Defining Evaluative Essay: Examples and Writing Tips
With any assignment, it is always essential to understand what outcome you are supposed to come up with. An evaluative essay is not unlike a review. All of us have read or watched other people reviewing something – a movie, a record, a book, a product, etc. So, coming up with your own review should not be a big deal – at least, you know what is expected of you. Putting it briefly, you are supposed to pass your judgment on whether something is good or bad. Same as the reviewers whom you have watched or read, you can choose between the various tones that you can take in your evaluative essay. You can be serious and earnest, or you can be funny and sarcastic, or anywhere in between. When you are given the task to write an evaluative essay, most often, the choice of tone will be up to you. So, you can either provide an in-depth analysis, or exercise your brilliant humor, or both.
PICKING THE RIGHT TOPIC
Obviously, to evaluate something and make your opinion worthy of your reader’s attention, you need to experience whatever it is that you are reviewing: you need to read this book, see this movie, listen to this album, taste this burger, etc. Among other things you need for a comprehensive evaluative essay are the following:
- You cannot possibly give justice solely based on your long-term impression of something. So, you need to evaluate something that you have experienced recently. If you are keen on reviewing something that you have experienced considerably long ago, you can refresh your experience by re-watching the movie, re-reading the book, visiting that burger joint again, etc.
- You need to have thoughts that you will express in your essay. So, if you don’t have a strong opinion – positive or negative – about the subject that you have to evaluate, you should better pick another subject for your essay.
- You need your opinion on the subject to have authority. For this, you need to have a lot of experience with similar subjects. In other words, you cannot justly evaluate a movie if this is the only movie you have ever watched.
All the subjects that one can evaluate in an essay are usually classified into the following groups:
- Media. This includes literature, movies, TV shows, pictures, advertisement clips, music recordings, etc.
- Events. Concerts, fairs, exhibitions, festivals, fashion shows, etc.
- Places. Cities, hotels, restaurants, clubs, theaters, etc.
- Products. Food and drinks, clothes and footwear, jewelry and luxury items, etc.
COMING UP WITH YOUR EVALUATION CRITERIA
As we have mentioned before, one of the crucial elements necessary to write an evaluative essay worth reading is your overall experience with the subject that gives your opinion an authority. If you are to evaluate a movie, you need to have watched a lot of movies and to like some of them better than others. But what makes you like some movies better than others? How do you tell a good movie from a bad one? It is all about the experience: if you have had a good time watching the movie, then the movie is good, and if you haven't, then the movie is bad. It may seem simple, but in fact, it is just a tad more complex. Overall experience with any subject comprises a number of elements or details. If the overwhelming amount of these details were objectively good (or, at least, to your liking, – after all, it is your essay), then they can make up for a positive overall experience, and if most of these details left you disappointed, then your overall experience will be negative. You can call these details your criteria for evaluation. Here are some examples of the evaluation criteria for some of the subjects that you can evaluate in your essay:
- Movies: acting, camera work, directing, plot, scenery and visual effects, score and soundtrack, etc.
- Restaurants: atmosphere and decorations, pricing policy, quality and taste of food and drinks, the richness of menu, service, etc.
- Websites: content and writing, design and visuals, ease of navigation and user-friendliness, etc.
One of the essential things that you need to do before moving on to drafting your evaluative essay is to make up your mind about which criteria for evaluation you are going to discuss in your essay. Naturally, this will depend on the subject under your evaluation. Different genres of movies will have different exciting aspects to talk about, restaurants with different cuisines will have different exciting details for you to consider in your evaluation, etc.
Once you have a set of criteria that you will talk about in your essay, you should visualize what should these criteria be like to make your subject of evaluation perfect. For example, if you are evaluating a movie of the romantic comedy genre, you can picture what ideal humor in such a movie should be like, what actors would look and interact perfectly in such a movie, what would be the perfect flow and pace of narration, etc.
COMMENCING WORK ON YOUR EVALUATIVE ESSAY
Whenever we talk about something, we always – consciously or not – compare it to the best similar example. When we describe a burger that we have just had, we compare it to the best burger we have ever had or to the best burger that we can imagine. You can and should adopt this approach when writing your evaluative essay – you compare your subject of evaluation with the best example of a similar kind. So, you can begin working on your essay by asking two critical questions about the subject that you are to evaluate:
- To what category of things does your subject belong? (we have discussed the possible categories of subjects under evaluation above)
- What would the ultimate example in this category look (sound, taste, etc.) like?
Let’s take a look at a KFC joint as an example. To what category of subjects does it belong? As you will be comparing it to a similar subject, you don't want to be vague – quite the contrary, you want to be as specific as possible. You should narrow down your categorization as much as you can.
With the case of KFC, it can be as follows:
- What is it? – A restaurant.
- What kind of a restaurant? – A fast food joint.
- For what kind of fast food people usually go there? – Various chicken-related dishes.
This means that if you are evaluating or reviewing a particular KFC place, you will compare it to other fast food joints that specialize in chicken, as well as to an ideal place that specializes in this kind of food that you imagine. This brings us to our next question – does it resemble the ideal place of such kind? When answering this question, you will have to come up with your criteria for evaluation. In other words, you look at the picture of an ideal fast food joint specializing in chicken that you have in your imagination and figure out what exactly makes this place so exemplary. Criteria for such a subject under evaluation can be the following:
- Instant provision of service and lack of queues
- Ease of access to the service
- Excellent-tasting food
- Wide variety of food to choose from in the menu
- Large portions
- Free drink refills
- Fair prices
If you come up with any other criteria of evaluation, then you might as well use those for your review essay. As a matter of fact, any reviewer will probably come up with his or her own criteria. However, when we talk about the restaurant, you usually cannot avoid looking at the following criteria:
- Quality of service
- The atmosphere
- Quality and taste of food
So, the answer to our second question may look as follows: A friendly (service) and cozy (atmosphere) fast food joint (kind of place) serving excellent chicken (quality and taste of food) at more than fair prices (pricing).
Having answered this question gives you an idea of what exactly you will talk about in your evaluative essay: you will discuss how close is the KFC joint that you are talking about to the ideal fast food chicken joint that you have in your mind.
OUTLINING YOUR EVALUATIVE ESSAY
Surely, you have already written quite a number of essays throughout your student years, so you should know how to outline an essay
in general very well by now. You know that an essay will consist of an introduction (that includes a thesis statement), main body paragraphs (each paragraph for a particular point that you want to make), and a conclusion (where you give a quick recap of everything that you have talked about before). Since we are talking about evaluative essays, in particular, we would like to provide an exact and detailed example of how you outline such an essay. We will take an imaginary fast-food chicken place called Chuck's Chicken as an example.
Our thesis statement may look like this: “Chuck's Chicken attracts quite a crowd so you may have to wait in line before you can make your order. It is, however, well worth it, – there is a reason why so many people come here to eat. Not only is the food here delicious, but the overall atmosphere in the place is just so cozy and inviting, largely but not exclusively thanks to the friendly staff. It is truly an excellent place to grab a bite for this budget.”