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Be sure to also take a careful look at the “Policies on Quotation, Citation, and Plagiarism”, and “Notes On Class Participation”. You must read both of those pages in addition to this before sending your Syllabus Confirmation.
On how to write a paper. There are plenty of places you can go for grammar and style advice. Some of your other Profs. may have required you to buy a book. Below I include a link to a writing website that is rather helpful and relatively brief. I suggest you browse through it before writing your first paper. Keep in mind, however, that there is no formula for good writing, and you should not follow any advice blindly.
Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch
This contains clear, sensitive, and sensible discussions of a host of grammar and style issues. Browse the contents if you do not have a specific issue in mind.
How I grade. What follows is a rough indication of what I look for in grading papers. The required balance of ‘demonstrated understanding’ versus ‘critical insight’ depends somewhat on the questions asked and length of paper. You should never censor yourself—whether or not I ask for it, astute critical discussion always enhances a paper.
A, 4, 90+, Excellent, Check Plus — Papers receiving a grade in this range clearly demonstrate advanced understanding of the basic concepts and issues in the text(s), sensitivity to the complexity and interconnectedness of those issues, and a detailed understanding of how the author(s) of the relevant text(s) is (are) attempting to convey ideas or support a position. In addition, these papers show critical insight either (i) through sustained argument and critique of the text (questioning the author’s reasoning, suggesting counterarguments, alternatives, etc.) or (ii) through the identification and discussion of substantial and interesting questions concerning the interpretation of the text (or both (i) and (ii), as they can overlap). Errors in grammar or spelling are minimal or nonexistent. The paper as a whole is tightly focused and well-organized.
B, 3, 80-89, Good, Check — Papers receiving a grade in this range demonstrate a basic, but thorough, understanding of basic concepts and issues, at least some awareness of the complexity and interconnectedness of those issues, and a schematic understanding of how the author(s) of the relevant text(s) is (are) attempting to convey ideas or support a position. Where understanding is lacking, an earnest attempt at interpreting the author is evident. In addition, these responses show a somewhat successful attempt at critical examination, argument, or questioning of the text. Errors in grammar or spelling are minimal. The paper as a whole is mostly focused and well-organized.
C, 2, 70-79, Satisfactory, Check Minus — Papers receiving a grade in this range demonstrate some (possibly incomplete) understanding of basic concepts and issues, little or poor awareness of the complexity and interconnectedness of those issues, and little or poor understanding of how the author is attempting to support her position. In addition, these responses show little or no earnest attempt at interpretation, critical examination, or questioning of the text. Errors in grammar or spelling are frequent. Paper lacks focus and is poorly organized.
F, 0, 0, Unsatisfactory, Zero — Papers receiving a grade in this range have failed to demonstrate any degree of real understanding of basic concepts and issues, and lack evidence of an earnest attempt to do so.
Errors in grammar or spelling, or lack of focus/poor organization can bring down what might otherwise be a promising paper. You’ll note that there is no D, 1, 65-69 grade listed. This is because C is the minimum acceptable—I very rarely give a D. If your response does not meet the criteria for a C, you will likely receive an F. In general, I start out assuming you will perform well enough to receive a C, and, while reading, I look for reasons to push your grade up.