Essay Evaluation

(criteria listed from most to least important)

E: Excellent; VG: Very Good; G: Good; W: Weak; I: Incomplete; NA: Not Applicable



  • Comprehension of material/concept discussed.
  • Application of relevant analysis.
  • Logic, clarity, and consistency of analysis.
  • Linking together of theory and application.
  • Proper and complete referencing with citations clearly supporting argument.


  • Accuracy and skill at applying concepts/techniques; thoroughness of application
  • Comprehension of assumptions necessary to render concept/technique/method applicable to problem.

Development of Issue(s):

  • Setting out of main points and central issues.
  • Provision of background context and/or history.
  • Integration of course material into development and presentation of argument.
  • Application of “hourglass” shape of development (general-specific-general).

Issue(s) Statement:

  • Expression of issue(s).
  • Explanation of issue’s importance.
  • Identification and explanation of policy implications.
  • Thesis statement focus.

Paragraphs and Paragraph Unity:

  • Use of topic sentences and links to the issue or to stages of argument.


  • Recognition and engagement of the reader as audience.
  • Clarity in implied ordering of material to follow.
  • Focus of introduction and implied focus of the paper.


  • Sense of completion.
  • Review and synthesis of arguments.

Grammar and Usage: Clarity and correctness; patterns of errors

Mechanics: title; spelling; punctuation; notes; pagination; bibliography

Overall Ratings:

  • Overall coherence of answer
  • Overall demonstration of knowledge
  • Overall demonstration of skill and analysis


Common Problems

Analysis: weak; superficial/lacking depth; descriptive; statements unsupported; thematic or logic of argument unclear; informal; circular; sources not cited/inadequately cited; sources replace argument (stringing together quotes).

Skill: inadequate/inappropriate use of theory to support argument; unclear theoretical perspective; method inconsistent with theoretical perspective; absence of rationale for theoretical perspective or method; no recognition of limitations of theory/method adopted

Development: unclear logical or thematic development; relation to course material unclear; incomplete/distorted/contradictory argument

Issues/Thesis Statement: too narrow/omit related issues; too general/broad

Paragraphs/Paragraph Unity: one sentence paragraphs; too many short paragraphs; topic sentences absent or unclear

Introduction: unclear topic identification; unclear motivation for issues; absence of implied outline of paper

Conclusion: inadequate summary/review/synthesis

Grammar and Usage: errors in spelling/syntax; run-on sentences

Mechanics:  incorrect punctuation; incorrect use of end/foot notes; no page numbers; incorrect/incomplete bibliography