Writing an essay is never easy – anybody with any experience in this field will tell you this. Writing an evaluation essay tends to be even tougher, as many students, even in college, have only a rather vague idea of how one approaches such a paper and what unique challenges it entails. It does not help that evaluation essay topics often deal with subjects that students have a hard time analyzing.
So what is the right way to do it? How do you write an evaluative essay to make it good no matter what topic it deals with? In this article, you will find a few ideas to help you out with it.
1. Understand What an Evaluation Essay Is
In this context, to evaluate something means providing critical analysis, an assessment, an appraisal of the subject matter. What you analyze may differ dramatically and depends only on the instructor’s imagination: for example, it can be a book, an article (or any text in general), a film, a product, a website, or anything else. Your job is to look at it critically, analyze it, and provide some kind of commentary.
2. Aim for Objective Analysis before You Form an Opinion
The main problem with writing an evaluative essay is that one tends to have pre-existing opinions on the subject matter that are often biased and are not based on anything in particular.
You may have, for example, never read a single book by Mark Twain, but simply by living in a world where he is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time you are exposed to such a number of second-hand opinions, judgments, and evaluations that you can’t help but form certain ideas of your own.
How do you deal with such a situation? The solution is to try to look for the source of all your preconceptions and check if they are founded on anything real. Look for additional information on the subject matter and related topics.
3. Make Sure Your Opinion Appears to Be Balanced
No matter how hard you try, you will probably not be able to discard the preconceptions you hold about the subject matter completely. However, your readers should see you as balanced and impartial. Do everything to eliminate your own presence, the “self”, from your evaluation of the subject. To do so, you should:
• Spend more or less the same amount of time discussing positive and negative aspects of the thing in question;
• Look at the topic from multiple perspectives, paying attention to both positive and negative ones;
• Avoid emotionally charged language that will make it obvious that you have a strong opinion about the topic;
• Avoid citing obviously biased sources. When using sources in general, pay equal attention to those evaluating the subject matter both positively and negatively.
4. Use Criteria in Your Evaluation
To make it obvious that you are not biased and aim for an objective evaluation of the subject matter, you can use a set of preliminarily determined criteria. They serve to show that your evaluation is based on objective factors. For example, if you evaluate a fiction book, your criteria can be:
• Character development undergone by the characters;
• The believability of characters’ motivations;
• The complexity of characters;
• Quality of descriptions;
• Stylistic consistency;
• And many others, depending on what you value in a fiction book.
5. Analyze First. Evaluate Second
You should always start with providing the reader with your analysis of the subject matter, and only after that move on to offering the evaluation per se. In other words, first, you discuss how you reached your conclusions, and only then you present the conclusions themselves. This makes it more obvious for the readers that your evaluation is more than a baseless allegation.
6. Provide Evidence
When you claim something, you should always have something to back it up with. For example, if you attract the reader’s attention to specific features of the writer’s style, you can offer a sample of the author’s text. If you want to prove that something said by the author can be interpreted in a particular way, you can quote an authoritative source saying so, and so on.
One of the easier ways to write an evaluative essay is to compare the subject matter to something else out of the same category – it can be either one of its best representatives or simply something everybody is familiar with.
This approach is handy because it gives you an easy way to show whether something is good or bad, effective or ineffective – you draw parallels between it and the other representative of the same category, which serves as an immediate illustration of your thesis.
Although writing evaluative essays can be a tough job, we believe that this set of techniques goes a long way towards making it more accessible.