Grading Criteria for Research Papers/Projects

Research papers should be written in the format used by the Soil Science Society of America Journal (SSSAJ). The paper should have the following sections: Title, Author, Abstract, Introduction, Statement of Objectives or Purpose, Subsections depending on the topic, and a Summary. Tables, Figures, and Literature Citation must conform to SSSAJ formats. Consult the journal in the library or see the Publications Handbook and Style Manual (American Society of Agronomy, 1998) [Style manual link]

The literature must include the most recent work on the topic as well as classic foundation papers. This means that you will need to conduct a literature search. The topic must be covered in sufficient depth and properly synthesized in order to be worthy of graduate credit. For an interesting perspective on important issues related to citing literature, have a look at an article in The Scientist, authored by WIlliam J. Pierce . A rule of thumb (ONLY A GUIDELINE) is somewhere in the range of 10-20 pages, double spaced. If you cannot effectively cover a topic within 20 pages, it might be time to switch careers to blogging or advertising. The criteria for manuscript evaluation (below) will guide evaluation.

1. Title accurately reflects content.
2. Abstract provides concise summary that highlights most salient points.
3. Paper is effectively organized into sections.
4. Topic area is covered in sufficient depth.
5. Tables and Figures are necessary, consistent in format, and comply with SSSA style. [Style manual link]
6. All citations are present in Literature Cited section.
7. All entries in Literature Cited are referred to in the text.
8. Literature Cited format is according to SSSA style.
9. All pertinent literature, including most recent work, is included.
10. Formatting Annoyances: i.e. absence of page numbers, inconsistencies, etc.


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Updated May 16, 2012