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Appendix 2 - Faculty Marking/Grade Criteria for Masters Level Assignments

General

These guidelines are intended to spell out the criteria that are used to assess written work.  The criteria show the features we expect to see in work of a given mark or grade.  To achieve a given grade, students do not have to have met all the criteria listed; however, they must have demonstrated a preponderance of those qualities in their work.  Although modes of assessment vary (essays, dissertations, other forms of written output) the principles by which markers arrive at their judgements remain the same.  Below is a list of aspects of students’ work which may be taken into account during assessment, as appropriate.

  • Relevance of material in the essay to the title of the assignment.
  • Relevance to the content of the course.
  • Understanding of issues or problems under discussion.
  • Knowledge and understanding of relevant readings.
  • Critical discussion of relevant readings.
  • Use of suitable data.
  • Clarity and depth in the analysis of theory, data and issues under discussion.
  • Coherence of argument.
  • Clarity and relevance of introduction and conclusion.
  • Clarity and precision of expression.
  • Use of appropriate and consistent conventions for referring to other people’s work.
  • Clarity of presentation ( layout, including use of paragraphs and tables, for example).
  • Clarity of writing including grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction.
  • Compliance with published regulations on the completion of assessed work by the coursework deadline

Criteria for the award of marks

70 + (distinction)

A piece of written work in the 70+ range is one of exceptional quality, requiring a high level of conceptual ability and an extremely thorough and conscientious approach to study.  Work in this range will clearly demonstrate the capacity to proceed to a higher research degree.  It is distinguished by:

Argument

  • A clearly expressed and convincing argument which is used to develop a coherent and logical framework within which to answer the question or address the topic, and which is well grounded in existing theory and research, leading to a reasoned conclusion fully supported by the foregoing material.
  • A capacity to relate consistently the theoretical and empirical material to the conceptual framework.
  • Substantial evidence of independent research.
  • The absence of irrelevant or extraneous material.

Understanding

  • A thorough understanding of the topic and its implications.
  • A clear and consistent focus on the issues raised by the question/topic.
  • An insightful argument showing signs of originality.

Style

  • Good grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction.
  • Thorough use of conventions of referring to other people’s work

Marks within this classification may vary due to–

  • An original capacity to develop arguments beyond those available in the literature.
  • The depth and sophistication of the conceptual argument.
  • The level of familiarity with the theoretical and research literature.

60-69 (Merit)

A piece of written work of a good to very good standard requiring clarity of thought and expression.  It will display an ability to handle the relevant literature in an analytical manner.  It will be more than a good description of the various theories and/or studies relevant to the question – it will demonstrate a marshalling of relevant information by means of analysis and interpretation.  It will not necessarily have a water-tight argument, but it will be clearly structured and its conclusions will not take the reader by surprise.  Such a piece of work will generally show less independence of thought and mastery of detail that is required for a mark of 70 or over.  There may be some errors or misjudgements with regard to issues which are not central to the argument.  Work in this range will normally demonstrate the capacity to proceed to a higher research degree.
It is distinguished by:

Argument

  • A logical, coherent framework within which to answer the question or address the topic.
  • An ability to organise the data in a way that provides a clear and logical answer to, or discussion of, the question/topic.
  • A clearly expressed theme or argument developed from a critical consideration of relevant literature.

Understanding

  • A good understanding of the topic and its implications.
  • Familiarity with the relevant literature and empirical data.
  • The avoidance of irrelevant or extraneous material.
  • Evaluation of competing arguments.
  • Conclusion supported by the body of the argument and evidence.
  • Some evidence of independent research.
  • Avoidance of unsubstantiated assertions.

Style

  • Good grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction.
  • Good use of conventions of referring to other people’s work

Marks within this category may vary due to–

  • The clarity and cogency of the overall argument.
  • The level of familiarity with the relevant literature and data.
  • The depth and coherence of the answer.

50-59 (Pass)

A piece of written work of a moderate to good standard.  It will be descriptively strong.  It is distinguished from the 60-69 piece by the level of analysis displayed and by the coherence with which the material is organised.  There may be some significant errors, misjudgements or omissions of important details.  A mark in this range would not normally demonstrate the capacity to proceed to a higher research degree.  It is characterised by:

Argument

  • An attempt to answer the question or address the topic,
  • A conclusion not entirely supported by or relevant to the body of the essay.
  • A failure to adequately organise an answer into a coherent whole.

Understanding

  • A reasonable understanding of the topic and its implications.
  • A level of empirical knowledge and relevant reading which demonstrates a conscientious attempt to tackle the question/topic.
  • The intrusion of some extraneous material.
  • A failure to grasp at least some relevant points or address some relevant literature.

Style

  • Adequate grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction.
  • Referencing that is incomplete or fails to observe some conventions for referring to other people's work.

