18 Basics of Evaluation Writing

Dr. Karen Palmer

Evaluative arguments center around the question of quality. Is something good?  Bad?  Honest?  Dishonest?  Evaluative judgments are also about values—what the writer thinks is important. Sometimes the writer’s values are not the same as his/her readers’ values, so he/she has to bridge the gap by showing respect for the audience’s  opinions and clarifying the points that they do and don’t agree upon.

An important first step in writing an evaluation is to consider the appropriate standards/criteria for evaluating the subject. If a writer is evaluating a car, for example, the writer might consider standard criteria like fuel economy, price, crash ratings. But the writer also might consider style, warranty, color, special options, like sound systems. Even though all people might not base their choice of a car on these secondary criteria, they are still considered acceptable or standard criteria.

To be taken seriously, a writer must have valid reasons for his evaluation. These reasons are based on criteria. Imagine choosing your attire for a job interview at a very prestigious law firm. You look at the jeans and t-shirts in your closet and immediately decide to go shopping. Why? Because the clothes in your closet don’t meet the criteria for the interview.

Exercise: The Importance of Choosing Criteria

  1. Think about what criteria you use to evaluate a fast food employee. You might include things like quick service, friendly attitude, and cleanliness. List at least three criteria.
  2. Think about what criteria you would use to evaluate a comedian.You might include things like reflective of culture, universality, innovation, etc. List at least three criteria.
  3. Watch these short clips of fast food employees working in a drive-thru.
  4. Evaluate the employees based on your fast food employee criteria and then on your comedian criteria.




5. Reflect on how your perception of the employee changes depending on which criteria you use. Why is it important to carefully define your criteria when you evaluate something for others?

The question, “Why?”, is an important gateway to specific criteria because it forces the writer to articulate his/her reasons. Not only should you be able to clearly define appropriate criteria for your subject, but you should know enough about it that you can also teach your readers something new about the topic. According to Lunsford & Ruszkiewicz (2008), “If you know a subject well enough to evaluate it, your readers should learn something from you when you offer an opinion.” In general, researching your topic before beginning to write about it is wise, but, in the case of an evaluation, you should begin with a familiar topic. This allows you to create a basic structure of your essay based on your opinion, and then later look for more information to help strengthen your argument.

Assignment: Evaluation Brainstorming

For this assignment, you will choose a topic for an evaluation paper. Your topic should belong to one of the following categories:

  • A restaurant or a business
  • A product (cell phone, car, blender, etc) or service (doctor, cell phone service, etc)
  • A website or blog

You should choose a subject that you can make a confident judgment about, so think about your areas of expertise. You also want to be sure to choose something that is appropriate for the academic situation. In addition, be sure that your topic is sufficiently narrow. In others words, don’t do a review of cell phones in general, but a particular model. Instead of Wal-Mart in general, review a particular location.

This video provides a good overview of writing an evaluation essay:

Quotation from 2008 edition of Everything’s An Argument, edited by Lunsford & Ruszkiewicz.

Content created by Dr. Karen Palmer and last edited 5/29/2020. Licensed CC BY NC.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

The Worry Free Writer Copyright © 2020 by Dr. Karen Palmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book