When I see a rubric for a research paper, I go cross-eyed. Twenty-points for this, thirty for that. This isn’t a math class, what are numbers doing here? Maybe it’s just me, but something about that grid of expectations gets me stuck on looking at the component parts of the essay and how it will be graded. Do I have enough resources? Will I miss points on this APA format? Have I done it right? What else do you want from me, essay?
If I notice myself getting overwhelmed by the parameters of an assignment, I take a moment to outline my own expectations for it—I make my own rubric. Instead of asking myself what the paper wants from me I ask myself, what do I want out of this assignment?
When I write a paper, I want knowledge. I want to write on the topic that piqued my interest enough to bring up at the dinner table. I want to reflect on what I know, and find the holes and gaps that appear between ideas, that I can’t put words to. Then I want to fill those holes with research until the words become my understanding. I want to arrange what I find alongside my own thoughts so they support each other, like a conversation. Most of all, I want to finish my writing feeling inspired, and more passionate about my field.
By outlining my own rubric for a research paper, I remind myself that a paper is more than organization and formatting; it’s about a lot more than a grade. My writing can reflect my biggest passions, if I let it. If I approach an assignment first by writing what I care about, then the content, research, organization, flow, and format seem to take care of themselves.
Virtual Writing Center