do you have a thesis (main point, topic, position on an
issue, answer to a problem)?
is it something others could reasonably disagree with? Are
there other positions on the issue that have at least prima facie
it it focused, specific, and concrete?
is it original? (Obviously there are degrees here. But
better papers will avoid simply defending a point made in lecture or in
class discussion. Challenging an interpretation offered in class or lecture can be
more interesting, as can making an observation or connection that hasn't
been mentioned in the discussion so far. Notice that the more specific and
concrete your point is, the more likely it is to be somewhat distinctive.)
does the paper constitute a coherent defense of your main point?
if you are discussing a particular text, is every claim about the text supported by specific references and/or
are quotations accompanied by an explanation of how you interpret the
quotation and the reasoning showing that the quotation supports your
have you considered objections that might be raised by someone who does
not accept your main point? Have you shown why your view or interpretation
is preferable to its alternatives?
does every paragraph have a single main point?
does every sentence in the paragraph contribute to the overall point of
is it clear how all the paragraphs fit together into a coherent case for
Grammar and Style:
check carefully for grammatical glitches (incorrect punctuation,
inconsistent tenses, lack of subject-verb agreement, parallel structure
check carefully for spelling errors (use a spell checker but don't rely on
it to catch all mistakes)
are there sentences that would be more effective if they were reworded
(e.g. passive sentences that could be made active, wordy formulations that
could be made more concise, phrases that do not clearly communicate the
precise idea you want to express)?
does every sentence contribute something substantial?