Academic Evaluations

Guidelines for Revision

In his Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, 4th ed., Stephen Reid offers some helpful tips for revising written evaluations. These guidelines are reproduced here and grouped as follows:

Examining Criteria

Criteria are standards of value. They contain categories and judgments, as in "good fuel economy," "good reliability," or "powerful use of light and shade in painting." Some categories, such as "price," have clearly implied judgments ("low price"), but make sure that your criteria refer implicitly or explicitly to a standard of value.

Examine your criteria from your audience's point of view. Which criteria are most important in evaluating your subject? Will your readers agree that the criteria you select are indeed the most important ones? Will changing the order in which you present your criteria make your evaluation more convincing? (Reid 342)

Balancing the Evaluation

Include both positive and negative evaluations of your subject. If all of your judgments are positive, your evaluation will sound like an advertisement. If all of your judgments are negative, your readers may think you are too critical (Reid 342).

Using Evidence

Be sure to include supporting evidence for each criterion. Without any data or support, your evaluation will be just an opinion that will not persuade your reader.

If you need additional evidence to persuade your readers, [go back to the "Collecting" stage of this process] (Reid 343).

Avoiding Overgeneralization

Avoid overgeneralizing your claims. If you are evaluating only three software programs, you cannot say that Lotus 1-2-3 is the best business program around. You can say only that it is the best among the group or the best in the particular class that you measured (Reid 343).

Making Appropriate Comparisons

Unless your goal is humor or irony, compare subjects that belong in the same class. Comparing a Yugo to a BMW is absurd because they are not similar cars in terms of cost, design, or purpose (Reid 343).

Checking for Accuracy

If you are citing other people's data or quoting sources, check to make sure your summaries and data are accurate (Reid 343).

Working on Transitions, Clarity, and Style

Signal the major divisions in your evaluation to your reader using clear transitions, key words, and paragraph hooks. At the beginning of new paragraphs or sections of your essay, let your reader know where you are going.

Revise sentences for directness and clarity.

Edit your evaluation for correct spelling, appropriate word choice, punctuation, usage, and grammar (343).

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