Effective Writing Assignments

Using Precise Language

One way that you can provide students with guidance as they prepare to begin their drafting is to ensure that you’re using the most precise language possible in your prompt and rubric when you describe your expectations.  

Phrases like “paper is well-written” might mean one of many things. Could one or more of the following be a more precise description? Please feel free to include or adapt these sentences in your assignment prompts, rubrics, or peer reviews.

Describing Organization
  • Ideas and paragraphs are organized logically.
  • Author follows the appropriate organization for the genre.
  • Author includes a thesis that is concise, original, significant, and debatable.
  • The thesis is backed with several supporting claims.
  • The supporting claims are backed with evidence.
  • Author uses appropriate subheadings.
  • Each paragraph is unified by a single idea.
  • Each paragraph includes a topic sentence articulating that idea.
  • Author uses transitions that explain the relationship between the thesis & the topic sentence.
  • Author uses “signposts” to orient readers & tell them where they’re going.
  • Author includes an introduction that provides the thesis and main claims of the paper.
  • Author includes an introduction that provides context including previous research.
  • Author includes an introduction that provides a brief description of the object of investigation.
  • Author includes a conclusion that gestures toward further research.
  • Author includes a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the paper.
  • Author includes a conclusion that ties the thesis into the main goals of the course.
Describing Evidence Use
  • Evidence is presented accurately.
  • Evidence works to support the claims of the paper.
  • Type and amount of evidence are appropriate to the conventions of the discipline and the genre.
  • If the relationship between the claim and the evidence is nuanced, the author explains that relationship.
  • Evidence is presented in a logical order.
  • Evidence is properly cited.
  • Evidence is drawn from reliable sources.
  • If evidence takes the form of original research, presentation of this research follows the conventions of the discipline and genre.
  • If evidence takes the form of narrative, narrative is logically organized, includes compelling details but no extraneous information.
  • If evidence takes the form of quotations, quotations are introduced and summarized if necessary, and transitions are provided between the author’s own writing and the quotation.
  • If evidence is drawn from other sources, sources are credited in accordance with the conventions of the discipline or the genre.
  • Review of literature includes accurate summaries of relevant research, data, or theories.
  • Author avoids rhetorical fallacies like straw man approaches.
Describing Synthesis
  • Review of literature articulates a clear gap or contradiction in current research/theories.
  • Avenues for further research are proposed.
  • A case for the larger stakes of the project is made clear and is backed with any necessary evidence.
  • Limitations of the argument are explicitly recognized and addressed.
  • A counterargument is introduced and answered. 
Describing Clear, Concise Language
  • Author avoids grammatical or mechanics mistakes.
  • Author uses language appropriate to discipline and genre.
  • Author avoids overgeneralizations.
  • Author avoids wordiness.
  • Author includes a hook that catches the reader’s attention.
  • Author makes use of varied sentence structure.
  • Author uses sensory details when providing narratives.
  • Author uses rhetorical figures, like simile and metaphor, when appropriate.