The Evaluation Essay
The purpose of an evaluation essay is to demonstrate the overall quality (or lack thereof) of a particular product, business, place, service or program. While any evaluation involves injecting some form of opinion, if an evaluation is done properly it should not come across as opinionated. Instead, the evaluation should seem reasoned and unbiased.
The key to making this happen, and therefore the key to a good investigative essay, is establishing clear and fair criteria, judgments and evidence.
Criteria (the plural of criterion) means establishing what the ideal for the product, place or service should be. It means demonstrating what one should expect as the ideal outcome, Having clear criteria keeps an evaluation from seeming like an opinion. For example, if you are evaluating a restaurant, you want to establish the criteria (quality of food, service, price, cleanliness, etc.) that any good restaurant will adhere to; this criteria can then be applied to the specific restaurant you are evaluating.
The judgment is the establishment of whether or not the criterion is met. In other words, the judgment is what actually is. Using the example from above, if the first criterion for evaluating a restaurant is the quality of the food, the judgment states whether or not the particular restaurant offers food that meets or exceeds this stated quality.
The evidence is the details offered to support the judgment. If your judgment is that a particular restaurant does not consistently offer quality food, you need to support this with a variety of evidence to show how the judgment was reached.
Generally, each body paragraph of an evaluation essay is going to focus on one specific criterion, which should be fully explained, followed by the judgment and a variety of evidence offered as support. Because of this, it is important that any evaluation contains several different criteria, judgments and evidence.
An overall thesis should also be offered. For an evaluation essay, this thesis is the overall evaluation of whatever is being evaluated. Once again, if the criteria, judgments and evidence are clear, the overall thesis should be, as well. For example, if the restaurant meets most of the criteria laid out in the essay, the overall evaluation should be mostly positive, whereas if the most of the criteria is not met, the evaluation will be mostly negative.
When selecting a topic for an evaluation essay, it is important to focus on a specific business, service, product or policy. In other words, evaluate a specific class (English 121 at Aims) rather than evaluating a range of similar classes (all Aims' writing classes). Writing about a topic that you know about is also helpful. That makes it easier to establish the appropriate criteria, judgments and evidence.
Writing and testing series
Directives for essays, reports, tests..
"Directives" ask you to answer, or present information, in a particular way.
Review these, and most of all note that there are different ways
of answering a question or writing a paper!
Examine qualities, or characteristics, to discover resemblances. "Compare" is usually stated as "compare with": you are to emphasize similarities, although differences may be mentioned.
Stress dissimilarities, differences, or unlikeness of things, qualities, events, or problems.
Express your judgment or correctness or merit. Discuss the limitations and good points or contributions of the plan or work in question.
Definitions call for concise, clear, authoritative meanings. Details are not required but limitations of the definition should be briefly cited. You must keep in mind the class to which a thing belongs and whatever differentiates the particular object from all others in the class.
In a descriptive answer you should recount, characterize, sketch or relate in narrative form.
For a question which specifies a diagram you should present a drawing, chart, plan, or graphic representation in your answer. Generally you are expected to label the diagram and in some cases add a brief explanation or description.
The term discuss, which appears often in essay questions, directs you to examine, analyze carefully, and present considerations pro and con regarding the problems or items involved. This type of question calls for a complete and entailed answer.
The word enumerate specifies a list or outline form of reply. In such questions you should recount, one by one, in concise form, the points required.
In an evaluation question you are expected to present a careful appraisal of the problem stressing both advantages and limitations. Evaluation implies authoritative and, to a lesser degree, personal appraisal of both contributions and limitations.
In explanatory answers it is imperative that you clarify and interpret the material you present. In such an answer it is best to state the "how or why," reconcile any differences in opinion or experimental results, and, where possible, state causes. The aim is to make plain the conditions which give rise to whatever you are examining.
A question which asks you to illustrate usually requires you to explain or clarify your answer to the problem by presenting a figure, picture, diagram, or concrete example.
An interpretation question is similar to one requiring explanation. You are expected to translate, exemplify, solve, or comment upon the subject and usually to give your judgment or reaction to the problem.
When you are instructed to justify your answer you must prove or show grounds for decisions. In such an answer, evidence should be presented in convincing form.
Listing is similar to enumeration. You are expected in such questions to present an itemized series or tabulation. Such answers should always be given in concise form.
An outline answer is organized description. You should give main points and essential supplementary materials, omitting minor details, and present the information in a systematic arrangement or classification.
A question which requires proof is one which demands confirmation or verification. In such discussions you should establish something with certainty by evaluating and citing experimental evidence or by logical reasoning.
In a question which asks you to show the relationship or to relate, your answer should emphasize connections and associations in descriptive form.
A review specifies a critical examination. You should analyze and comment briefly in organized sequence upon the major points of the problem.
In questions which direct you to specify, give, state, or present, you are called upon to express the high points in brief, clear narrative form. Details, and usually illustrations or examples, may be omitted.
When you are asked to summarize or present a summarization, you should give in condensed form the main points or facts. All details, illustrations and elaboration are to be omitted.
When a question asks you to trace a course of events, you are to give a description of progress, historical sequence, or development from the point of origin. Such narratives may call for probing or for deduction.