Rhetoric and Composition/Evaluation
What is Evaluative Writing?
Evaluative writing is a type of writing intended to judge something according to a set of criteria. For instance, your health might be evaluated by an insurance company before issuing a policy. The purpose of this evaluation would be to determine your overall health and to check for existing medical conditions. The better your evaluation, the less the insurance company might charge you for coverage.
The key to effective evaluative writing is starting off with a clear and precise argument. Your main argument is what you will use to perform the evaluation. You may want to argue that a Chevy Tahoe is better than a Ford Expedition based on its horsepower, gas mileage, capacity, warranty, etc. Other evaluators might argue the difference between their towing capability. Whatever the main argument may be for your evaluative essay, make sure that your argument is clear.
How to Evaluate
A big question you might have is: how do I evaluate my subject? That depends on what your subject is.
If you are evaluating a piece of writing, then you are going to need to read the work thoroughly. While you read the work, keep in mind the criteria you are using to evaluate. The evaluative aspects may be: grammar, sentence structure, spelling, content, usage of sources, style, or many other things (to make sure you are going in the right direction, you can make use of an editor or a typer). Another thing to consider when evaluating a piece of writing is whether the writing appeals to its target audience. Is there an emotional appeal? Does the author engage the audience, or is the piece lacking something? If you can, make notes directly on your work itself so that you remember what you want to write about in your essay.
If you are evaluating anything else, use your head. You need to try, use, or test whatever thing you are evaluating. That means you should not evaluate a 2005 Chevrolet Corvette unless you have the $45,000 (or more) to buy one, or the money to rent one. You also need the know-how of driving a car of that power and a base of knowledge of other cars that you have tested to make a fair comparison.
On the note of comparisons, only compare things that are reasonably alike. People don't care to know how an apple compares to a backpack; that is for a different type of essay. Compare different types of apples to each other and different types of backpacks against each other. That is what people are looking for when reading comparisons in an evaluation essay.
Whatever you are evaluating, make sure to do so thoroughly. Take plenty of notes during the testing phase so that your thoughts stay fresh in your mind. You do not want to forget about a part of the subject that you did not test.
Structure of the Essay
In the introduction of your evaluative essay, you should clearly state the following: - what you are evaluating (the subject -- like a 2009 Toyota Prius) - the purpose of your evaluation - what criteria you are evaluating your subject on (mileage, price, performance, etc.)
For example, you should not just write that you are judging the taste of an apple. You should explain that you are judging the sweetness, bitterness, and crispness of the apple.
Unlike some types of essays, the introduction is not the most important part of an evaluative essay. Most readers already want to read about the subject that you are writing on, so you don't need to draw them in with a fancy intro. Your audience just wants the information!
Be sure to be very descriptive and thorough when evaluating your subject. The more you leave out of the essay, the more unanswered questions your readers are left with. Your goal should be to cover all aspects of the subject and to tell the audience how good or bad it is. Consider, for example, not only what quality the subject possesses, but what is missing. Good evaluations measure the quality or value of a subject by considering what it has and what it lacks.
The conclusion for an evaluative essay is pretty straightforward. Simply go over the main points from the body of your essay. After that, make an overall evaluation of the subject. Tell the audience if they should buy it, eat it, use it, wear it, etc. and why. After that is done, your essay is over. Good job!
Here are some sample assignments to get your brain pumping:
- Evaluate the plans for a new Minnesota Twins ballpark (found here: New Ballpark Plans). How does it compare to the current Metrodome in Minneapolis in terms of seating, concessions, cost to build, etc.? In the end, is it a good idea to build their proposed park?
- Evaluate your backpack. Test its durability, comfort level, ease-of-use, storage capacity, fabric quality, manufacturing quality, etc. Compare it with one or more of your former backpacks and/or one of your friend's backpacks. Also, compare it to a different type of backpack (example: duffle bag VS. two-strap backpack). Take notes on each backpack and rate them against each other. Is your backpack the better one?
- A Brief Guide to Writing Evaluation Essays
- Useful Phrases for Use in Evaluative Writing
- Important Elements to Consider