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  "Perfect" Papers?                




What makes a "perfect" paper?  If you asked a hundred English professors to give you a perfect student paper, you might receive a hundred different papers.  However, English instructors do work together at times to establish national and local standards.  Below are some examples that most professors would consider excellent for their respective levels, from high school senior and basic/developmental college papers through research writing at all levels and graduate theses and dissertations.

Basic/Developmental/High School: two 5-paragraph or "5-star" theme essays with notes or marks for each paragraph: Capital Community College and Kathy Livingston

High School Advanced Senior: Penn State University's 2010 "Penn State Essay Contest" for high school students, three persuasive proposals:  

1st Place        2nd Place        3rd Place


College Freshman:
Roane State College's "Beulah Davis Outstanding Freshman Writer" Awards:

 Argumentative Research      Literary Analysis      Narrative/Descriptive Essay


(2) Penn State University's Best of Freshman Writing  (After seeing current winners, you may scroll to the bottom of the page for back issues.)


(3) Dartmouth University's examples of freshman writing about literature: Four Essays about Shakespeare

College Freshman through Senior: Thirteen excellent college writing-course papers (six types, four levels) from the University of Minnesota and other Minnesota colleges: Online Grammar Handbook/"What Level?"

Undergraduate MLA, APA, Chicago (CMS), & CSE (Science) Research: eight papers from Diana Hacker, creator of some of the most successful U.S. college grammar handbooks in print; from the Purdue OWL, perhaps the most widely used online college writing resource; and from Diana Hacker and Barbara Fister's Research and Documentation Online:


HackerMLA Research Paper  and  APA Research Paper


Purdue (w/discussion): MLA Research Paper  and  APA Research Paper


Hacker & Fister (w/notes):
MLA Humanities Paper  and  APA Social Sciences Paper


Chicago/CMS History Paper  and  CSE Science Paper


Undergraduate Research:

(1) Six excellent undergraduate research papers by students in several subject disciplines and levels, from rough to final draft: Bedford Researcher by Mike Palmquist

(2) University of Minnesota 2000-2001 Wilson Library Award for "Best Student Essay Using Library Research in the University of Minnesota CLA [1000-3000] Composition Program": University of Minnesota

Senior/Graduate Research: Dozens of undergraduate research journals with hundreds of undergraduate research papers online: Council on Undergraduate Research--Journals

Graduate Theses and Dissertations: DART Europe, Networked Digital Library




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Editor: Richard Jewell, Inver Hills College, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU)   

Originally published by the Univ. of Minnesota English Department's Composition Program Web Site.

First date of publication: January 1, 2001.  This edition: August 1, 2012.  Most recent updates in this page: August 1, 2013

URL:  Also available at


To contact the author, go to Contact Richard Jewell.  
Requests, reports of broken links, and suggestions are welcome.


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