What is an academic evaluative essay?
This is the first 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 evaluative essay types
– Discuss the recognition of evaluative essay questions
– Provide examples to help guide the reader
There are many different types of essay that you may be asked to write during your time as an academic, and one of the most common and perhaps useful is the evaluative essay. This short four-lesson course therefore focuses firstly on the purpose of an evaluation, which in the broadest and simplest sense is the consideration of the positive or negative aspects about an item, theme or topic and the formation of a value judgement and opinion about that issue.
In daily life, perhaps the most common forms of evaluations are found in reviews of products and services such as restaurants, electronics or movies. When reviewing a restaurant for example, the reviewer may judge the friendliness of the staff, the speed of service or the quality of the food, considering also how these factors compare with other restaurants so as to form an overall positive or negative opinion on the item being reviewed. However, reviews such as this may be quite subjective, requiring emotive language or vocabulary that would be considered inappropriate in an academic setting. While the purpose of an evaluative essay in an academic context is to also present value judgements, these opinions should be based on well-researched and considered reasoning that relies upon academic sources to inform and persuade the reader in an objective and scientific way.
Recognising an Evaluative Essay Question
Before even considering the writing process, the first aspect a student may find useful when attempting to write an academic assignment is the determination of which essay type they’ve been set. To know whether you’ve been asked to write an evaluative essay, check first whether the essay question explicitly refers to evaluating, critiquing or analysing a topic. As is shown in the examples below, questions such as these clearly require the writer’s value judgements:
However, some questions may avoid evaluative language such as ‘evaluate’ or ‘analyse’ and instead simply present an opinion that the writer should respond to:
Despite differences in how these four questions are presented, it still remains clear in all instances that the writer’s responsibility is to decide what the positive and negative impacts of the issues of global warming or foreign AID in Africa are. However, this evaluative nature is quite obscured in in the following two example questions, even though they still require the same essay type:
It’s important to understand that there is some variation in academia as to how we can present the concepts of positive or negative, with the words ‘help’ and ‘hinder’ as seen in example (A) being one option. It’s useful to pay attention to this type of language to determine if you’re being asked to present differing perspectives or arguments on a topic. If such perspectives are required, you’ll likely be expected to form an objective opinion about that topic too.
Although not always the case, often the construction ‘to what extent’ as seen in example (B) requires the careful consideration of whether or not something is true or how true that aspect is. In example (B), a student must consider not only how AID has been used in Africa positively or negatively, but also determine how much of a significant impact those scenarios have had before determining whether the argument that AID has been effective or not is accurate.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the basic aims and expectations of an evaluative essay, the next step is to think about how to begin writing this assignment type. Continue on to Lesson 2 to learn about researching and writing an effective evaluative essay.
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