Reading a Rubric
The syllabus is important to understanding the assignments and due dates, but another tool at your disposal helps understand what specific tasks are required to complete the assignment. A rubric is a spread sheet that describes how an assignment will be graded. The possible points will be listed and broken into categories so you can see exactly how much weight will be applied to each part of the assignment.
Here is an example rubric containing four categories for a research paper assignment worth 100 points. Explanations of each component follow.
A rubric will contain at least two categories, but may contain many more, based on the complexity of the assignment. An assignment worth many points will often be broken into more categories than one worth only a few points. Three or four is typical. That covers content, academic integrity, and spelling and grammar.
In this example, the formatting and language section is worth 20% of the paper. You can see it is in your best interest to run that spelling and grammar check as well as ensure you are meeting the formatting standards. The instructions will include the specific formatting that is required. You can usually use those instructions like a checklist.
In the example, the paper also requires an image. It is not worth many points, but even five can make a difference between passing and failing sometimes. You can see it requires three components – the image itself, a caption, and a citation. These should not be complicated tasks, but if you do not know how to do any part of any sections, find out. Check with your instructor or librarian for guidance. Do not skip something just because you don’t know how to do it. That only hurts you.
Academic honesty and integrity is worth a full 25% of the grade. This typically falls into two categories and may be presented in more than one rubric block. The first is the types and kinds of sources required. In this case, we can see that at least one primary source and four secondary sources are required. If there is not adequate evidence that the requirement is met, the rubric shows how many points will be lost. The second aspect is usually citations. Again, the instructions will be specific about the type of footnotes and bibliographic style that is required. Plagiarism is included in this category, but may sometimes be a category of its own. Usually failing a plagiarism check results in far more serious repercussions than simply getting a zero in a rubric section.
The content portion typically has the highest point value. In our example, it is worth 50% of the grade. One thing this tells you is that writing the most brilliant paper in the history of papers will not be good enough to get an A. You must meet all the other standards that go along with presenting a paper.
The professor may break the content portion into additional categories, such as introduction, body, and conclusion so that grades and comments can be given for each aspect.
This all ties together to make a superior paper. Each paragraph should contain only one point. Make the point and provide the evidence to support it. That should only take three to four sentences. Provide the citation/s for that evidence. Then move on to a new paragraph. Be sure to cite the evidence. The introduction should list all the topics you are going to discuss, in the order you are going to discuss them. The conclusion should revisit your main themes and the evidence. Do not introduce new material in the conclusion. Edit your work many times.