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Bemidji State University
Tip Sheet and Grading Criteria
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Bemidji State University | 1500 Birchmont Dr. NE | Bemidji, MN 56601-2699




College of Arts and Letters


Hints and Practical Advice for First Year English Students

Wondering how to make a good impression on your teacher?

Here are some simple suggestions:

  1. Go to class. Some teachers don't pay attention to attendance, but some drop a grade if you miss without good reason.
  2. Get there on time. Teachers get annoyed if you interrupt their classes and make them say things again.
  3. Have your assignments done on time. Again, teachers differ, but some will drop your grade if assignments are late, or if you do poorly on surprise quizzes.
  4. Do your own work. When you turn in an assignment, your teacher will assume you did it. You are encouraged to ask people for help In revising and editing your papers, but then make the revisions and corrections yourself. If your teacher discovers that you didn't do the work you submitted, the teacher may take punitive action against you.

See the BSU Student Handbook for more about this, but one kind of cheating is so important to the Department of English that we offer this explanation:


This isn't meant to scare you; it's meant to keep you out of trouble. Also, teachers hate going through the ugly procedures they have to start when they discover plagiarism, so if it doesn't happen, everybody is happier.

Wondering how to write a good paper?

Well, that's what ENGL 1101 and ENGL 1102 are about. This hints sheet can't give you everything you need to know, but here are some things to do to get you started:

  • Think about the purpose of the assignment. What does it ask you to do? If it says "describe," then describe. If it says "compare," then compare. Good papers accomplish their purposes.
  • Think about your audience. Your teacher is almost always your audience, but sometimes the teacher designates other audiences for you to consider. In either case, remember that readers want to be interested and respected. Good papers get through to their intended readers.
  • Use a moderate tone, unless you have strong reason otherwise. In general, write as a reasonable person writing to other reasonable people about something interesting. Good papers usually persuade readers that the writer is level-headed.
  • Be as specific as your purpose allows. It is difficult to strike the right balance between general statements and detailed ones. Try to choose the most specific word you can use without losing your meaning and to illustrate your meanings with examples. Good papers make clear statements.

Wondering about how to fix your paper?

Here are some strategies to try:

  • Try asking yourself some questions once you have a draft done.
    • Did it accomplish its purpose?
    • Is its tone moderate?
    • Is it clear?
    • Is it mechanically correct?
    • Is it easy on the ear?
  • Try reading the paper over with the attitude that you are a reader who has never seen the paper before.
  • Try reading the paper aloud. Mark the places where you hesitate or stumble and then figure out what caused the hesitation or stumbling.
  • Try giving the paper to someone else. Ask them to point out parts they don't understand.

All students are invited to visit the Writing Resource Center (HS 110) for one-to-one peer assistance in writing any paper for any class.

Wondering what a university-level paper should look like?

Again, teachers' expectations vary, but if the teacher hasn't told you otherwise, papers should be typed or word processed, double-spaced, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch white paper, with margins of one inch or so on top, slides, and bottom. Papers should either have a title page or a heading on the first page which identifies the paper. Information typically included: student's name, course title and number, teacher's name, date, and assignment number or title. Some teachers have very specific requirements about title pages and/or headings; some don't. If yours does, follow directions.

Wondering about how your teacher will grade your papers?

Naturally. This is a complicated issue, because the things your teacher will think about will vary from paper to paper as assignments change. For instance, some things that work well In a personal narrative do not work well in a formal argument. Teachers will almost certainly consider whether the paper accomplished the purpose of the assignment, but teachers also react to things not so easily determined. They ask themselves if the paper was interesting, if it affected the reader in significant ways, if it was mechanically correct, if it had a sense of commitment. This is hard work for the teacher - possibly the least attractive part of the teacher's job. When the teacher so chooses or when the decision is especially difficult, the teacher can refer to a description of letter grades that the Department has constructed as a standard of reference. This description is most pertinent to persuasive papers, but can help the teacher make a grade decision about any kind of paper. Since the Department offers this description to teachers, we also provide it to you.

  • A (Excellent) The A paper develops a stated or implied thesis with insight and vigor. Its ideas are logically developed in well chosen words and phrases. Its tone and approach are appropriate to the assignment and rhetorical situation. It displays mastery of basic grammar.
  • B (Good) The B paper develops a stated or implied thesis logically and adequately. It is relatively free of mechanical errors. Its tone, while mature, may not be appropriate to the assignment. While the B paper is above average, it lacks the insight and vigor characteristic of the A paper.
  • C (Satisfactory) The C paper is a satisfactory response to the assignment. It has a central idea that is expressed and developed clearly enough to be understood by the reader, and it avoids repeated use of serious errors in mechanics. The tone of the paper may be stilted or wooden. Although the paper may seem correct, it lacks the imagination, vigor, and clarity of thought and expression which would entitle it to an above average grade.
  • D (Poor) The D paper indicates below average achievement In expressing and developing ideas. Its thesis may be unclear or supported illogically or inconsistently. The paper itself may feel unfinished, incomplete. The paper may contain repeated, serious grammatical errors.
  • E (Failure) The E paper falls to respond appropriately to the assignment. Whereas the D paper may be weak In its support of its thesis, the E paper simply falls to express a thesis; or, if a thesis is expressed It is not supported. The paper may contain serious errors in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.

Copyright © 2003 Bemidji State University | Department of English
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