It’s often difficult for college students to understand exactly what the teacher expects from them when it comes to tests or research papers.

Creating a research paper rubric for your students will help guide them toward the proper format, themes, concepts, focus and execution they need to perform in a term paper for it to be successful. Try these tips for both creating a rubric template and for using rubrics to give feedback to students.

Sample rubric for research papers

When creating rubrics, use straightforward and concise language to inform students. You can create a rubric with various parameters for different skill levels. Cornell College offers a sample Research Paper Rubric you can download and RubiStar offers numerous rubrics for everything from research papers to science projects, art and music, debates, storytelling and multimedia presentations.

Examples of rubric categories for research papers can include:

  • introduction that conveys key topics and terms to be discussed
  • integration of knowledge proving the student understands the material and has applied concepts learned in the course into the paper
  • topic is focused and thesis is defined
  • depth of discussion, pertinence of content and elaboration of details
  • cohesiveness, flow and logic of information presented
  • presentation of tables, graphs, illustrations and appendixes with proper labels
  • spelling, grammar, mechanics, punctuation, appropriate font and margins, and language proficiency
  • conclusion that integrates the thesis and discusses the results and findings of the research
  • number of sources and supporting literature from credible and current sources and peer reviewed journals
  • proper in-text citations and bibliography formatted in APA, MLA or other designated style.

Anthony C. Winkler’s book, Writing the Research Paper: A Handbook, 8th ed, offers detailed step-by-step instructions on preparing a research paper, choosing a topic, researching, structuring and sourcing. Educators can glean ideas from the book for composing their rubric of components of a paper.

Winkler commented on the importance of assisting students in preparing quality research: “The research paper is an excellent tool for learning about a topic of your choice…Writing a research paper also has practical effects that could help you in later life. Research is research, and the techniques you learn from writing a research paper… will also apply to writing a business paper.”

Describe parameters for grades

The rubric should also contain descriptions of various grades for judging the quality of the paper and the student’s understanding of the research paper writing process. Such levels describe expectations for: expert, proficient, apprentice and novice levels. An alternative is: excellent (exceeds standards), good (occasionally exceeds), acceptable (meets standards) or unacceptable (below standards).

Use rubric for feedback

A rubric is also used to provide focused feedback to the student after the assignment has been handed in and graded. Many students faced with a simple grade do not get adequate guidance on what they did wrong so they can fix it in the future. Rubrics also define how students have met learning goals throughout the course.

With this type of feedback, students can judge the quality of their own work on future projects. This cycle affords the students knowledge about quality issues and academic expectations.

Reference: Winkler, Anthony C. Writing the Research Paper: A Handbook, 8th ed. Cengage Learning, 2012.

Has creating rubrics for your students been successful? Tell us in the comments.