Marks within this category may vary due to–

  • The level of empirical and theoretical knowledge displayed.
  • The seriousness with which an attempt has been made to answer the question or address the topic.
  • The number of major points that have been covered.
  • The coherence of the essay.
  • The degree of unsubstantiated assertion.
  • Written style (grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence construction).

40- 49  (Fail - with the possibility of condonation in accordance with the Faculty regulations.)

A piece of written work in this category shows signs of engagement with the question or topic, but has inadequacies at Master’s level.  It signals a failure to give sufficient thought to the work in hand, displaying inconsistent argument, unsubstantiated assertions, and a patchy acquaintance with the relevant literature.  It may lack a convincing conclusion and it is likely to include significant errors, omissions and misunderstandings.   It is characterised by:

Argument

  • A failure to order this material so as to provide an adequate answer to the question.
  • An ability to pick out some of the points required for a satisfactory answer.
  • Inadequate conclusion.

Understanding

  • Some knowledge of appropriate empirical material.
  • The intrusion of irrelevant material.
  • An inadequate familiarity with relevant literature.

Marks within this category may vary due to–

  • The level of empirical knowledge displayed.
  • The extent to which an effort has been made to answer the question or address the topic.
  • Evidence of conscientious effort.
  • The degree of unsubstantiated assertion.
  • Written style (grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction).

Style

  • Sub-standard grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction.
  • Inadequate use of conventions of referring to other people’s work

Marks below 40  (Fail - without possibility of condonation)

Marks in the 30 - 39 range indicate that the piece of written work is inadequate in every respect with pronounced errors and misunderstandings. It is characterised by:

  • Some empirical knowledge.
  • Some evidence of study in the area concerned.
  • An inability to develop any but the flimsiest answer to the question.
  • Problematic conclusion.

Using the full range of marks

Departments are encouraged to make use of the full range of marks available, including using marks of below 30% and of above 80% where this is appropriate.

High marks

Marks above 80 (High distinction)

Marks above 80% will given to work that demonstrates the strengths listed for marks above 70%.  In addition, it will show original thinking going beyond that in the existing literature and backed up by appropriate evidence and reasoning.  Marks above 90% will be given to work that is of a quality suitable for publication in an international refereed journal.

Low marks

Marks below 30 (A poor Fail)

A mark below 30 means that the student has not given sufficient attention to study, has a lack of basic knowledge, and an inability to tackle the question or topic.  It is characterised by –

  • Inadequate knowledge of relevant literature.
  • Inadequate understanding of relevant literature.
  • No or totally flawed attempt to examine the issue(s) posed in the question.
  • No or totally confused attempt to answer the question.
  • Little or no structure in the presentation of argument.
  • No, or irrelevant conclusion.

Marks of below 20% will be given to work demonstrating almost no knowledge or understanding of the literature and of the subject area.  Any knowledge displayed will be completely misinterpreted.

Marks of below 10% will be given to work demonstrating almost complete incoherence and irrelevance.

FASS507: Introduction to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences

FASS507d: Introduction to the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (distance learning)

The standard Faculty marking criteria apply.

 

FASS510: Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences

FASS510d: Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences

Most PhD students’ essay will be assessed on a pass/fail basis. If you are an MA student, you may require a numerical mark for your essay. This mark will be reached in accordance with the FASS marking scheme (see above). Marks in the following range can be achieved:

70% + (Distinction)
60-69% (Merit)
50-59% (Pass)
40-49% (Fail with the possibility of condonation in accordance with Faculty regulations – see below)
Marks below 40%(Fail without the possibility of condonation)

The Faculty’s marking scheme is supplemented by consideration of the particular learning outcomes of FASS510:

At the end of the module students are expected:

  • to be familiar with different qualitative research methods;
  • to be able to identify the advantages and challenges of different methods;
  • to have an idea about how research questions and topic relate to research methods;
  • to be able to critically examine research studies (including their own) in the light of the issues discussed on the module;
  • to be able to describe in writing the methods they use in their own research and to discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

This means that the learning outcomes ill be used as additional criteria to assess what mark a specific essay will achieve. However, given that each essay is specific and taking account of the particular essay title agreed with the tutor, the criteria will need to be specified and are not fully fixed. For example, for students who write about one specific method, the first two learning outcomes (familiarity with different qualitative research methods and ability to identify the advantages and challenges of different methods) do not fully apply. The third learning outcome (to have an idea about how research questions and topic relate to research methods) will apply to some essays only, depending on the specific essay title that was agreed. The fourth and fifth learning outcomes (to be able to critically examine research studies in the light of the issues discussed on the module; to be able to describe in writing the methods they use in their own research and to discuss their strengths and weaknesses) usually apply to all essays, regardless of their specific content.

With regards to the band of marks, in addition to the criteria listed in the General section above, the following points apply:

Evidence of independent research may or may not be required, depending on the essay topic.

