How can I produce an effective evaluative essay?
This is the second of four lessons about Evaluative Essays. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the concept of effective academic writing
– Outline three key features of an effective evaluative essay
– Provide six criterion for evaluating a theory
Much like other academic essay types, the key to producing an effective evaluative essay begins first with conducting thorough research and following the commonly agreed upon framework of the writing process. For evaluative essays in particular, by following the three planning processes outlined below, you should increase your chances of academic success.
1. Establish a Clear Focus
Although it’s possible that your tutor will provide you with a specific essay topic (perhaps similar to the example questions in Lesson 1), you’ll still be required to focus your essay on specific factors and examples to create the main ideas of your body paragraphs. To begin to exemplify this, let’s take another look at our example question about global warming.
For this example question, it’s necessary for the writer to decide which impacts they will use to exemplify their argument before beginning to write. However, in an academic essay, these factors shouldn’t be taken from a student’s own ideas. Instead, and before deciding the essay topic’s focus, a writer must first do considerable investigation and research.
For an undergraduate paper, such research will most likely be conducted using secondary sources such as books, journals and other existing publications. For our example about global warming, it would be logical for a student to read through relevant source materials, making notes on anything that shows positive or negative impacts which were caused by this global phenomenon. A simple table such as the one provided below would likely assist a student when planning to write an evaluative essay about climate change:
2. Decide the Criterion
Secondly, perhaps one of the most important aspects of constructing an evaluative essay is in determining how the evaluation of that particular topic will be made. Which factors will you decide to focus on for example, and how will you evaluate them? Using the list of positive and negative impacts of global warming we previously presented, it’s now possible to categorise these variables into impacts on wildlife, plant-life and agriculture, and extreme weather phenomena. These three factors should then become the main ideas of the essay’s body section, with evidence provided for and against these arguments and overall writer stance.
However, when evaluating a theory instead of a general topic such as global warming, it may be necessary to use a more specific set of evaluative criteria to construct your argument. While the terminology for this criteria varies somewhat in the literature, the following six features are commonly acceptable for writing evaluative essays. You may in fact wish to use criteria such as these to form the basis of the main ideas of your essay’s body section:
Overall, it is the writer’s responsibility to determine which sort of approach they should take to evaluate their topic. The most important aspect here is that the writer makes sure that their criterion are explicit for the reader.
3. Develop Your Evidence
Although in the early stage of notetaking you may list obvious positives and negatives about your topic, to write an effective evaluative essay it’s necessary to consider each criterion in a little more depth. The following table about global warming could therefore be useful for constructing one body paragraph for an essay on this topic:
As can be seen in this table, it’s not only recommended to include specific evidence and determine a judgement in your notes, but it’s also highly recommended to keep a record of the source that the evidence is found in, such as (Jenkins, 2017). By keeping full and accurate details of this source, a writer will be able to more easily create their reference list later.
Once you have a comprehensive list of source material, you must then decide what your overall opinion, or stance, will be on this topic. Such stance may be obvious because of a clear imbalance between the positives and negatives of your topic. However, this may not always be the case. In the situation that the source evidence appears balanced, it’s the writer’s responsibility to decide which side of the argument they consider to be the most significant and convincing and build their opinions around that.
After deciding their stance, a writer must then consider how to best structure their evaluative essay. To assist students with this, Lesson 3 introduces the key evaluative elements and language that should be included and considered when writing both the introductory and body paragraph of this essay type.
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