Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfful to seek other than itself. (Kahlil Gibran)

Criteria for evaluation

>>>The descriptions of letter grades in the Inquiry reader will apply, mutatis mutandis, to all evaluations involving letter grades.

>>>For better grades on papers or presentations call for an appointment (724-946-7155) to show me a draft well in advance of the due date.

>>>If you have any questions about the criteria for evaluating your work and performance, ask in class for clarification (or call 724.946.7155).


See the Undergraduate Catalog for the college's expectations and guidelines. Perfect attendance will earn an extra 10% of your participation grade. Multiple absences or tardiness may affect your participation grade.

If you will be or have been absent for whatever reason,

  • inform the instructor as soon as possible
  • do makeup work (when applicable)—pop quizzes need no makeup
  • ask classmates about the class(es) you missed
  • come to my office to pick up what you missed, e.g., graded exam—call me for an appointment (724-946-7155)


Participation and attention during class, whether it be to the instructor or to other students, will affect your final grade.

You are expected to prepare for every class by

  • being ready to summarize and identify the major issues or themes in the assigned readings, and
  • bringing at least 2 written questions or comments for each of the assigned readings (you may be asked to read them aloud in class).
    • You are expected to have read the text(s) carefully and be able to share the penetrating questions or issues in the assigned texts that you discern in your reading, preparation, or even further research (which is always encouraged).
    • You may be asked to read and expound the written Qs or Cs.
    • Your written Qs or Cs, the way you present them, and the way you respond to others' Qs and Cs will constitute a significant part of the final participation grade.
    • The more connections you make with other course materials, the more impressive the Qs and Cs will be.
    • You do not have to understand everything before class, but you should demonstrate that you prepared and are familiar with the major issues in the text(s). Remember that questions are more valuable than answers. You should include or suggest challenges, discoveries, insights, questions, etc. for class discussion.
  • You may not be able to contribute during every class, but your overall willingness and effort to participate throughout the semester, in and outside class, will be noted for final evaluation. If you have any concerns about this (e.g., you are a shy person), please come talk to me about them. I will always listen and try to accommodate.
  • Your participation in class discussions will be important. The discussion should include constructive criticism (of others' points of view) in which all are expected to take active part. Your critical responses to others will be considered in assessing your participation in the course.

Occasional, ordinarily short assignments (e.g., summary of a reading assignment) may be used in assessing your participation.

 Written Assignments

• D2L

Unless otherwise instructed, assignments will be submitted through the Dropbox in D2L. If you encounter any difficulties submitting your work online, send it on time as an e-mail attachment and submit it on D2L as soon as possible without making any changes to your assignment.

  • Westminster uses Turnitin.com (in D2L) to encourage your cultivation of academic integrity and to evaluate your work. Use D2L's Dropbox to check for potential problems in your assignment (e.g., not documenting sources, plagiarism) before submitting it.

• due date

If the due date is not the same for all students in the class, send me a brief e-mail to let me know that your assignment has been submitted on time.

• late submission

Assignments turned in late will be penalized an incremental grade per day (any exceptions will be at the discretion of the instructor). E.g., a written assignment graded B will be adjusted to B- if a day late or to C+ for being 2 days late. See below for an explanation of written assignment evaluations.

• basic specs

Assignments must be typed and conform to the following specifications:

  • Microsoft Word document format (*.doc or *.docx) or Rich Text Format (*.rtf)
  • Name the file using your last name and a brief description of the assignment (e.g., "Smith paper #1").
  • name, box #, course (and section), date at the top of the first page
  • Do not justify the right margin.
  • Bibliographies and footnotes (or endnotes) will not be counted as part of the specified word count.
  • Honor pledge: At the end of each assignment to be submitted type "This represents my own work." and sign (or type) your name to pledge your honor that you have not used others' work improperly, i.e., you have not copied or borrowed from someone else's work without proper documentation (see the note on plagiarism).
  • only one space, not two or more, between sentences (explanation)

Edit your paper carefully (spelling, grammar, syntax, flow of argument, etc.). Use the Chicago Manual of Style as a general guide for writing (for help: NoodleTools). A paper that contains too many mistakes in spelling, punctuation, formatting etc. will not receive a grade above a D. If your writing skills need to be improved, I strongly encourage you to go to the Learning Center or to a writing professor for assistance—or ask a friend who is a good writer to help you edit your paper. Cultivate the art of clear articulation. It is guaranteed to bring future benefits, no matter what you do in life.

