Marking Criteria

In their assessment of course assignments, essays and examinations scripts, examiners give weight to both structure and content. Rigid rules cannot be set down since different subjects require varying treatment but as a general rule the ordering of material follows a logical argument. A general introduction should be written explaining how the subject will be treated, the content organised, the relevance of historical background where appropriate, and the use of methodology. The main body of the essay is concerned with the presentation of facts and data to support the arguments presented. This is divided into a number of sections which should be linked together. It should be remembered that facts have limited validity by themselves but they are necessary to support the ideas and arguments presented in the essay. Assessment will focus on such factors as a student’s logical development of an argument, the marshalling of facts, and the use of sources. Students must seek to demonstrate a critical faculty through examination of a wide range of sources. Do not rely on one book or article alone, however important that may appear at first sight.

Broadly speaking, your essays are assessed on the following criteria:

  • Introduction
  • Conclusion
  • Use of Relevant Evidence
  • Critical Analysis and Originality
  • Structure and Organization
  • Prose Style, Grammar, Spelling and Syntax
  • Referencing

Undergraduate marking scale for written projects


First - Introduction demonstrates an excellent grasp of the question and provides a clear outline of scope of the essay.

II.1 - Introduction shows a good grasp of the question and an attempt to define the scope of the essay.

II.2 - Introduction rather perfunctory and limited to an attempt to define the scope of the essay.

Third- Introduction demonstrates an incomplete grasp of the question.

Fail - Absence of any introduction to the essay; instead launches straight in with no attempt to introduce and define the topic. Question may have been misunderstood.


First - Well-defined concluding section which recapitulates the important points made in the body of the essay and provides a summary analysis of the material.

II.1 - Competent attempt to recapitulate the main points raised in the essay, but limited analytical focus.

II.2 - Recapitulation of the main points, but devoid of analysis.

Third - Rather brief and formalised concluding section.

Fail -The essay ends abruptly and without an appropriate concluding section.

Use of Relevant Evidence

First - Excellent use of relevant evidence, thoughtfully selected, from a variety of sources.

II.1 - The evidence included was relevant to the essay, but limited range of sources employed.

II.2 - Lacking or inappropriate evidence in some places. Relevance of some evidence presented is not clearly demonstrated.

Third - Often reliant on unsupported assertion or irrelevant material.

Fail - Biased use of evidence; essay contains high proportion of irrelevant material.

Critical Analysis and Originality

First - Creative approach to question; clear evidence of imagination and flexibility of thought; critical and wide-ranging use of relevant literature.

II.1 - Approach to question is well informed, showing evidence of good understanding of sources and critical thought.

II.2 - Competent use of written sources with some attempt at analysis.

Third - Limited grasp of basic issues around the topic, with emphasis on‘paraphrasing’ of sources rather than ‘discussion’.

Fail - Derivative, over-reliant on undigested source materials; no attempt at critical discussion.

Structure and Organisation

First - Coherent and well structured. Develops a logical argument and marshals ideas clearly. Material not directly related to the flow of the argument confined to footnotes.

II.1 - Could be better organized by sequencing some of the materials more appropriately.

II.2 - Argument obscured by repetition or lapses in organisation.

Third - Frequently deviates from main theme or line of argument.

Fail - Fails to develop a clear theme or line of argument.

Prose Style/Grammar, Spelling & Syntax

First - Clear and effective use of English throughout.

II.1 - A few spelling or grammatical errors, indicating that greater care required.

II.2 - Generally of an acceptable standard.

Third - Some errors of sentence construction, punctuation and/or misuse ofwords.

Fail - Many intrusive errors. Spelling, grammar and syntax require urgent attention. Prose style colloquial, careless or difficult to understand.


You are REQUIRED to use Harvard style of referencing in all assignments. For further information in referencing, see our useful webpage

First - Extensive bibliography covering all the main sources. Clear and precise references.

II.1 - Bibliography covers most sources; references largely complete and accurate.

II.2 - Some sources used, but important omissions. References often inaccurate, and footnotes either missing or irrelevant.

Third - Not many references to the literature, and referencing usually inadequate where attempted.

Fail - Bibliography, referencing and footnotes virtually non-existent.

You are REQUIRED to use Harvard style of referencing in all assignments.