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The Additional Questions below go with the Five Traits of Writing rubric. Below the additional questions, there is a Rubric for Self-Evaluation also based on the Five Traits.


1. Ideas, Content, and Critical Thinking:

  • After reading the essay, do you have a clear sense of a consistent overall purpose? Is that purpose the student’s own, rather than that of their sources?
  • Does the thesis, whether stated explicitly or implied, go beyond announcing the topic—perhaps to assert its importance, argue for a particular way of thinking about it, or argue for a certain course of action?
  • Does the student avoid oversimplifying the topic or the debates around it?

2. Organization and Paragraphing:

  • Does each paragraph have a clear focus?
  • Does the student provide sufficient explanation of how points are related, or how he/she gets from one point to the next?
  • Are the same points sometimes repeated unnecessarily in multiple places in the essay?
  • Do you get “lost” in long paragraphs or strings of seemingly unconnected points?
  • Is there a clear logic/rationale behind the sequence of sentences in paragraphs and paragraphs in the essay?

3. Voice and Style:

  • Do you get the sense of an individual human voice that cares about the topic being discussed?
  • Does the student keep a consistent tone, or does the tone shift unexpectedly in ways that are likely not deliberate?
  • Does the student seem to have made reasonable assumptions about the knowledge, attitudes, and/or identity of readers? (Are readers assumed to feel or do things that may not be applicable? Are difficult/contested terms left undefined, or very common terms that no one would question defined for no apparent reason?)
  • Does the student seem to understand the meanings of the words he/she is using, or do you get the sense that the thesaurus tool may be interfering with intended meanings or a clear writerly voice?

4. Sentence Fluency and Conventions:

  • Is punctuation mostly correct, or do punctuation marks seem randomly scattered about?
  • Do structural shifts cause you to become lost mid-sentence?
  • Are the wrong words often used, likely as a result of homophone confusion or overreliance on spell check?
  • Are the errors occasional and rarely disruptive, or are they prevalent or dramatic enough to seriously interfere with the writer’s credibility or the clarity of his/her points?
  • Do breaks from convention (say, an incomplete sentence) seem like accidents, or may they have been done for deliberate effect?

5. Research Methods:

  • Is the student’s chosen source material clearly connected to the points he/she intends to make?
  • Does the student seem to have understood the source material, interpreted it in a reasonable way, and represented it faithfully?
  • Does the student introduce and cite the source material in a way that makes clear when the source is talking and when the student is talking?
  • Does the student explain all quotes, paraphrases, and summaries so that a reader can understand why they’re relevant to the discussion and what points they’re intended to make?
  • Has source material “taken over” the paper rather than being used to support the student’s own arguments?
  • Is there information that likely came from a source, but no source is cited?


1) Ideas, Content/Argument/Purpose, and Critical Thinking

  • What is my thesis?Rubric for Self-Evaluation
  • Does my thesis make an point rather than just announcing my topic? (Announcing the topic or asking a question is fine in the intro, but by the conclusion we should know what exactly you want us to understand about your topic.)
  • Are there any places where my essay gets off-topic, straying too far from the point?
  • Are my ideas interesting, and does it seem like I’ve thought everything through thoroughly?
  • Have I included everything most people would need to understand in order for my point to be convincing?

2) Organization and Paragraphing

Paragraph content:

  • Is every paragraph clearly related to the purpose of my essay?
  • Can I describe the topic of every paragraph? If a paragraph is difficult to see a single point in, could I improve it by dividing that paragraph into two, removing irrelevant material, or moving some things to another paragraph?
  • Are any of my paragraphs controlled entirely by one source? Does that make sense because this is the only source talking about the topic of the paragraph? If so, have I included a topic sentence to introduce the topic before introducing the source?

Paragraph arrangement and connection:

  • Does the order of my paragraphs make sense? Would moving one earlier help readers to understand a later one? Would moving two together help readers see an interesting connection?
  • Do I give topic sentences and transition between paragraphs in a way that makes clear both how they relate to each other and how they relate back to the main point?
  • Do I explain, either in my intro or in an early body paragraph, any definitions and basic principles that my readers need to know in order to understand the rest of the essay?
  • Does my introduction show readers why my topic is interesting?
  • Does my conclusion leave readers with a sense of what my point is and why it matters?

3) Voice and Style

  • Does the essay sound like it was written by a human being who cares about the topic? (In other words, does my tone make readers join me in my interest in the topic?)
  • Am I keeping in mind that some members of my audience may have different experiences or viewpoints than I do? Is there anywhere that I’ve been belittling or made “everyone knows” or “we all agree”-type statements that might not work well for every reader?
  • Do I keep my tone and level of formality consistent throughout my essay? If I ever jump to a much more formal/informal register or a more friendly/argumentative/angry/whatever tone, did I do so on purpose?

4) Sentence Fluency and Conventions

  • Are my sentences grammatically complete and easy to follow?
  • Have I used the right words to communicate my meaning? Did I take any suggestions from the thesaurus or spell check that I didn’t understand? If I have troubles with then/than, affect/effect, or another homophone pair, have I checked to make sure I used the right one every time?
  • How’s my punctuation? Do I use commas where they’re needed? Do my possessives have apostrophes in the right place, and have I refrained from adding unnecessary apostrophes?
  • If anything I did wasn’t in line with standard grammatical conventions, was that on purpose?

5) Research and Source Use

Source content:

  • Have I included enough material from my sources? Have I refrained from including so much material that they take over?
  • Have I included any quotes that I’m not certain I understand?
  • Am I making any statements that would be helped by additional support from a source?

Clarity and integration:

  • For every quote or paraphrase I give, have I introduced it so that my reader knows who’s talking and/or what it relates to?
  • After any quote or paraphrase, have I explained what my reader should understand from that source, as far as what it’s saying and why that’s related to the point I’m making?
  • Is it always clear when I’m talking and when someone else is talking?
  • Is it always clear when I’m explaining my source’s point of view and when I’m relaying an opinion that the source talked about but doesn’t agree with?


  • Am I remembering to include a parenthetical citation anytime I borrow someone else’s ideas, and to add quotation marks around any wording that wasn’t something I thought of?
  • Are my parenthetical citations correctly formatted according to MLA or APA style, with all authors’ last names, a page number, and extras like “qtd. in” or part of the title when necessary?
  • Is my Works Cited/References page correctly formatted according to MLA or APA style, with entries in alphabetical order, double-spaced, with hanging indents? Does each citation entry include all the necessary information and use punctuation, quotation marks, italics, and capitalization according to MLA or APA guidelines?

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