Class Assignment: Response Paper and Rubric

Image of globe courtesy of chris roll at
Image of globe courtesy of chris roll at

This quarter I have been teaching an “Introduction to International Studies” class. One of my goals for the year is to have a final assignment that challenges students to reflect on the course material, and to integrate what they have learned from diverse sources. I’ve chosen a response paper of about five pages in length, which they will write to address the following question:

Every course is dominated by themes. In the second half of this course (since the midterm exam) what do you think has been the most important theme and why? You should justify your answer by drawing on the videos, lectures, and reading. You will need to clearly explain why the theme that you have selected is more important than the other possibilities. Your paper should have a clear thesis and be thoughtfully organized. You do not need to do any outside reading or research.

I also provide the students with a copy of the rubric that I’ll be using for the grading, which I post here. Student papers are definitely better when they are able to see the rubric before writing the assignment:


Excellent Good Incomplete
Argument The response paper makes a clear argument regarding the most important theme, based on careful thought and reasoning. The paper is original and insightful. The response paper makes a clear argument, but it might have been more fully developed at points, or it contains some contradictions or weak points. Lacks a clear argument and focus. There is little insight or originality in the argument.
Content Demonstrates a good understanding of all the relevant course materials related to the question, including the reading, lectures, class discussion and (when appropriate) videos. Includes several well-chosen examples from the course materials to illustrate the argument and key concepts. Generally demonstrates a good understanding of the materials, but a few points are not clear or lack specific examples. Several key concepts are unclearly stated or omitted. Includes only a few examples or the examples are not well chosen, and do not show a clear understanding of the course content.
Writing Clearly written and well-edited for grammar and spelling, including complete sentences. Presented in your own words. Mostly well-written with a few errors in grammar or spelling. Contains several errors or style issues that detract from the clarity and readability of the essay.
Organization Well-organized and easy to follow, with an introduction and conclusion. Mostly well-organized but could be improved with revision to make the argument clearer to the reader. At times the paper could have been more tightly written. The essay lacks a clear organization, making the argument difficult to follow. Lacks an introduction and/or conclusion, or the introduction and/or conclusion are overly brief and do not clearly state the argument and summarize the key points.


Grading:A = All excellent    A- = Mostly excellent  B/B+ = Mostly Good  C+/B- = Good with some incomplete C or below = incomplete in more than one area


Shawn Smallman, Portland State University

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