(as adopted from the official grading rubric for UWG English Department’s First-Year Writing Program)


Ä      The thesis conveys a clear sense of purpose and is sophisticated

Ä      Content in the body paragraphs:

o       goes beyond surface-level meaning to recognize complexities, showing evidence of serious consideration of the topic. This result is the outgrowth of a sophisticated thesis. Strong analysis derives from a compelling thesis. My recommendation for many of you is this: before you revise an essay, spend more time thinking through the topic. Strong analytical thinking is what animates strong analytical writing.

o       contains strong analytical content and depth, supporting most or all points with appropriate, fully analyzed examples and compelling, insightful arguments.


What does this mean exactly? Let’s break these descriptions down:



·         Conveys a clear sense of argument: Your thesis must go beyond stating the “what”: for example, “Carol Shields’s novel Unless tells about the difficulties of the mother-daughter relationship.” Notice the key word “tells”—the student is already summarizing. Keep in mind the distinction between the “what” (obvious) and the “so what” (your conclusion, finding, interpretation, claim, argument). Your task as the writer is to develop a compelling “umbrella” claim (the “so what” part of your paper under which all other mini-claims fall) that is debatable and therefore must be proven.

·         Contains specificity: The broader and more general the thesis, the more guesswork the reader has to do and generally the more shallow the argument. Many times, writers who offer broad/general thesis statements tend to stay broad in the body paragraphs because the topic is simply too wide-open. Specificity deepens the impact of your argument and sharpens your analytical focus and edge. A thesis should say something unique and particular to the text under examination.

·         Has a degree of Complexity: Go beyond stating the obvious to say something that is not readily obvious to the reader and therefore requires more lengthy, lawyer-like justification. There is a certain amount of complexity or intrigue to the “A” or “B” thesis; the writer has a distinct vision for the paper that can best be described as “three-dimensional” (in that it has many sides that require further investigation) and not “one-dimensional” (a thesis that is so simplistic that there is not much to expand upon; redundancy and generalization in the body paragraphs are usually the result).




Content in the body paragraphs:


Draw upon the power of the 3-“Ied” monster method of building strong analytical paragraphs.


$    IDENTIFY: Understand the difference between an observation and a claim (see Claims versus Observations). Beginning a paragraph with observations of summary or with a plot detail is not a topic sentence (i.e., Esperanza is sexually assaulted in the chapter “Red Clowns”). The topic sentence should be a claim, something that relates to the thesis and which must be proven (“It is in the chapter “Red Clowns” that Esperanza’s evolving suspicions of the misogyny enveloping her culture come to full fruition, underscoring the full hazards of gender oppression if left unchecked in the Latino community.”).


$    ILLUSTRATE: Don’t just throw in examples for the sake of having examples. The key is this: illustrate examples that serve as launching pads into analytical inquiry and further investigation of your thesis. Draw upon examples that will deepen the scope and the depth of your argument. This is the “what” of your argument: empirical, textual examples and observations drawn from the text.


$    INTERPRET: This is the “so what” of your argument. After you identify an illustration, you must then interpret its significance and connection to the thesis. Here is where you develop provocative interpretations, offer compelling insights (“How is this significant?” “Why is this important?”). Try to go beyond the surface level. Spend time developing your insights; don’t rush through important points. If the illustration is important enough to include in your paper, then spend time analyzing it. Remember, interpretation should be the biggest “I” in the paragraph: Click here for examples.



A Note on Analytical Substance in the 3rd “I”: 


Work toward a greater degree of specificity in your analytical thinking. Look for opportunities to deepen your insights and complicate your own interpretations to show the multi-layeredness of your argument. Ask theoretical questions to jog your thinking and to help you see new angles. For every quotation or illustration, you should follow through with 3 or 4 lines of analysis. Don’t mistake interpretation and analysis for regurgitating the content of a quotation. Instead you offer major and minor…


Theories                                                                      Credible contentions

Argumentative claims                                                  Assertions

Convincing explanations                                             Interpretations

Arguable suppositions                                                 Persuasions

Tenable hypotheses                                                     Logical conclusions

Analysis                                                                       Lawyerly arguments