University of Washington
Department of Geography
Professor James W. Harrington
For literature-based papers
For papers reporting empirical research
Link to Harrington's style manual

If you are reviewing literature and trying to think through a way to use key concepts in your own research, I'm looking for the following, with approximate weighting:

BACKGROUND/ LITERATURE REVIEW/ CONCEPTUALIZATION, with my key concerns being (a) thoroughness and thoughtfulness (i.e., it's good to review a fair amount of literature, but it's not good to have picked material seemingly at random and try to force it into a stream-of-consciousness review) and (b) purposefulness (i.e., this section needs to have a purpose, a movement from starting question or issue to conclusion -- NOT the kind of rambling lit review that everyone hates to write and to read):  30-40%

CONCLUSIONS drawn:  your review and thoughtfulness should yield expectations or hypotheses, and/or systematic critique ("What's missing is a concern for X, conceived of as Z..."), and/or synthesis of the relevant literature -- where does all this lead you in your intellectual journey?  20-30%

Movement toward OPERATIONALIZATION:  proposing relevant cases, units of analysis, proxy measures for key concepts, and approaches to a research design;  I'm not looking for a well-thought-out research design, but I do want more than a bunch of abstractions: 20%

PRESENTATION:  This should be a given -- I'm merely expecting a consistent format for citations, references, tables, figures, whatever;  clear writing (don't emulate the densest academic writing);  good grammar, and correct spelling:  20%

If you are in fact doing empirical research, and reporting on that in your paper, the grading criteria are a little different:


DATA (or qualitative info):  adequacy of the method for obtaining the data;  adequacy of the data;  your ability to critique the data and its collection: 20%

ANALYSIS:  thoughtful and appropriate use of the information to work through your expectations:  20%

CONCLUSION:  reasonableness and clear feedback for your conceptualization and expectations -- what does this lead you to think about the concepts and relationships you proposed?  (E.g., it's possible that your data were so problematic that you've not tested the concepts and relationships well;  it's possible that you interpreted the literature poorly;  it's possible that the expectations toward which the literature leads you are inappropriate, at least in the case you studied):  20%

PRESENTATION:  see the discussion of "Presentation" above:  20%

copyright James W. Harrington, Jr.
revised 6 June 2001