Presentation on theme: "An evaluation paper, as the very name suggests, has to do with making judgments about the worth of something. We make value judgments every day, about."— Presentation transcript:
An evaluation paper, as the very name suggests, has to do with making judgments about the worth of something. We make value judgments every day, about the people we meet, the books we read, the Internet sites we access, the movies we watch, the clothes we wear, the restaurants where we eat, the coffee we drink, the paintings we look at, etc.
Evaluating is an important aspect of academic life, where we have to make decisions about the ideas we confront, the theories we discuss, the literature we read, the facts and statistics we discover, etc. In an evaluation paper, therefore, it is important, first and foremost to establish the criteria (the standards) by which we judge. If we claim that a restaurant is “excellent,” that claim makes sense only if the hearer understands the standards by which we judge, i.e., if he or she clearly comprehends what constitutes excellent, as opposed to merely good, mediocre, or poor.
I once had the pleasure of hosting a 14-year-old on a visit to Los Angeles. After two grueling days at Magic Mountain, I took him to the Norton Simon Museum. I was admiring a painting by Monet when he walked up and said, with all the certainty of youth, “That is a bad painting.”
“Why?” I asked. “Easy,” he said. “No detail.” When asked to show me a good painting, he dragged me back to the Dutch Masters and pointed out a painting of the wharves in Venice, exhibiting meticulous detail—the sort of detail visible in the accompanying painting by Molenaer:
In his way, that fourteen-year-old boy established his criteria extremely well, in that he expressed what he didn’t appreciate and then showed me what he valued in a painting. In the same way, but in greater detail, I will expect you, in the Evaluation Paper, to establish your criteria and to show me why it is that you value (or despise) whatever is under consideration.
If I were to judge a restaurant, I might have very different criteria from a college student. By and large, however, I would judge a restaurant on the basis of the following criteria: The ambiance (lighting, décor, authenticity) The service (promptness, friendliness, professionalism, refills) The selection of items on the menu (variety) The quality of the food (preparation, flavor, appearance) The cost of the food The coffee (flavorful, or just one step up from ditchwater) For my reader to understand my rating system, he must fully understand what it is I’m looking for, and exactly how the restaurant meets my personal criteria. Then—and only then—will he grasp what I mean by excellent.
One effective way of using criteria is as sign-posts in a thesis sentence. Sign-posting allows readers to see the precise direction in which the essay is going, as follows: Brugge Brasserie Likely Broadripple’s best brew pub, Brugge Brasserie combines great service, great food, authentic ambience, and moderate pricing for a truly unique dining experience right here in Indianapolis. And if you’re looking for quality beer, you’ve certainly stumbled upon one of our local treasures.
Clearly, the essay about Brugge Brasserie will contain a paragraph about each of the criteria as follows: Service Food Ambience Pricing Beer The structure is neat, predictable and readily understood by the reader, and it gives the writer a base around which to build the essay.
If criteria are not established, you may find yourself at cross- purposes when evaluating. One who claims, for example, that President Clinton was an excellent President might find himself shot down if he doesn’t specify that he is juding the President’s performance on the basis of the economy, and not on the basis of his affair with Monica Lewinsky!
In writing an evaluation, therefore, it is imperative that you make your criteria clear at the very outset, and then show the reader precisely how the restaurant (or movie, or martini, or work of art, or political candidate) meets your pre- established criteria. You are welcome to evaluate anything of interest to you, and various choices are outlined on the evaluation paper handout. I have seen evaluations of everything from works of art, to the perfect music for a strip-tease, and everything in-between. Perhaps my favorite evaluation paper, over the years, was one entitled “The Quest for the Perfect Margarita.” This final essay is perhaps the most pleasant to prepare, so enjoy the experience, and be playful. Although I discourage the use of “I” in academic papers, it is appropriate to use the personal pronoun here—but do so sparingly. Enjoy.
PowerPoint Presentation by Mark A. Spalding, BA, MEd, MA (2008).