanations page.

A weak essay

will do one or more of the following:

  • fail to respond to or adequately grasp significant elements of the assignment or competency;
  • omit a clear purpose, introduction, thesis or main idea, or conclusion;
  • be too general or too specific;
  • lack sufficient support for claims;
  • contain trivial or frivolous points (or supporting material);
  • have flaws in logic or organization;
  • fail to develop an appropriate tone;
  • fail to cite sources or have incorrect citations that do not clearly indicate borrowed material;
  • contain several flaws in style, grammar, or usage that may lead to confusion in meaning.

For further explanation of rubric criteria, see the SNL Paper Rubric Explanations page.

A poor essay

will do any one of the following:

  • fail to respond to the assignment or competency;
  • be far too general or far too specific;
  • contain a vacuous or trivial argument or analysis;
  • have little controlling logic or organization;
  • fail to cite sources used in the essay;
  • have so many flaws in style, grammar, or usage that reading and comprehension are difficult.

For further explanation of rubric criteria, see the SNL Paper Rubric Explanations page.