Sample Research Essay Rubrics

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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.

Examples of Rubrics

Several examples of rubrics that can be found on the web are linked below to aid in the development of rubrics for post secondary education settings.

Template for Creating a Rubric

The below link is to a MSWord file that contains a template for a rubric and instructions for how to use and modify the template to meet individual grading needs. Instructors can download this file and modify it as needed to construct their own rubric.


The AAC&U VALUE initiative (2007-09) developed 16 VALUE rubrics for the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes. Elements and descriptors for each rubric were based on the most frequently identified characteristics or criteria of learning for each of the 16 learning outcomes. Drafts of each rubric have been tested by faculty with their own students’ work on over 100 college campuses.

The VALUE rubrics contribute to the national dialogue on assessment of college student learning. The AAC&U web is widely used by individuals working in schools, higher education associations, colleges, and universities in the United States and around the world.

Instructors can use the rubrics in their current form. They can also modify the language and rubric elements to meet the specific needs of their assignment or assessment goal.

Access to the VALUE Rubrics is free. AAC&U requests that users register before downloading PDF or Word versions of the rubrics to assist their research on rubric use.

External link to AAC&U Rubric download page:

Collections of Rubric Links

Classroom Participation

Graphic Organizers

Interactive Quality of an Online Course


Short Essays

Student Paper

Student Peer Review

Team Participation

Theses and Dissertations

Updated: 06/20/16 gb

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