Online Writing Lab
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/service/etc. should be. In other words, it means demonstrating what one should expect as the ideal outcome. Having clear criteria is what keeps an evaluation from feeling less like an opinion. For example, if I am evaluating a restaurant, I 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 I am 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 my judgment is that a particular restaurant does not consistently offer quality food, I 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 isn’t 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). It is also helpful to write about a topic that you have knowledge about, which will make it easier to establish the appropriate criteria, judgments, and evidence.