World History at

On the Grading of Term Papers

(I)     The Grading Process

A recent paper handed in by an 8th century B.C. Mediterranean monarch caused the teacher to revise the grading process.

Step 1 : Rough Grading

When students hand in a term paper draft, the teacher will, in a cursory way, establish
       (a)     if the paper answered, partially answered the question or missed the topic
       (b)     if the organization of the paper suffices or if an aspect, or several, have not be covered
       (c)     if major revision has to be undertaken
The teacher will then proceed to give a rough grade.

Step 2 : Refined Grading

In a process which takes more time, the teacher will establish
       (a)     the degree of originality
       (b)     will examine the quality of notes and references
       (c)     will look at the precision of the information in paraphrased passages
and will give a final grade, which can confirm the rough grade or alter it by +/- 10 points, unless the paper turns out to be plagiarized (zero point grade).

(II)     Originality

We live in the era of the Internet and Wikipedia. Students have to put together essential information as a base for their analysis. Therefore it is part of the nature of the process that they have to extract information from a variety of sources. Paraphrasing is legitimate; in such cases the source is to be given in a note. Students may watch out not to become too dependent on one and the same source.
One way to assure an independent perspective is to first establish a list of questions the student wants to answer in the context of the topic, and then to look into available sources.
Example : texts on inventions / infrastructure tend to focus on the history from an engineer's, civil engineer's or architect's perspective; texts on military history from a general's perspective. Teacher expects students to put such matters into a more general context, to look at the impact on economy, society, the environment.

(III)     Analysis

The major part of the paper, in most cases, will consist of a factual narrative written from a neutral perspective.
In the conclusion, students are expected
       (a)     to combine the essence of the individual chapters and
       (b)     to put the observed phenomenon in a wider social/economical/political context
       (c)     to come up with an analyses (thesis) either from an impersonal or from a personal (I) perspective

(IV)     Paraphrasing

Students should distance themselves from evaluations by their sources :
Not : KMLA is the best school in the world, but KMLA used to advertise to be the best high school in the world,
Direct quotes are to be given in quotation marks in parenthesis, with note
When paraphrasing, make sure that the essential information in your source doers not get lost / get 'watered down'

(V)     Reference

Wikipedia : Article : KMLA, from Wikipedia,
Online "Encyclopedias" licensing their articles from the Wikipedia should be replaced by the respective Wikipedia articles; go for the original, not the copy. Also, the copycat article posters not necessarily update as the Wikipedia does.
Do not quote Kidipedia, : they are addressed to middle or elementary school students.
Do not quote sites which are racist ("History of the White Race .."), which propagate conspiracy theories, which are sensationalist
Do not quote wargamers, reenactors and other amateurs unless under specific circumstances, and then classify these sources as such

December 10th 2008

Alexander Ganse

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