Notes on Grading Standards-CS 325


Written assignments are graded with letter grades that are later converted into points based on the percentage grade weight of the assignment. I use a weighted 400-point scale. For example, a B- grade on an assignment weighted 10% will mean 2.7 x 10 = 27 out of a possible 40 points. Because I grade written material holistically with letter grades, this point scale will not correspond with a percentage scale that you may be used to. The other Dr. Harper in Math designed the system in accordance to my grade curve criteria and he has agreed to explain the system to anyone who is interested.


What follows is a description of what the letter grades mean. This is based on M. Jimmie Killingsworth’s work on technical writing and William Irmshaw’s guide to holistic grading, Teaching Expository Writing. Please note that a C paper does meet the assignment requirements.


A Level

Exceeds assignment guidelines; strong and consistently applied definition of audience and purpose; thoughtful and innovative adaptation of the subject to the audience’s needs; subject developed and organized usefully at every level for reader comprehension; format well suited to the audience’s needs; writing is free from grammatical errors as well as errors attributable to careless proofing; and, optionally, creates and uses a realistic workplace context (or uses a real workplace context) in an effective way. Subject is focused, significant, interesting, and manageable. Word choice is almost uniformly good. Words are chosen for precise denotation, connotation, tone, and grace. No revision of any sort is required.

Documentation: Uses a variety of source material, including those technically or academically challenging such as academic journals. Attempts to trace sources back to original research or publication. Goes beyond the obvious sources and shows initiative in questioning sources and considering contextual issues. Excellent use of documentation format.


B Level

Meets assignment guidelines well; purpose and audience clearly defined; style consistently appropriate to audience and subject; subject supported with specifics as well as generalities; maintains an economy of expression; information provided is sufficient to audience needs; appropriate word choice; format suits audience needs; writing is free from mechanical and stylistic errors, although it may contain minor flaws that are easily fixed. Purpose is firm, but may not always affect the audience as the writer expects it to.  Writer goes beyond the automatic word to find one more precise and effective. Minor revisions may be needed before publication.

Documentation: Uses a variety of source materials, including those technically or academically challenging. Attempts to make a comprehensive overview of source material using several types of indexes, catalogs, or search engines. Does show some critical assessment of sources. Excellent use of documentation format.


C Level

Meets assignment requirements; adequate use of format to meet audience needs; organization and content are adequate; style appropriate to purpose and audience; demonstrates an adequate mastery of standard written English; writing is free from obvious and excessive errors in grammar, style, and usage. Purpose is not always clear, but is acceptable.  Word choice is correct, but the range of words is limited so that the diction is sometimes imprecise and monotonous. Minor to moderate revision is needed before publication; contains some problems with audience adaptation, content, organization, or format but not the extent that the paper fails to meets its minimal expectations.

Documentation: Uses the obvious source material, tends toward less challenging but still respectable sources. May miss some source material because search was limited to one or two indexes, catalogs, or search engines. Shows good sense of documentation format.


D Level

Does not fully meet certain important requirements of the assignment; inadequate use of format; poor development of subject relative to audience needs; inadequate awareness of audience or purpose; problems with content, organization, and logic; unsatisfactory mastery of standard written English. Too often it seems to be an unfocused exercise rather than purposeful writing. Words are occasionally misused. Attempts to go beyond everyday vocabulary go awry. Serious, major revision is required before any public or company distribution could be considered.

Documentation: Makes a stab at researching, but only considers the easiest, most accessible sources. Use of documentation format is incorrect or inconsistent.


F Level

Fails to meet most of the stated assignment requirements; lack of focus on a subject; unsatisfactory format; lack of audience or purpose; weak, poorly developed, inadequate content; lack of consistency in style and tone; poor command of standard written English; poor handling of spelling, syntax, idiomatic expression. Writing appears to be a mechanical exercise without a purpose or an audience.  Words that should be within the range of college students are misused or confused. Revision of any sort is pointless; the writer should start over on a new assignment, take course more seriously, drop the course, or go back to a more basic course.

Documentation: Little if any research is done and/or plagiarism is evident.