Literary Studies Paper Rubric







Needs Work


Ideas and level of analysis

Greatly exceeds expectations and develops ideas in a consistently excellent manner. Readers will learn something from this piece of writing.


Exceeds expectations and develops in a good but perhaps predictable fashion. Ideas may be good but perhaps not as insightful or well developed.


Meets expectations but does not go beyond them. May respond to the assignment in a satisfactory but predictable or superficial way. May have more plot summary than analysis.

Limited ideas and cursory development; does not meet expectations or the terms of the assignment on one or more dimensions.

Fails to meet expectations for ideas and analysis. May include too much plot summary or so many quotations that analysis is missing.










Organizational plan is clear, as is the thesis and purpose of the piece. Thesis is original and interesting.

Organization and thesis are logical but could be clearer. Thesis is solid but less innovative than in an exceptional paper. Some transitions may be missing.

Exhibits a discernable organization but may not provide a clear connection to the thesis. Thesis may be obvious or too general. Paragraphs may not follow the most logical order.

Focus may be unclear or the essay may lack an arguable thesis. Paragraph order may be confusing. May lack adequate organization or sufficient support for its argument.

Focus many be diffuse or unclear. Sentences and paragraphs do not follow a logical order.










Development and support

Develops its points effectively, logically, and in an original fashion. Assertions are supported by evidence. Paragraphs are unified, coherent, and complete. 

Includes a thesis idea that is generally supported by evidence and a logical order of paragraphs. Some unsupported generalizations may occur, or some paragraphs may lack unity or support.

Development may consist of obvious generalizations that only tell readers what they already know with limited support from the text.  

Relies strongly on generalizations rather than support and may lack specific references to the text. Paragraphs may lack unity, coherence, and completeness. Paragraphs may be insufficiently developed.

Thesis may be missing. Generalizations may be used in place of analysis. Insufficient development for the requirements of the assignment.












Sentences are fluent, graceful, and a pleasure to read. They are generally free from errors, although there may be a minor error in the piece.

Demonstrates correct sentence construction for the most part, although some sentences may be awkward or unclear. Papers will generally have few (1-2) or no comma splices, fragments, fused sentences, tense and agreement errors, or other major grammatical problems. Minor errors in grammar may occur.

May demonstrate little sentence variety. Note: Grammatical errors such as comma splices, fragments, agreement errors, vague or awkward phrasing may obscure the meaning of an otherwise good paper.

Contains many errors in sentence construction, including comma splices, fragments, fused sentences, agreement problems, and awkward sentences. Some parts may be difficult to read and interpret.

Serious errors such as comma splices, fragments, fused sentences, and agreement problems obscure meaning and make this paper inconsistent with college-level writing standards. A paper at this level may be difficult, frustrating, or confusing to read.











Mechanics (spelling, usage, and punctuation such as commas, semicolons, and possessive apostrophes, quotation marks, and title punctuation). Papers will be almost entirely free from mechanical errors.

One or two instances of an incorrect use of words, spelling errors, or punctuation errors such as missing possessive apostrophes may occur.


May contain odd word choices, consistent errors in punctuation, or  problems with usage.


May demonstrate significant deficiencies in punctuation, word choice, and spelling.

Contains numerous errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.












Has a clear understanding of audience as demonstrated by the paper's use of tone and an appropriate level of diction.



Clear sense of individual voice and awareness of audience expectations. Level of diction may occasionally be uneven or somewhat inappropriate for the assignment.

Voice and diction may be significantly inconsistent with audience expectations or the requirements of the assignment.

Paper may demonstrate a consistently insufficient awareness of audience.

Serious problems with tone, diction, and sense of audience. Note: A paper will receive an "F" if it is plagiarized in whole or in part.


















For explanations of terms, go to the "Key to Comments" page at