EE Assessment Criteria
Criterion A: research question
The research question can often be best defined in the form of a question. It may, however, also be presented as a statement or proposition for discussion.
It must be:
• specific and sharply focused
• appropriate to the visual arts (broadly defined also to include architecture, design and
contemporary forms of visual culture) and not of a trivial nature
• centred on the visual arts and not on peripheral issues such as biography
• stated clearly early on in the essay.
Criterion B: introduction
The introduction should explain succinctly the significance of the topic, why it is worthy of investigation, and how the research question relates to existing knowledge on the topic.
The introduction should not be seen as an opportunity for padding out an essay with a lengthy account of an artist’s life.
Criterion C: investigation
The range of resources available will be influenced by various factors, but above all by the topic. Students should use in the first instance primary sources (artwork, exhibitions, architecture, interviews), with secondary sources (textbooks and the comments of other artists, critics, art historians) as evidential support.
It is expected that visual material (sometimes including the student’s own photographs) will be included and properly referenced. The proper planning of an essay should involve interrogating source material in light of the research question, so that the views of other art scholars and artists are used to support the student’s own argument, and not as a substitute for that argument. It may thus be helpful for a student to challenge a statement by an art scholar (historian or critic), in reference to the art being studied, instead of simply agreeing with it, where there is evidence to support such a challenge.
If students make use of internet-based sources, they should do so critically and circumspectly in full awareness of their potential unreliability.
Criterion D: knowledge and understanding of the topic studied
Students should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the visual arts by discussing formal artistic aspects (for example, elements and principles of design) and considering historical, social and cultural contexts. Some of this knowledge and understanding should be based at least partially on primary sources.
Criterion E: reasoned argument
Students should be aware of the need to give their essays the backbone of a developing argument in which the essay is grounded in an understanding of the relevant and wider historical and sociocultural context. Personal views should not simply be stated but need to be supported by reasoned argument, often with reference to illustrations, to persuade the reader of their validity. Straightforward descriptive or narrative accounts that lack analysis (for example, a simple recounting of an artist’s life) do not usually advance an argument and should be avoided.
Good essays are those that have something interesting to communicate, where there is evidence of original thought, and where students are able to substantiate their ideas and opinions.
Criterion F: application of analytical and evaluative skills appropriate to the subject
There should be strong evidence of a thorough knowledge of the visual arts aspects of the topic, and the essay should successfully incorporate and discuss visual images.
Criterion G: use of language appropriate to the subject
There should be evidence of familiarity with, and the accurate and effective use of, visual arts terminology. Appropriate vocabulary must be used to describe historical periods, artistic styles and so on.
Criterion H: conclusion
“Consistent” is the key word here: the conclusion should develop out of the argument and not introduce new or extraneous matter. It should not repeat the material of the introduction; rather, it should present a new synthesis in light of the discussion.
Criterion I: formal presentation
This criterion relates to the extent to which the essay conforms to academic standards about the way in which research papers should be presented. The presentation of essays that omit a bibliography, appropriate (and acknowledged) visual images, or that do not give references for quotations is deemed unacceptable (level 0).
Essays that omit one of the required elements—title page, table of contents, page numbers, visual references—are deemed no better than satisfactory (maximum level 2), while essays that omit two of them are deemed poor at best (maximum level 1). Within the visual arts, the “look” as well as the “craft” of the essay is given consideration.
In visual arts essays, illustrations should appear in the body of the essay, as close as possible to their first reference.
Criterion J: abstract
The abstract is judged on the clarity with which it presents an overview of the research and the essay, not on the quality of the research question itself, nor on the quality of the argument or the conclusions.
Criterion K: holistic judgment
Qualities that are rewarded under this criterion include the following.
• Intellectual initiative: Ways of demonstrating this in visual arts essays include the choice of topic and research question, and locating and using a wide range of sources, including some that may have been little used previously or generated for the study (for instance, transcripts of interviews with artists and collectors).
• Insight and depth of understanding: These are most likely to be demonstrated as a consequence of detailed research, reflection that is thorough and well informed, and reasoned argument that consistently and effectively addresses the research question.
• Creativity: In visual arts essays, this includes qualities such as new and inventive approaches to artistic analysis, new approaches to “well-worn” or popular topics, or attention to new topics and questions.