Using criteria to improve writing

A good way of improving writing is to use clear and comprehensive criteria. This point applies to lecturers wishing to foster their students written skills or students who want to write more confidently. For this reason, the University of Sydney’s Learning Centre developed a set of writing criteria as part of an assessment procedure known as the MASUS Procedure. There are two versions of these criteria:

You can choose whichever version suits your purpose and skill level. Readers may note that the full version assumes some knowledge of the theory underlying the criteria, Systemic Functional Linguistics. If you are not familiar with this theory, it is better to use the adapted version.

Whichever version you choose, the MASUS criteria enable you to clearly address the 5 major areas of academic writing:

  • A: Use of source material
  • B: Structure and development of the writing
  • C: Academic writing style
  • D; Grammatical correctness
  • E: Qualities of presentation.

Of course, many courses, departments and disciplines have their own writing criteria, which may already guide your feedback and/or writing. The MASUS criteria have several advantages, some of which are:

  • They are supported by empirical analyses of university writing.
  • Each area has a number of clear sub-criteria.
  • Area B explicitly addresses structure, argument and critical evaluation, aspects of writing which pose challenges to many students.
  • Area D explicitly addresses Grammatical correctness, which is challenging for English as an Additional Language students, including many international students.