A Strong Essay/A Weak Essay

THESIS - a central idea, the engine of your analysis

>> focused: central question of the essay is defined sharply
>> adrift: issue addressed by essay is defined vaguely, if at all

>> engaging: ideas form an argument, essay has a purpose
>> aimless: ideas fit together indifferently, almost at random

>> creative: ideas spring from independent thinking
>> unimaginative: ideas are a rehash of class discussion

>> sophisticated: controlling idea is marked by nuance, alert to subtleties
>> simplistic: main idea is obvious, predictable, unadventurous

DEVELOPMENT - the unfolding of your idea from paragraph to paragraph

>> dynamic: essay grows to fit idea, goes where it needs to go
>> static: essay structure is formulaic, prefabricated (e.g., the 5-paragraph theme)

>> purposeful: thesis controls organization, shapes a smooth train of paragraphs
>> plot-driven: plot summary hijacks essay, dictates the succession of paragraphs

>> responsive: central idea progresses, each paragraph builds upon the previous one
>> repetitious: main idea gets stuck, becomes repetitive

>> flowing: topic sentences show how each paragraph connects with previous one
>> disorientating: topic sentences fail to show relationship between ideas

SUPPORT - the clarity of your evidence at each step of the way

>> insightful: firm grasp of ideas, comprehension of text
>> confused: shaky discussion of concepts, misreading of text

>> thorough: evidence to back claims is fully explored, reasoning well laid out
>> spotty: claims are unsubstantiated, explanations are lacking

>> coherent: paragraphs address specific issues one at a time, make clear points
>> diffuse: paragraphs wander about, fail to take shape around a single idea

>> proportionate: paragraph length is well suited to delivering each idea powerfully
>> skimpy or bloated: paragraphs are either too brief or too drawn out to have an impact

>> contextual: examples, quotations, points are properly framed by judicious summary
>> fragmentary: textual details seem to crop up from nowhere, don't fit together