Evaluation Essay Assignment
Write a thesis-driven essay that evaluates a single work, using specific reasoning/evidence derived from criteria to support your stance.
Evaluation: a claim that something is good or bad, right or wrong, useful or not
Criteria: things that matter in deciding whether your subject succeeds or doesn’t succeed, is strong or weak, or good in some respects and poor in others
Balance and fair assessment: allows for shades-of-gray argument strategies. Rarely is anything all good or all bad, so you need to acknowledge any weaknesses in things you praise and any positives in things you criticize. For example, a movie may have spectacular visuals but a tired and clichéd plot.
Purpose: To practice and develop the ability to construct, define, and support evaluative criteria; to generate a thesis based on evaluative criteria, revise the thesis in order to increase its effectiveness, and arrange, draft, and write a persuasive essay.
For this assignment, you will write an evaluation about some type of media product (a book, movie, album, video game, etc). You will develop a set of criteria on which you will base your judgment, and using those criteria, will explain your judgment to your audience.
Assignment in Detail
Your evaluation will be similar to the book or movie reviews you might read online, but you will need to tailor it for an academic audience. You will provide a balanced assessment, so you will need to discuss both the positive and negative aspects (strengths and weaknesses) of your text. That being said, your evaluation will probably be stronger if you do not write about something you love; you may not see the flaws. First, you will decide on a text. Then, you will create a list of criteria that you may consider using to evaluate the text. While making this list, you should consider the text’s rhetorical situation, such as its genre, audience, purpose, and stance. With the rhetorical situation in mind, ask yourself what factors would make this book, movie, etc. successful. Then return to your subject and see which of these criteria it meets, and which it does not, and find examples of ways it does or does not meet your criteria. Your essay should be guided by a thesis statement that states your overall evaluation or judgment of the text. Since no text is perfect and none are completely without merit, your thesis should balance the pros and cons; it should offer a judgment of the text but qualify it according to your criteria. The criteria you choose should be clearly defined at the beginning of your essay. You should also include a concise description of the text you evaluate toward the beginning of your essay, since your audience may not be familiar with your subject.
Note that summarizing the text should be a small portion of the final essay.
The bulk of your essay should attempt to persuade your reader to accept your judgment of the text. Thus, you will need to incorporate the most convincing and important reasons why your judgment is correct. You will also need to consider how to best factually support your reasons. Do not use any outside sources beyond your chosen text.
Some thoughts about this assignment
Choose a subject that you are familiar with. For example, if you choose a book, choose one that you have read before, and then reread it. The more familiar you are with the subject, the better your essay will be.
Think carefully about purpose and stance. Do you want to encourage or discourage others from reading, watching, etc. the work you evaluate?
Your evaluative criteria are extremely important for this essay. Establish the criteria early on in the writing process. Your judgment of the work depends on these criteria. That means that if your criteria are weak or faulty, your judgment will follow, leaving your audience unconvinced.
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