JCU logoLibrary Guides

Interactive Rubric for Written Communication: Introduction

This guide will help you understand common conventions of academic writing and the application of marking rubrics


Writing assignments at university can be challenging for some students.  The conventions (i.e., rules and expectations) of writing at university can seem different and daunting. The Interactive Rubric for Written Communication (IRWC) has been designed by Education staff to clarify some of the common conventions of academic writing. While a rubric can never fully capture the complexities of effective writing or replace the need for individual interpretations of effective writing, we hope that it provides some support for your writing journey at JCU. Click on the criteria on the left hand menu or the tabs at the top of the page to navigate to definitions, resources and examples to improve your academic writing.


The rubric contains seven colour-coded criteria for written communication.Rubric elements image.


Each general criterion contains more specific sub-criteria. The criteria and sub-criteria of the IRWC are used to assess written communication against five general standards:

  1. N (Fail) 
  2. P (Pass)
  3. C (Credit)
  4. D (Distinction)
  5. HD (High Distinction)

Finally, our hope is that staff and students will use the IRWC individually and collaboratively to:

  1. identify criteria for written communication that need attention;
  2. understand those criteria through engagement with definitions, examples and resources, and
  3. apply new understandings of written criteria to future writing.

Finding your way around

You can navigate your way around the site by clicking on any criterion in the criteria bar (left of page) or in the drop-down tabs (top of page). Each criterion contains one or more key elements, including:

  1. formal and informal definitions
  2. examples
  3. annotated samples of writing 
  4. textbook resources for further reading, and
  5. web resources.

Rubric logo.

What does the IRWC logo represent?

The IRWC logo, a rainbow, symbolises two important points about the criteria for written communication:

  1. The entwined and gradated colours symbolise that criteria for writing are interdependent.  For example, the effective selection of content (Criterion 2) often depends on a clear understanding of purpose (Criterion 1), and effective analysis (Criterion 3) often depends on a good selection of content (Criterion 2).
  2. The twisting rainbow symbolises an evolving and expanding capacity for literacy across increasingly diverse and changing contexts. An increasingly literate person develops their capacity to write and read effectively in a range of genres appropriate to different contexts.  For example, an effective writer understands the conventions for writing an analytical essay or a personal reflection and the purposes and contexts that are most appropriate for these genres.

Updated 2020 by Claire Ovaska

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.