Guidelines on evaluation and marking
APhil master modules are marked on a scale from 0 to 10. These marks are interpreted as follows:
9-10: excellent (“excellente”)
5-6.9: passed (“aprobado”)
0-4.9: failed (“suspenso”)
There is also a possible grade “did not attend” (“no presentado”), which can be used if someone didn’t show up.
These marks will be communicated to the Faculty office where they become part of the official record of a student's performance ("expediente"). Credits are gained for a pass mark (i.e. ≥5).
In principle, each APhil teacher should explain what his or her criteria and methods of evaluating the work of students are. But it is in the interest of uniform standards and comparability to articulate here some general default criteria of evaluation. Faculty who will be significantly deviating from this default are asked to inform their students.
The Master in Analytic Philosophy has certain educational aims, and the evaluation criteria for the modules in the APhil Master will reflect these aims. In general, it is expected that those who obtain the APhil Master have acquired the basic research skills of an analytic philosopher and basic knowledge in a number of central areas of philosophy (with a slightly different focus in the theoretical and practical itineraries), as well as in some more specialized areas of research. These research skills include, for example:
• the ability to interpret difficult philosophical texts reliably.
• the ability to articulate philosophical problems.
• the ability to articulate and develop a philosophical position, and to defend it in argument.
• the ability to evaluate philosophical arguments.
• the ability to write clearly, relevantly and to the point.
• the ability to use bibliographical tools.
As a consequence, the typical criteria in marking an essay submitted for an APhil module would include:
• Does the essay address a clearly articulated problem or question?
• How relevant is the text of the essay to addressing this problem (e.g. does it answer the question? To what extent do all the parts of the essay contribute to justifying that answer, etc)
• How clearly written is the essay?
• Are the points made presented in a clear manner? Is the line of argument explained? Is the essay appropriately structured?
• How coherent is the position defended, how good the arguments offered in its favour?
• Is the author competent in the subject matter?
• Is the work of others interpreted correctly?
• Is proper reference made to relevant work by other philosophers? Is good use being made of direct quotation (i.e. when it serves an argumentative or presentational purpose)
• Is the work of others properly and clearly acknowledged
• Is a good system of reference being used (e.g. the Harvard system etc)
A Note on Originality and Plagiarism:
Students often wonder whether their work must be original. In a minimal sense, every good essay will be original, for the author will have made his or her own choice of which position to defend, which arguments to adduce, how exactly to explain or articulate these things etc. The student is speaking with his or her own voice. Thus, even if you defend a position that many others have defended before you, and you use standard arguments to defend it, your essay will be original in this minimal sense: you are using your own words, and you have made up your own mind as to how to evaluate the standard positions and arguments. Of course, if you provide a new original argument, or defend a new position, then this makes your essay more original and interesting, and this is good. But this is not expected of you.
In writing about a philosophical problem, it is often good to discuss and make reference to the work of others. Often it is necessary to recount the arguments or positions of others. Sometimes it is necessary to quote others verbatim—for example in order to provide evidence that some philosopher makes a certain claim, it may be desirable to cite his or her words. However, it must at all times be clear which are the claims attributed to others, and which are the claims made by the author him or herself. Moreover, it must be indicated clearly when the exact words of others are being reproduced, providing a page reference and the bibliographical details of the work being cited. Failing to do so may amount to plagiarism. Your work might be marked down or even failed if your sources are not acknowledged properly.
Plagiarism is often defined as follows: using the words or ideas of others without proper acknowledgement of the source. The dividing line between plagiarism and proper acknowledgement of sources is fine, but usually quite clear.
For example, consider the following short passage, which might occur in an essay:
Perry argues "that the essential indexical poses a problem for various otherwise plausible accounts of belief" (Perry 1979, p. 3). The first account he considers is the view he calls "the doctrine of propositions", the second …
Now consider the following modified version:
In "The Essential Indexical", Perry argues that the essential indexical poses a problem for various otherwise plausible accounts of belief. The first account he considers is the view he calls "the doctrine of propositions", the second …
As innocent as this modification may seem, the second version does in fact involve plagiarism as defined above: the exact words of Perry are used without properly acknowledging the source.
It is therefore crucial that, in writing essays, you indicate clearly, at all times, whether you are speaking with your own voice or quoting someone else. Failure to do so may not only cause misunderstandings, but could even be interpreted as an attempt to cheat. It is therefore important to be quite conscientious about proper acknowledgement when quoting verbatim.
It is also important to use direct quotation sparingly, i.e. only when this serves some clear aim, such as proving that some author does indeed make such and such a claim (where this is controversial), displaying how exactly the claim is being made, or perhaps for presentational reasons. An essay consisting merely of quotations (however fully acknowledged) will probably not be a good essay.
It is also important to acknowledge properly your sources when you are not quoting directly, i.e. when you are merely paraphrasing. If you take ideas and arguments from others it is important that you say so explicitly.
This is emphasized in a handbook used at Edinburgh University1, when it says that plagiarism does not need to be “100% verbatim” (p. 12). One “will not avoid the charge of plagiarism by occasional changes in the wording of an otherwise unacknowledged quotation” (ibid.). Nor will one avoid such a charge “by acknowledging [one’s] source once and then claiming that ‘everything’ is ‘covered’—it isn’t” (ibid.). As the guidance from Edinburgh continues, “[e]very quotation must be acknowledged separately—if in doubt, acknowledge again” (ibid.).
The last paragraph gives you an example of carefully making sure that the reader can always tell which bits are paraphrase, which bits are quoted verbatim. One should always provide a page reference, if the same page reference is repeated, there is a conventions to say “ibid.”, meaning that the quote stems from the same page. You may have noticed that I put some words in square brackets. This is done to mark out a departure from exact wording within a quoted passage.
Essays involving plagiarism (the unacknowledged use of the work of others—their words or their ideas) will be marked down. In some cases this may be exclusively a presentational problem, but this is one of the criteria by which you are marked, and it is an important criterion, especially when your failure to acknowledge misleads the reader. In other cases, it may in addition mean that your essay is extremely derivative and—instead of answering the philosophical question your essay is supposed to answer—merely reports what someone else says about this question.
Finally the severest cases: an unacknowledged use of another’s work in an attempt to deceive the reader is a form of cheating: cheating yourself and cheating the person marking your essay.
1 Taught Masters Handbook 2008/09, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh.