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Doctoral Research Paper Rubric

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Sample Rubric for Grading a Research Paper

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Visual PresentationCover page with relevant info, including descriptive title.
Section headings.
Good graphics, with appropriate citations.
Clean and professional looking.
Cover page.
Section headings.
Graphics included.
Professional looking.
Most relevant information present.
Some section headings, captions, or graphics used.
Looks like H.S. paper.
Dirty or ragged appearance.
Missing titles, captions, headings, name of author.
Not professional.
AbstractAbstract is proper length.
Highly informative, complete and easy to understand.
Appropriate vocabulary is used.
Abstract makes you want to read the paper.
Abstract is proper length.
Informative, complete and understandable.
Appropriate vocabulary is used.
Abstract is proper length.
Somewhat informative and understandable.
Abstract is not the proper length.
Not very informative or understandable.
StructureThesis is clear, easy to find, and appropriate to the assignment.
Thesis is supported by the rest of the paper.
Paper contains a "roadmap" for the reader.
There is a logical flow to the topics/arguments.
Conclusion follows clearly from the arguments presented.
Thesis is clear and appropriate.
Thesis fairly well supported.
Paper is fairly well organized.
Conclusion follows from the rest of the paper.
Thesis is fairly clear.
Inconsistent support for thesis.
Paper weakly organized.
Conclusion is acceptable.
Thesis unclear and/or inappropriate.
Thesis not supported.
Paper is not organized.
Conclusion doesn't follow from the rest of the paper.
ResearchThe evidence comes from a wide variety of valid sources.
The bibliography is complete and reflects the appropriate sources.
The evidence used reflects multiple views.
The evidence comes from many valid sources.
The bibliography is complete.
The evidence used reflects multiple views.
Valid sources are inconsistently used.
The bibliography is missing some pieces.
The evidence seldom comes from valid sources.
The bibliography is missing significant information.
ThinkingArguments are pertinent to the topic.
Arguments are logical, and supported with evidence.
The key arguments have been made - no major points have been left out.
Arguments are pertinent to the topic.
Arguments are fairly logical and reasonably supported.
Most key arguments have been made.
Arguments are not consistently pertinent, logical or supported.
Few key arguments have been made.
Arguments not pertinent.
Arguments rarely, if at all, logical and supported.
Almost no key arguments have been made.
Interest FactorLanguage and style appropriate for intended audience.
Paper presents well-developed analysis and synthesis.
There is nuance, inference and subtlety to the paper.
Main points are memorable.
Readers is very engaged.
Language and style of paper appropriate.
Paper presents reasonable analysis and synthesis.
There is a little nuance, inference and subtlety.
Main points clear.
Reader is engaged.
Language and style only fair.
Less-developed analysis and synthesis.
Nuance, inference and subtlety lacking.
Main points present, not well made.
Language and style poor.
Analysis and synthesis lacking.
Main points not discernible.

Scoring rubrics are descriptive scoring schemes developed to assess any student performance whether it's written or oral, online or face-to-face.Scoring rubrics are especially well suited for evaluating complex tasks or assignments such as: written work (e.g., assignments, essay tests, papers, portfolios); presentations (e.g., debates, role plays); group work; or other types of work products or performances (e.g., artistic works, portfolios). Scoring rubrics are assignment-specific; criteria are different for each assignment or test. It is a way to make your criteria and standards clear to both you and your students.

Good scoring rubrics:

  • Consist of a checklist of items, each with an even number of points. For example, two-point rubrics would indicate that the student either did or did not perform the specified task. Four or more points in a rubric are common and indicate the degree to which a student performed a given task.
  • Are criterion based. That is, the rubric contains descriptive criteria for acceptable performance that are meaningful, clear, concise, unambiguous, and credible--thus ensuring inter-rater reliability.
  • Are used to assess only those behaviors that are directly observable.
  • Require a single score based on the overall quality of the work or presentation.
  • Provide a better assessment and understanding of expected or actual performance.

Rubric Template (PDF)

Sample Rubric for Quizzes and Homework (PDF)

Why Develop Scoring Rubrics?

Here are some reasons why taking the time to construct a grading rubric will be worth your time:

  • Make grading more consistent and fair.
  • Save you time in the grading process.
  • Help identify students' strengths and weaknesses so you can teach more effectively.
  • To help students understand what and how they need to improve.

Guidelines for Developing a Scoring Rubric

Step 1: Select a project/assignment for assessment.

Example: Work in small groups to write and present a collaborative research paper.

Step 2: What performance skill(s) or competency(ies) are students demonstrating through their work on this project?

Example: Ability to work as part of a team.

Step 3: List the traits you'll assess when evaluating the project--in other words, ask: "What counts in my assessment of this work?" Use nouns or noun phrases to name traits, and avoid evaluative language. Limit the number of traits to no more than seven. Each trait should represent a key teachable attribute of the overall skill you're assessing.

Coherence and Organization
Graphics and visuals

Step 4: Decide on the number of gradations of mastery you'll establish for each trait and the language you'll use to describe those levels.

Five points of gradation:

5=Proficient4=Clearly Competent3=Acceptable2=Limited1=Attempted

Four points of gradation:


Step 5: For each trait write statements that describe work at each level of mastery. If, for example, you have seven traits and five gradations, you'll have 35 descriptive statements in your rubric. Attempt to strike a balance between over-generalizations and task-specificity. For the trait "coherence and organization" in a four-point rubric:

Exceptional:Thesis is clearly stated and developed; specific examples are appropriate and clearly develop thesis; conclusion is clear; ideas flow together well; good transitions; succinct but not choppy; well-organized.
Admirable:Most information presented in logical sequence; generally very organized but better transitions between ideas is needed.
Acceptable:Concept and ideas are loosely connected; lacks clear transitions; flow and organization are choppy.
Amateur:Presentation of ideas is choppy and disjointed; doesn't flow; development of thesis is vague; no apparent logical order to writing

Step 6: Design a format for presenting the rubric to students and for scoring student work.

Step 7: Test the rubric and fine tune it based on feedback from colleagues and students.

Source: Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, Barbara E. Walvoord, Virginia Johnson Anderson, Thomas A. Angelo (Foreword by) (1998).

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