Criteria for Good Writing in Mathematics

Criteria for Good Writing in Mathematics

The Mathematics Department has determined and prioritized the criteria that we believe characterize good writing in a mathematical paper.

  1. Accuracy: The paper is free of mathematical errors, and the writing conforms to good practice in the use of language, notation, and symbols.
  2. Organization: The paper is organized around a central idea. There is a logical and smooth progression of the content and a cohesive paragraph structure.
  3. Clarity: Explanations of mathematical concepts and examples are easily understood by the intended audience. The reader can readily follow the paper's development.
  4. Insight: The paper demonstrates originality, depth, and independent thought.
  5. Mechanics: The paper is free of grammatical, typographical, and spelling errors. The mathematical content is formatted and referenced appropriately.

These criteria serve as the foundation for evaluation of student writing in mathematics at all levels, though there is the expectation that the depth of mastery increases with each year in the program. Thus, the focus of writing assignments changes from expository to increasingly professional and independent writing.

In the sophomore year, proficiency in expository writing in mathematics is the goal of the requirement. Such writing should incorporate all of the criteria above.

At the junior level, proficiency in technical or analytical writing is the goal of the requirement. In addition to the criteria above, there are two advanced expectations for this year:

  • Advanced Proof/Analysis: Formal proofs and analyses are an essential part of the student's writing. The student pays careful attention to the precision and significance of formal arguments.
  • Professional Writing: Papers and reports written by the student follow a professional format or organization as required by the Department. (See \S 5.)

Each senior is expected to build upon her writing experience while working independently on a sustained project--the senior comprehensive paper--that demonstrates the depth of her knowledge on a topic of her choice.