Rhetoric and Composition
Department Chair:
Laurie McMillin

Phone: (440) 775-6601
Fax: (440) 775-8619

Rice 116
10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Guidelines for Evaluating Writing

Guidelines for Evaluating Writing


The Rhetoric & Composition Program recognizes that some faculty members may think that Writing Certification adds an extra burden to their grading, especially in larger classes. After extensive discussion, the Committee has developed the following guidelines which should make it clear that Writing Certification will require little extra effort on the part of the instructor.

The Writing Requirement does not refer to an abstract, general ideal of "good writing" but to the ability to write intelligently and effectively within a particular rhetorical situation, specifically, within a particular academic discipline. As instructor, you are asked only to certify that a student can write well according to the requirements for good writing in your field. We require students to be certified in two different departments in order to make sure they understand that good writing can vary from situation to situation and that they can make adjustments accordingly. This is the essential writing skill for which we are looking and which merits certification.

1. As an instructor, you are informed on the class lists which students in the course need certification--thus you can pay attention to certification for a clearly designated group of students.

2. Writing Certification is a yes/no decision; you need not fine tune your decisions beyond that.

3. Reading an essay for certification is not a separate activity from reading to give a course grade. Writing Certification means that a student can write effectively within a particular discipline. An essay which succeeds in conveying an intelligent argument appropriate to the subject of the course is, most likely, certifiable.

4. Certification is not a judgment of style or correctness as abstract, general qualities. Certification means that the student has employed the style appropriate to the kind of writing done in your discipline, and that the "mechanics" enabled, rather than interfered with, your reading of the essay. You need not "count errors" to determine if a student deserves certification or not.

5. If a student who needs certification does not seem to be writing well enough to earn it, your responsibility is to recommend that she or he seek help from a tutor, or discuss the possibility of taking a writing course in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition.

Tutors trained by the Department of Rhetoric and Composition are available. Please refer to the Writing Associates Program website for further information.