Author’s Name: ________________________                                Grader’s Name: ___________________

Rubric for Scoring an Interpretive Paper in the Humanities


Standards: S.S.E.A.R.

Out of 30:


Ø      Paragraphs follow the following order: CLAIM – EVIDENCE – EXPLANATION (linking evidence to claim).  Paragraphs may repeat this pattern within paragraph.

Ø      Every claim is backed up.  [This means any sentence that is not a fact.  Claims are topic sentences, but claims can also be found within paragraphs.  Example of a claim: Janie wants to find a marriage like the one she witnesses under the pear tree.]

Ø      Evidence is one or more of the following: (1) quoted text/dialogue, (2) quoted secondary source, (3) a very specific scene description, fact about a character, or plot detail.

Ø      Do NOT use generalizations!  Do not just spit back plot summary; FIND EVIDENCE!

Ø      Each claim (topic sentence) must be supported with lines from the poetry, scenes or shots from the film, aspects of the painting, etc.  I.e., If Whitman shows the “democratic spirit” in his poetry, discuss the line in section 17, “This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, / This the common air that bathes the globe.”  Then explain what that line has to do with the democratic (socialistic) spirit of sharing.  

Out of 25:


Ø      Tone: Tone is objective, academic, and avoids “gushing” (Do not write “Emily Dickinson was a great poet who should be read by all.”)

Ø      All quotes are embedded (both from poem (film, song, painting) text and from critics)

Ø      Transitions: Includes smooth transition paragraphs (between sections of paper), sentences (between paragraphs), and words (within paragraphs) where appropriate (“Similarly, ___” “Contrastingly, ___” “Whitman, however, was not a homebound man.”)

Ø      Proper Grammar:

Ø    Present verb tense is used when discussing the written work (“Whitman uses free verse”), but not when discussing the poets life events (Dickinson wrote over 1,775 poems”)

Ø    subject-verb agreement is correct

Ø    avoids run-on sentences and fragments

Ø    word choice is high-level; spelling, punctuation and capitalization are correct

Ø      Avoids awkward phrasing (and shows paper has been revised by several people in this regard)

Ø      Shows Conventions of Formal Writing: avoids first and second person; avoids contractions, avoids informal speech (no conversational or “cute” writing).

Ø      Uses strong diction (word choice/vocabulary): Shows a thesaurus has been used to make sentences interesting and lively

Ø      MLA Format: parenthetical documentation is correct (period comes AFTER the citation) and ALL quotes & info that is not general knowledge or author’s original ideas are cited; all ideas belonging to a secondary source are cited!

Ø      Bibliography: follows MLA format and order for author info, title info, and publication info

Ø      PLAGAIRISM is avoided (all difficult terms and concepts are explained in the student’s own words)

Ø      Title: The title has two parts: (1) the hook, or creative part, then a colon (:), and (2) the explanation part. 

Ø      Format: 12 point fort, Times New Roman, double spaced.

Out of 20:



Ø      Page requirement: Paper fulfills minimum & maximum page requirement (4-6 pages)

Ø      Thesis statement is a map for the rest of the paper.  In 1-4 sentences, it clearly specifies and outlines the author’s argument exactly.  Quite like an abstract, the reader should have a crystal clear idea of the following sections of the paper.  The thesis statement is specific, interpretive, analytical, and comprehensive (like the 2 thesis statement handouts I have given you so far).

Ø      The introduction:

Ø      Begins with a hook, or an interesting lead sentence

Ø      Answers the 5 W’s (i.e. if you are writing on a poem, the reader should know when the poets wrote, which poem you will discuss for each, and who the poets were, where they are writing (Northern, American))

Ø      Ends in a thesis statement

Ø      The conclusion:

Ø    The “topic sentence” of the conclusion is a natural rephrasing of the thesis statement

Ø    Briefly rephrases the major points of each paragraph

Ø    Ends in a sentence that is some type of hook, such as a related philosophical thought

Ø      Paragraphs are in a logical order (order shows a detailed outline has been written and followed)

Ø      Topic sentences are (1) specific, (2) provable claims that (3) clearly further thesis (“Walt Whitman’s formal devices correspond with his extroverted nature.”)

Ø      Paragraphs clearly support and further topic sentences: supporting details are on-topic and occur in a logical order

Ø      Cut the fat! Irrelevant info is cut (if your paper discusses “I Heard a Fly Buzz,” there should be no discussions of “The Soul Selects Her Own Society”, etc.  Your paper should be tight and avoid rambling.)

Ø      Add the meat!  Necessary info is discussed.  For example, your paper should not leave out that Dickinson did not publish most of her poetry while Whitman did publish over 10 revisions of “Song of Myself”

Out of 20:


Ø      Examples, plot points, quoted dialogue, and critics’ opinions are DISCUSSED and ANALYZED as opposed to being merely mentioned, reworded, or summarized. 

Ø    For example, if you are discussing the line, “…and then / There interposed a fly,” you would not simply write “this means that there was a fly in the room as the woman was dying,” but rather something more like, “the fly, signifying all that is ugly, random, and insignificant in life, interrupts the woman’s death, the one moment that should have been transcendent.”

Ø      All information is clearly related and linked back to the thesis (after reading each paragraph, the reader should be able to clearly answer the question: “What does this have to do with the thesis statement?”) 

Out of 10:


Ø      Because we focused on primary text analysis (the poems, paintings, films, themselves) for this paper, I do not necessarily expect that you did much outside research.  Therefore, your research consists of how well you selected quotes from the respective poems to discuss (especially for “Song of Myself”).

Ø      If you have used secondary sources to gain a better understanding, you may choose to include critic’s opinions where appropriate. 

Ø       Remember, you MUST INCLUDE A BIBLIOGRAPHY that AT LEAST cites the original text itself as well as anywhere you looked to get inspiration.

TOTAL SCORE out of 100: