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evaluative Essay Examples

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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

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:
  • Cleanliness
  • 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:
  1. Quality of service
  2. The atmosphere
  3. Quality and taste of food
  4. Pricing
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.”
With our introduction ready and out of the way, we can move on to the main body paragraphs. We can dedicate our first main body paragraph to the service quality: “The service at Chuck's Chicken is truly exceptional. The menu is quite clear and comprehensive, but if you have any questions, the staff is always there to answer them without being too pushy. Even though they pose themselves as a fast food joint, they will never rush you and accept the order as soon as you are ready. Nobody has ever reported any complications with making an order at Chuck's Chicken or misunderstandings about the order on the side of the staff, – they always get it right. And not only that – your food is served really quickly.” The second main body paragraph may be about the atmosphere of the place: “As soon as you set your foot at Chuck’s, you know for a fact that you will have a splendid time eating here. The coloring and the decorations are creative, inviting, and – one may even say – appetizing. You don’t feel like just getting your food and leaving. Not only does the staff make sure that you feel cozy and comfortable here, but the chairs and the rest of the furniture sends the message – ‘stay and enjoy yourself!’” From there we can continue to the food itself and make it the topic of our third main body paragraph: “However, it is not the friendliness of the staff, the good-looking interior or the comfy chairs that attract all these crowds to Chuck's. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the delicious chicken that they serve here, which, according to many, is the best in town! Wings, legs, white meat, – you name it, – all will be served fresh and juicy. You can complement it with any sauce from the great variety of available options. As for the side dishes, one doesn't have to bore oneself with French fries every time: they also serve salads to satisfy any taste. Unfortunately, though, there are no options with fish or any meat other than chicken. The vegetarian options are also scarce.” Finally, our fourth body paragraph can talk about the value of the customer experience at Chuck’s Chicken: “While it may be true that one can find similar meals at a lower price in our town, those will not be nearly as good. Chuck’s Chicken claims to have all the fresh ingredients supplied and fresh food cooked every day, and one does not need to be an expert to verify this. Moreover, the buckets and the portions are notably larger than those to which an average fast food restaurant-goer is used to. You also don’t have to pay extra for the sauce. To crown it all, as a cherry on top you have free drink refills, including beer.” As you can see, it is no big deal to create a quick outline for an evaluative essay about a fast food joint and to expand upon it. In fact, you might as well just use our example as a template if your assignment is to evaluate a similar subject in your essay.

OTHER POSSIBLE APPROACHES TO WRITING AN EVALUATIVE ESSAY

The example of an evaluative essay that we have suggested above is a usual one. If you have to write quite many evaluative essays for your class, you may, at some point, find yourself bored with writing your papers following the same outlines over and over again. If that ever happens, you should know that this is not the only way to approach the task of evaluating something in an essay, and you can spice up your writing process by adopting one of them. Here they are:
  1. Compare and contrast. You can directly compare the subject of your evaluative essay with the best example of this kind. If you choose this approach, you can make your essay much more exciting to your reader if you compare your subject to something that everybody knows. Here, you need to remember that the goal of writing an evaluative essay is to pass your judgment on a particular subject and share it. So, you cannot simply talk about the differences and similarities between the subjects under comparison. Instead, you should keep it in mind throughout your writing process that the comparison is merely your tool to make your point and share your opinion on the subject.
  2. Unfulfilled expectations. One can adopt this principle when writing various kinds of essays. With evaluative essays, however, it is most natural. Basically, you just start off with describing the experience that you expect from the subject of your evaluation. Then you talk about how particular aspects of your expectations went fulfilled, unfulfilled, or even were exceeded.
  3. Framing. If you go this way, you can go directly to describing your subject of evaluation from the very beginning of your essay but without going into too much detail. When you are finished with the introduction, you make it look like an abrupt break to keep your reader hooked. After you are done with the main body of your essay, you paraphrase what you have discussed in your introduction but make it seem like a logical continuation of it – what your reader was waiting for throughout the whole read. If you look closely, you can see that framing is a beloved tool of many authors, not only reviewers.
  4. Compare with the typical. This approach is similar to unfulfilled expectations. Here, you also begin with talking about the expectations. The difference is that here you talk about the most common expectations from this kind of subject, not specifically yours. For example, almost every person has a quite defined set of expectations from a burger joint, a romantic comedy movie, a rock album, etc. So, this common set of expectations is what you describe in the introduction to your evaluative essay. Then you move on to investigating how well the subject under evaluation holds up to these expectations. This approach is usually used either when you want your essay to have a satirical tone, or when your subject is notably non-typical.
  5. Criteria-based analysis. This approach does not deviate from the classical one that we have described in our example with Chuck's Chicken. You also begin with introducing your subject and explain why you have decided to evaluate it in your essay. The only difference is how you organize the criteria by which you evaluate your subject in the essay main body paragraphs. You can organize them chronologically, spatially, in order of significance, etc. The only thing you need to remember here is to mention your organization principle in your introduction.
  6. Chronology. With many kinds of subjects, it may be an excellent idea just to describe your experiences in the order that you received those experiences: the chronological order. It is a rather natural approach to evaluating a trip to a restaurant, a concert, a play, etc.
  7. Casual evaluation. This approach basically goes down to making points of the various aspects of your experience that you deem worthwhile to talk about. In each body paragraph, you mention the effect that a particular aspect of the subject bestows on you. Then, you try and investigate what exactly caused that particular effect.
  8. Visual focus. As one may guess, here you focus on the visual aspects of the subject under evaluation while paying little or no attention to other aspects. Naturally, this approach is not very applicable for evaluating a restaurant, for example, but it can be perfect for evaluating a painting, a movie, or any other work that uses the visual medium. Visual aspects which you can use as your criteria for evaluation here may include composition and arrangement, focus, foreground and background (both literally and socially), symbols and references, as well as color palette, shapes, textures, and patterns, etc. First, you analyze all these aspects in particular. Then, you put them into a historical, cultural, social, or any other relevant context. Finally, you put them all together and see how well your subject works as a whole. This will be the judgment that you pass in your evaluative essay.
  9. Social focus. With this approach, you focus your attention solely on analyzing how well your subject works to make a particular point. If you analyze a literary piece, you pay little or no attention to the style, vocabulary, etc., instead centering your essay around the message that this piece tries to send and how effective it is.

ADDITIONAL ADVICE: FACILITATING YOUR WRITING PROCESS

The best way to get a clear picture of what you will write about is to talk it over beforehand. Teachers and professors realize that, so if you get the task of writing an evaluative essay, you will most likely have to write about something that you have already discussed in class. If this is the case, then you can save yourself a lot of effort by taking notes during such discussions. These notes don’t have to be written, you might as well just record them in audio or video format. Even if you will not get the chance to discuss the subject of your evaluative essay in class beforehand, it is still an excellent idea to have such a discussion with your friends and/or fellow students, – just have a casual get-together where you can shape your ideas in the course of a productive dialogue. If you feel concerned that you might have trouble maintaining your focus during such a conversation, you can prepare a list of issues that you are to discuss. Perfectly, the conversation will go in the following order:
  1. Introduce the subject. Tell the others what you know about it and listen to what they know about it.
  2. Answer their questions. After you have figured out what all of you know about the subject, it is high time to address what you don’t know. If some questions remain unanswered at first, you can either give it a quick Google search or come up with an answer of your own – depending on the nature of the question.
  3. Discuss the relevant evaluation criteria. Basically, here you have to define the most distinctive features of the subject under your evaluation – both positive and negative.
  4. Formulate your judgment in one sentence. This can be the thesis statement of your essay.
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