A university-level paper is usually evaluated in terms of several key characteristics. If it fulfills all of these characteristics, it will receive an “A”; if it falls short in one or more areas, the grade drops accordingly.

In general, a first-class paper will have the following characteristics:

1. It will have a clear thesis statement, or central argument. For example:

For a particular class of developing countries, the lack of a well-developed manufacturing sector makes trade essential for the exploitation of their primary resources. Zambia, for example, would have little use for its copper deposits in the absence of foreign demand. If the pattern of land ownership works against any outwardly oriented policy, what sort of development strategy should such a country adopt?


For reasons that will be made apparent below, the model focused on in this paper is essentially that of MBA. Primarily, the aim is to determine whether or not Canadian data support the life cycle hypothesis with the same conviction as the American data used in the aforementioned empirical tests.


This paper estimates economies of scale as well as various output, price and substitution elasticities for the Canadian brewing industry.

The thesis should be stated clearly in the introduction to your essay so that the reader knows where your argument is headed.

2. It will be well organized and well argued. Your material should be marshalled in support of your central argument or theme(s). An essay should not contradict itself or confuse the reader. Developing a clear outline of the paper before starting to write is helpful.

3. It will be solidly researched. Over-reliance on one or two sources is bad scholarship, and always dangerous: Not only does this practice court plagiarism, but also the sources themselves may be bad. Assertions that are not original should always be footnoted. And assertions that are original should be carefully backed up with solid evidence. The best sources for such evidence can usually be found in the library.

4. It will be well and clearly written. Careless or ungrammatical writing will weaken the best-researched and more original essays, and is easily avoided. If you know this is a problem for you, seek assistance at the Student Academic Success Centre (SASC).

Finally, the best papers show imagination and original thought. Think about your essay problem/question for yourself, and read your sources critically: Does what they are saying make sense? Do you have a different explanation for the problem you are addressing?