Department of African American Studies Grading Practice

Good work in the Department of African American Studies possesses three distinguishing qualities:

  1. Reflects independent research and thinking.
  2. Develops and defends an argument.
  3. Exhibits attention to the craft of writing

The Undergraduate Announcement assigns each letter a verbal equivalent ranging from “excellent” to “failure”. When grading papers in AAS, the faculty takes seriously these stipulations. Our expectation is that theses and papers are to be carefully written and based on independent research and creative thinking.

An A or A- thesis, paper, or exam is excellent in that it is clearly written, develops and defends successfully an interesting thesis based on research, and demonstrates elements of originality in thinking and elegance in its execution. An A+ paper would have all of these features and exhibit, in at least one way, a quality that lifts it above other excellent undergraduate work.

A B+ or B thesis, paper, or exam is very good in that it satisfies the stated expectations of the assignment and does so in a respectable manner. But the paper falls short of Alevel work in either its organization, the clarity of its writing, the formulation and presentation of its argument, or the quality of research. There are moments of insight, and evidence of independent and creative thinking, but the argument is not presented clearly or convincingly.

A B- thesis, paper, or exam exhibits the characteristics of B+ or B work but provides a less than thorough defense of the argument because of weaknesses in writing, discernable gaps in argumentation, organization, or some confusion in the use of evidence.

A C+, C, or C- thesis, paper, or exam is satisfactory in that it shows evidence of sustained effort to engage the subject matter but demonstrates only modest or uneven success in defending and developing an argument. All too often C-level work offers little more than summary of ideas and information covered in the course (often a reflection of inadequate research), the writing is awkward and unclear, poor organization, and the main thesis has trouble surviving counterargument.

A D thesis, paper, or exam is minimally acceptable. Although D-level work shows some attempt to satisfy the basic assignment, it demonstrates serious deficiencies in the execution of the work. Careless writing, lack of an identifiable thesis, really poor organization characterizes this level of work.

An F thesis, paper, or exam fails to meet the requirements of the assignment.