In order to achieve a distinction the argument made regarding the specific methods that are examined needs to be clearly expressed and convincing. It needs to be well grounded in existing discussions about the method(s). It needs to show exceptional ability to evaluate different arguments about specific methods. Depending on the essay topic, the assignment will also show the writer’s exceptional ability to comment critically on their research, whether planned or already in progress.

Marks in the 60 to 69 range will display a good ability to handle the relevant literature on the methods examined. They will show the writer’s ability to present different methods and to evaluate different arguments about specific methods. If applicable to the essay topic, some insightful comments on the student's own research are expected.

Essays achieving a mark in the range of 50 to 59 will show knowledge and understanding of different research methods as they relate to the specific topic in question, but less ability to describe these clearly and evaluate them critically. Essays will display less ability to think critically about the students’ own research.

Essays in the 40 to 49 range may show some signs of engagement with the methods specific for the topic, but overall the discussion of these methods is poor in terms of argumentation and structure and often shows significant gaps in the student’s understanding of the methods and their ability to describe and discuss them in writing. If an essay comments on the student's own research, there tends to be a lack of understanding of how specific methods can be applied to the research in question and what potential problems might arise.

Marks below 40 show serious errors and misunderstandings with regards to the research methods discussed and how they apply to the topic in question.

FASS512: Quantitative Research Methods 2

FASS512d: Quantitative Research Methods 2 (distance learning)

Students to be graded via three assignments (2 x 1,500 words; 1 x 2,000 words) based on analysing and interpreting data from real studies in the social sciences and humanities.  The assignments will assess students' ability to input and analyse a data set in “R”, choose appropriate methods for the given data set, and interpret the output from “R”, having applied the chosen methods correctly and with relevance to the specific questions of interest.

Mark categories and associated classifications of ability:

70% and over

  • High competence in the use of "R".
  • Ability to make a basic level interpretation of output in nearly all situations.
  • Ability to make an in-depth interpretation of output in most situations.

60 to 69%

  •   High competence in the use of "R".
  • Ability to make a basic level interpretation of output in most situations.
  • Ability to make an in-depth interpretation of output in a substantial number of situations.

50 to 59% (Pass)

  • Moderate competence in the use of "R".
  • Ability to make a basic level interpretation of output in most situations.

40 to 49%

  • Limited competence in the use of "R".
  • Limited ability to make correct and meaningful interpretations of output.

Below 40%

  • Very low competence in the use of “R”.
  • Very little ability to make correct and meaningful interpretations of output.

 

FASS517: Discourse Analysis

Criteria for Marking the Essay

    • Demonstrating critical understanding of an approach (or approaches) to discourse analysis covered in the course, as appropriate to your research questions and your data.
    • Showing understanding of the theoretical and epistemological underpinnings of the discourse theory/ies discussed, and the implications of these for the selected discourse analytic ‘tools’ used.
    • Demonstrating the capacity to use discourse analytic tools to analyse data.
    • Demonstrating the capacity to draw on this analysis to construct an interpretation of the data which addresses (aspects of) your research questions.
    • Use of an appropriate range of literature to inform the understanding of the object of study.
    • Exemplification of issues raised by reference to your own MPhil/PhD research (which should be described and explained).

     Marks in the following range can be achieved:

    70% + (Distinction)
    60-69% (Merit)
    50-59% (Pass)
    40-49% (Fail with the possibility of condonation in accordance with Faculty regulations)
    Marks below 40% (Fail without the possibility of condonation)

    In order to achieve a distinction the argument made regarding the specific methods that are examined needs to be clearly expressed and convincing. It needs to be well grounded in existing discussions. It needs to show the ability to critically evaluate different arguments about specific approaches. Data analysis will be clearly presented, accurate, and will lead to insightful interpretations.  Depending on the essay topic, the assignment will also show the writer’s ability to comment critically on their research, whether planned or already in progress.

    Marks in the 60 to 69 range will display a good ability to handle the relevant literature on the approach(es) examined. They will show the writer’s ability to present different methods and to evaluate different arguments about specific methods. Where appropriate, data analysis will be largely clearly presented and accurate, and will lead to interpretation.  If applicable to the essay topic, some insightful comments on the student's own research are expected.

    Essays achieving a mark in the range of 50 to 59 show knowledge and understanding of different approaches as they relate to the specific topic in question, but less ability to describe these clearly and evaluate them critically.   Some data analysis will be presented, mostly accurately with some errors.  Essays will display less ability to think critically about the students’ own research.

    Essays in the 40 to 49 range may show some signs of engagement with the approach specific for the topic, but overall the discussion is poor in terms of argumentation and structure and often shows significant gaps in the student’s understanding and their ability to describe and discuss them in writing. There may be some errors in any analysis presented.  If an essay comments on the student's own research, there tends to be a lack of understanding of how specific approaches can be applied to the research in question and what potential problems might arise.

    Marks below 40 shows serious errors and misunderstandings with regards to the approaches discussed and how they apply to the topic in question.

     

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