Sarton Women's Book Awards™: Rubric: Biography

  1. Biographical subject, secondary characters
    0-3 Points
    • Subject not important enough in her field to merit a full biography
    • Subject not adequately developed
    • Secondary characters not well developed, without complexity
    • Characters' actions not well motivated, not very believable

    4-7 Points
    • Subject modestly important in her field; merits a full biography
    • Subject adequately developed, modestly complex
    • Secondary characters fairly well developed; fair complexity
    • Characters' actions fairly well motivated, generally believable

    8-10 Points
    • Subject important enough in her field to merit a full biography
    • Subject richly developed, with striking complexity
    • Secondary Characters richly developed
    • Characters' actions well motivated and believable

  2. Events, story crafting
    0-3 Points
    • Too many events in the story seem fictionalized, not firmly based on fact
    • Beginning slow, doesn't pull the reader in; conclusion unsatisfying
    • Storyline poorly developed or confusing (unmotivated jumps in time, unclear sequence of events)

    4-7 Points
    • Some events in the story seem fictionalized, not firmly based on fact
    • Beginning adequate; conclusion fairly satisfying
    • Storyline fairly easy to follow, even if complex (flashbacks, etc)
    • Story is interesting and developed in a way that moderately engages and holds the reader's attention most of the way through the book.

    8-15 Points
    • Few events in the story seem fictionalized
    • Beginning engages the reader; conclusion very satisfying
    • Storyline clear, even if complex or otherwise challenging
    • Story is highly interesting and developed in a clear, compelling way that fully engages the reader's attention from beginning to end ("I couldn't put it down!")

  3. Documentation
    (Biographies are sometimes intended for scholarly readers who are prepared to use the references to further their own study and includes endnotes, an author's note, glossary, research sources, bibliography, or other supplemental information. If you find it difficult, as a general reader, to evaluate this aspect of the book, please score as best you can and note the issue in the comment box.)
    0-3 Points
    • Documentation appears insufficient to support biographer's factual claims and interpretations
    • Documentation difficult for the intended reader to access, understand, use

    4-7 Points
    • Documentation appears sufficient to support biographer's factual claims and interpretations
    • Documentation fairly easy for the intended reader to access, understand, use

    8-10 Points
    • Documentation excellent; fully supports biographer's factual claims and interpretations
    • Documentation fully adequate for the intended reader to access, understand, use

  4. Biographer's Relationship to Her Story
    0-3 Points
    • The biographer fails to establish herself as a credible, trustworthy authority on her subject
    • Biographer's interpretations do not seem credible, justified
    • Biographer slants the story heavily toward more positive or negative interpretations than the documentation appears to support

    4-7 Points
    • Biographer establishes herself as a modestly credible, trustworthy authority on her subject
    • Biographer's interpretations seem mostly believable, justified
    • Biographer slants the story toward more positive or negative interpretations than the documentation appears to support

    8-10 Points
    • Biographer establishes herself as a fully credible authority on her subject
    • Biographer's interpretations are believable, well justified
    • Biographer treats her subject fairly, balancing both the positive and the negative. Her slant of the story (if apparent) appears to be based on the documentation

  5. Settings, Sense of Place
    0-3 Points
    • The biographer does not clearly or accurately describe the places and times in which the subject lived

    4-7 Points
    • The biographer has fairly clearly and accurately described the places and times in which the subject lived.

    8-10 Points
    • The biographer has fully, vividly, and accurately described the places and times in which the subject lived.

  6. Language, Imagery*, Style
    *Words that evoke sensory experience and emotional response

    0-3 Points
    • Word choices often seem wrong, inappropriate, or out of synch with the story
    • Imagery is clichéd or confused
    • Writing style is bland, undistinguished

    4-7 Points
    • Word choices generally seem right, appropriate
    • Imagery is sometimes clichéd but generally effective
    • Writing style is occasionally engaging, interesting

    8-10 Points
    • Word choices are appropriate and often striking
    • Imagery is vivid, fresh, striking
    • Writing style is frequently engaging, compelling

  7. Language Conventions, Structure
    0-3 Points
    • Distracting errors in grammar, spelling, and/or punctuation
    • Sentence, paragraph, and/or chapter structure overly simple or overly complex

    4-7 Points
    • Some distracting errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation
    • Sentence, paragraph, and/or chapter structure generally acceptable

    8-10 Points
    • Almost no errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation
    • Sentence, paragraph, and/or chapter structure artful

  8. Presentation
    0-3 Points
    • Unattractive cover art and book design
    • Interior layout design features (if any) distracting, unattractive, inadequate, unhelpful
    • Font and typesetting difficult to read or distracting
    • Illustrations and/or photographs of poor quality, not identified, or irrelevant to text

    4-7 Points
    • Adequate cover art and book design
    • Interior layout design features (if any) fairly adequate, usually helpful
    • Font and typesetting adequate
    • Illustrations and/or photographs of moderate clarity, generally identified, and usually relevant to text

    8-10 Points
    • Attractive, appropriate, compelling cover art and design
    • Interior layout design features (if any) striking, unusually helpful
    • Font and typesetting clear, well-chosen
    • Illustrations (if any) appropriate, clear, fully identified

  9. Bonus Points (1-4)
    • Does this biography stand out in a way you have not been able to acknowledge using the standards above? Is there something exceptional or original that was not accommodated in our categories? If so, please tell us about it in one or two sentences and add 1-4 bonus points. Please use this option sparingly. We invited you to judge because we trust you, and we know this is subjective.