As you begin ENG 103, 104 of 114, you might be wondering how you’ll be graded. You might feel like all grading of writing is specific to each instructor. While it is true the evaluation of writing is subjective, all ENG 103, 104, and 114 courses are evaluated on some common criteria. 

Methods of Grading

Our instructors may use a grading system that fits with their teaching philosophy as long as they are able to clearly articulate that system to students.


Methods of grading you might see in your writing class include:

  • Rubrics: This may be a part of your assignment sheet or in a separate document. Your instructor may even collaborate with the class to create a rubric.
  • Holistic grading: Your instructor may list out what you need to include in an assignment or what they are looking for when they grade. Pay attention to these sections on an assignment sheet.
  • Contract grading: Your instructor may use a contract for the course as a whole. In this case, your assignments may not have a grade listed but may be marked incomplete or complete. If you receive an incomplete, you are likely still able to revise to meet the requirements, but be sure to look back at the overall contract.
  • Ungrading: Ungrading requires you to do a great deal of reflection on your own work. Pay attention to any time the instructor asks you to set goals for projects or reflect on those goals. In addition, individual assignments may be marked complete or incomplete and the grade will not be assigned until the end of the course as a whole.

Grading Criteria Definitions

This section provides some definitions and guidance for areas that are commonly evaluated by faculty in the writing program.

Content Development/Argument

  • Definition: The way in which an author presents the topic and supports an overall point or argument within the text, or articulates, explains, and develops ideas.
  • Application: Whether your instructor asks you to pick a topic or assigns you a topic, you’ll want to make sure your points are well-supported. Remember that argument doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take an either/or stance. Rather, arguments in ENG 103, 104, and 114 are nuanced and complex with many shades of grey.

Audience & Purpose

  • Definition: The audience refers to the target readers for the project rather than a generalized population. The purpose for writing is the writer's intended effect on that audience.
  • Application: Often your ENG 103, 104, and 114 projects will require you to write for someone who isn’t just your teacher, such as a community group, a specific major or disciplinary community, or an audience of peers. You should consider what you want that audience to understand and what they know or don’t know when writing your project.


  • Definition: Research refers to either secondary or primary research. Whether the research is secondary sources or primary data gathered by the student it should be used to answer research questions and draw conclusions about the topic.
  • Application: Pay attention to the types of research asked for in an assignment. Are you asked to do secondary research where you gather library sources? Or are you asked to conduct primary research in the form of your own interviews or surveys? In addition to noticing what types of research you need, remember that your arguments should come from your research. Grading will take into consideration the scope of research (how much or how little you use), its relevance to the topic or argument, its validity (is this real research or just someone’s opinion?), and the integration/synthesis of that research into your writing. Some form of appropriate citation is also expected and may affect the overall grade on the assignment.


  • Definition: Conventions include the overall style, organization, and formatting of a text. For multimodal works, this includes use of visual, audio, gestural, linguistic, or spatial modes.
  • Application: It is rare that you will be graded on “correct” grammar, and the writing program acknowledges that Standard English is a myth. Nevertheless, audiences expect certain conventions for certain types of writing. That might mean that you use a certain citation format for an academic audience or it might mean that you apply certain principles of design in a multimodal project. You may also be asked to follow the organizational structures of a particular type of writing, like a proposal.

Writing Process/Revision

  • Definition: The writing process is recursive rather than linear. It may involve invention, feedback, revision, editing, and more.
  • Application: Your instructor may ask you to turn in parts of your writing process, including rough drafts. You will then be asked to revise based on peer or instructor feedback and this is often an important part of your grade. Be sure to save your feedback and drafts. In addition, you may be asked to reflect on your writing process and the choices you made throughout a project as a part of your grade.