Mechanical elements of writing

How will your final paper be graded? The rubric below — which will be used for the first draft as well as for the final paper — gives a more formal answer to that question. But here basically is what we are looking for.

· Researching the topic: Did you find and master relevant scholarly reference materials? We will talk in class about what “scholarly” means. Briefly: it means professional books and journal articles. I recommend Google Scholar as a good starting point. “Scholarly” specifically excludes the kind of unmonitored websites that turn up in ordinary web searches. “Joe’s website about economics” is not a scholarly source, even if Joe is a professor of economics somewhere. You get precisely one Wikipedia citation for the entire paper. Watch the “Citing Sources” video lecture.

· Documentation and Citation: Did you document and cite all sources appropriately? You are responsible for providing proper citation for all direct quotations, paraphrased ideas, and statistical and other information coming from other sources. (Note that you have to cite an idea even if you paraphrase it rather than quote an author directly; and, in general, you ought to paraphrase not quote.) Make sure to include at the end of each paper a list of works cited. You must format properly both your in-text citations and list of works cited. Watch the “Citing Sources” video lecture.

· Argument: Is there a central idea, a thesis that you sustain consistently throughout the paper? How clear, sophisticated, and original is the idea? Does it convey a clear knowledge of the material and a recognition of alternative perspectives?

· Support: How well do you support your argument? Are your sources clearly and consistently relevant to the thesis? Do you use examples, quotations, statistical and other information skillfully to support the argument(s)?

· Organization: Is the paper well-organized? Make sure that your objective is clear at the beginning, that each section has a clear role in meeting the objective, and that ideas flow logically from one paragraph or section to the next.

· Paragraphs: Are the paragraphs coherent and well-organized? Is there one clear idea per paragraph, introduced by a clear topic sentence and developed consistently by other well-connected sentences?

· Sentences: Are the sentences efficient and well-constructed? Work on constructing clear, concise sentences by avoiding words and phrases that do not fit well. Use vague pronouns and passive voice only when absolutely necessary.

· Mechanics: Are the mechanical elements of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) free of errors? Using your word processor to check spelling and grammar before printing the paper can go a long way. But be careful: your word processor does not know if you meant “there” or “their.” In the end, there is no substitute for human proofreading.

· Data: Your paper MUST include some form of data presentation — either a table, a graph, or both — and you must present those data in a way that is professional and understandable to the reader.

Grading Rubric

You will be graded according to this rubric. A grade of 3 is average and is equivalent to a score of 80 out of 100 (5=100, 4=90, 3=80, 2=70, 1=60, 0=0).

CLEAR THESIS: Identifies and addresses a clear central thesis, expressed early in the paper, either directly in a topic paragraph or indirectly through an appropriate rhetorical device (like an anecdote). Argument clearly expressed and sustained throughout paper.

DEPTH OF ARGUMENT:Body of paper supports central thesis; brings to bear appropriate and persuasive evidence. Conceptual sophistication and engagement with topic; recognition of limitations and counterarguments; thoughtfulness; originality of ideas; appropriate number of pages. Explicit use of economic theories, models, and data.

USE OF SCHOLARLY SOURCES: Marshals sources that are scholarly and reliable by the standards of the Economics profession (like journals, working papers, scholarly books, government and NGO websites); sources are adequate in number and appropriate for the paper’s argument. Sources are integrated into the flow of the argument and used appropriately in the context of the argument.

STRUCTURE OF PAPER: Presentation is well organized: clear topic sentences; good transition between ideas; all sections of paper tie together.

STYLE: Style is direct, concise, and lively; avoids excessive and unexplained jargon and acronyms; refrains from clichés and bureaucratic formulations.

LANGUAGE: Tone, terminology, and other language choices appropriate to professional economics, to intended audience, and to type of writing.

PRESENTATION: Grammar, mechanics, diction, spelling, punctuation, proofreading, and formatting. Consistent and appropriate verb tense; crisp pronoun and clause references; correct parallel structure.

DATA: Where appropriate, presentation and analysis of data (including econometric results) in conformance with the style and norms of writing in Economics. Tables and graphs clearly labeled and attributed.

CITATIONS: Appropriate, accurate, and consistent in-text citations and list of works cited. Command of name-date style of citation used in Economics.

HOLISTIC RATING: Assessment of the paper as a whole, including the soundness and sophistication of its arguments and its fit with the rhetoric of discourse in Economics.


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