If your paper is shorter than specified, I will deduct from your paper grade unless the content is exceptional.

If your paper is too long, I will stop reading after the specified number of words unless the content is exceptional.


Papers will be evaluated for content and style according to the descriptions of letter grades in the Inquiry reader (see also the Undergraduate Catalog).

  • content:
    • grasp of the assignment
    • clarity of (1) the introduction, (2) the flow and argument of the paper, and (3) the conclusion
    • points or claims supported by evidence from text or other relevant sources
  • style:
    • spelling
    • grammar and syntax
    • punctuation
    • documentation (e.g., footnotes, endnotes, bibliography)
    • compliance with syllabus instructions
You may be given the chance to revise your paper, if you ask. Should you choose to do so, your revision will be evaluated and the final grade will be the average of the two.

• plagiarism <<< very important
  • What is plagiarism? Click here and learn well.
  • In all cases, make sure that you give due credit to ideas, observations, conclusions, words, phrases, etc. that are not your own by using quotation marks, footnotes, etc. (see the Chicago Manual of Style for detailsfor help: NoodleTools).
  • Document each thought, each bit of information, or each sentence. You cannot "footnote" an entire paragraph (unless you make it clear that the whole paragraph is based on one source).
  • If plagiarism is found in your written work (i.e., the presentation of another person's idea as your own), the assignment will receive a zero. You may fail the course if plagiarism persists. To avoid problems, always give credit where credit is due.
  • You must read the most recent edition of Westminster's academic integrity policy in the Undergraduate Catalog. See also the Student Handbook and the Inquiry textbook.
  • Click here to read about Katie Couric's contretemps involving plagiarism.
  • See entertaining videos on plagiarism: video, interactive video (ignore the parts on MLA).
• tips for (better work and better grades)
Use Google Scholar (much better for research than Google).
Tips for writing good papers.
Tips for earning higher grades. Also click here (then click "Writing tips" or scroll to the bottom).


The criteria for grading presentations are as follows:

  • evidence of thorough preparation and familiarity with the material presented
  • logic and flow of presentation:
    • Is there a logic to the flow of presentation?
    • Is it easy to follow?
    • Are the points and arguments clear?
  • effective oral communication:
    • delivery
    • eye contact
    • gestures
    • appropriate use of presentation aids (e.g., PowerPoint, video, CD, handout)
  • appropriateness and effectiveness for target audience

The descriptions of letter grades in the Inquiry reader will apply, mutatis mutandis, to presentations.

See my presentation evaluation page for details and the form (you and) I will use for evaluation. Unless otherwise stated, "communication skills" will be the least significant for my evaluation.


Click here (and search on your own) for tips on PowerPoint presentations. Tip: presentations by Apple tend to be very effective.


Occasional pop quizzes will cover the readings assigned for or before the day the quiz is given.


If there is a particular question on an exam that no one in the class answers correctly, everyone (who chose to answer it) will receive full credit for it.


My grading principles include the recognition of improvement, e.g., ordinarily weighing the performance of the second half of the semester significantly more than that of the first half. How well you finish the semester is much more important than how much you had to struggle to get there.

If you perform significantly worse on one graded exercise (assignment, test, etc.) than on others, I will ordinarily disregard the lowest grade or score for the final evaluation of your class performance.

If you think the grade you receive on any of your work is not fair, I will be more than willing to evaluate it again and go over the work with you. Before you make your appeal, however, consider the general descriptions given in the Inquiry reader and the Undergraduate Catalog:




outstanding quality



superior quality






passing, but inferior




As far as I am aware, the grades earned at Westminster, as at most American colleges and universities, do not ordinarily reflect the descriptions in the Inquiry reader or the Undergraduate Catalog (e.g., B tends to represent satisfactory work rather than C). At the same time, grading according to the stated standards may also mean unfair consequences for many students (e.g., financial aid disqualification, transcript misinterpretation). In the light of practical consideration and fairness, I will grade according to general Westminster practices (e.g., the average grade earned is about a B), but I will try to communicate honestly the quality of the work you do in the course. My main concern is to be both fair and honest with you while reflecting the general grading practices at Westminster. If you have any questions or concerns about grades at Westminster or any grade your work receives in my class, please come see me; I will be glad to listen and respond.

The conversion for scores and grades is as follows:







Click here for interesting observations about grades.






































































not turned in


>>>Some of these instructions may not apply for Honors Inquiry or Honors Seminar. Please ask me if you have questions about what's on the syllabus that differs from what you read here.

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