How to Write an Evaluation Essay

How to Write an Evaluation Essay

The evaluation essay is one of the more common types of advanced academic writing.  While a basic research paper or essay asks a student to gather and present information, the evaluation essay goes a step further by asking students to draw conclusions from the information they have researched and present an informed opinion on a subject.

The role of opinion in the evaluation essay can be confusing to some students.  While it is important for the writer to have an opinion in an evaluation essay, it is critical that the writer provide substantial supporting evidence for that opinion.  In addition, it is important that the opinion or point-of-view expressed in the essay be a substantive one, which can be supported with evidence. 

What is an Evaluation Essay?

An evaluation essay is an essay where the writer presents an opinion or viewpoint on a topic and then provides a well-reasoned argument and plenty of supporting evidence to back up that opinion. 

You are probably more familiar with the evaluation essay than you realize, because you have encountered the format outside of the academic world.  Reviews are a type of evaluation essay.  Whether it is a published review for a book or movie, or even a review for a business or product on websites like Amazon or Yelp!, well-written reviews contain the elements of an evaluation essay.  

Purpose of an Evaluation Essay

The purpose of an evaluation essay is to present an opinion or viewpoint on a subject.  The subject can be a specific topic or a broader topic.  In fact, for evaluation essays, the topic is often a collection of work. 

Goals for an Evaluation Essay

1. State a clear position on the topic.

2. Create clearly defined criteria.

3. Evaluate the subject by said criteria.

4. Demonstrate subject-area knowledge.

5. Use evidence to support the position you have taken.

6. Show an awareness of your audience.

7.  Build a persuasive argument.

8.  Use correct grammar. 

How to Write an Evaluation Essay

There is no single approach to writing an evaluation essay.  In fact, the writer has a large amount of freedom to choose the approach that he or she thinks is best-suited for the topic being discussed.  The writer can choose what tone to take, the format of the essay, and the type of supporting evidence to provide.

While this freedom can be great for some students, other students find it crippling because of the lack of an easy-to-adapt format.  In this tutorial, we are going to provide an easy-to-use format that a student can utilize to write evaluation essays.  It is important for students to realize that this format does not represent the only approach to evaluation essays, and may not even be the best approach to writing your evaluation essay, depending on your subject and your tone.  However, we have found it to be the easiest format for students to use and adapt to a wide variety of topics and approaches. 

The Steps to Writing an Evaluation Essay

Writing an evaluation essay can be broken down into a series of easy-to-follow steps:

1.  Choose your topic. 

2.  Choose the criteria for judging or evaluating your topic.

3.  Compare your topic to other topics in that group.

4.  Develop your thesis.

5.  Write your introduction.

6.  Provide your supporting evidence.

7.  Write your conclusion.

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Choose Your Topic

Choosing your topic may be the most important part of your evaluation essay.  You want a topic that you can easily compare to other similar topics.  The more information you have about your topic, the better your essay will be.

Because evaluation essays are not intended to be neutral, you will write a better essay if you have a strong opinion about the topic.  Whether you love it or hate it, strong feelings will help you write a better essay.  If you are weighing your choice against other options, make sure you have the evidence to clearly support your judgment!

In addition, if your evaluation essay is a book, movie, or restaurant review, you want to choose something where your experience is recent.  An experience that seemed amazing years ago might not have the same appeal to you, now, and you want to be able to write an evaluation essay from your current perspective. 

You also want to choose a topic where you have other experience in the general area.  If you have only been to one five-star restaurant, it will be impossible for you to compare that restaurant to comparable things.  Likewise, if you have only seen one horror movie, traveled to one foreign country, etc.  Your essay will be much easier for you to write if you are familiar with your specific topic and with other things in the same basic genre. 

Formatting Your Evaluation Argument Essay

If you have read some of our other essay tutorials, then it will come as no surprise that we are going to recommend you use the five-paragraph essay format for your evaluation argument essay.  Why are we so in love with this basic academic essay format?  Because it works and it is easily adaptable to a wide-variety of writing approaches.

The format for a five-paragraph essay is simple.  First is an introductory paragraph that: 1) introduces your topic; 2) introduces the reasoning you will use in your body paragraphs; and 3) provides your thesis statement.  Next are three body paragraphs, each supporting a reasoning statement you used in your introduction.  Finally, the five paragraph essay concludes with a conclusion that restates the information in your introductory paragraph.

Now, while we call this the five-paragraph format, it is important for you to realize that you are not limited to five paragraphs.  The format works for four or more paragraphs.  Just keep in mind that the more body paragraphs you add, the greater the support for your idea, and the longer the essay. 

You may be wondering if you can choose a different format for your evaluation essay.  Of course you can.  One of the great things about an evaluation essay is that the writer has a substantial amount of freedom in how to approach the topic.  However, we encourage you to think carefully about your format.  The great thing about the five-paragraph approach is that it provides your reader with an outline of what your paper is going to say, and helps the writer provide clear and concise support for his or her positions.  When you deviate from that approach, it can be easy to create a rambling essay that does not provide the type of clear support for your thesis that is necessary for a strong academic essay.

Sources and Citations

If there is one way that the evaluation essay differs from other types of academic essays, it is probably the use of sources.  You may or may not need to use a variety of academically reputable sources for your essay, depending on the type of evaluation essay you are writing.

If you are writing an essay comparing a work of art of some type, whether it is a book, poem, essay, movie, painting, sculpture, etc., to other works of art in the same genre, then you are going to need to use other sources and citations in your essay.  For example, if you want to make the statement that Michelangelo’s David is the best example of Renaissance sculpture, then you are going to need to compare it to other Renaissance sculptures.  You may also need sources that explain why the type of stone is superior to other sculpting materials or explaining trademark elements or Renaissance sculpture.

However, you may be evaluating something like a restaurant and using your personal experiences to compare it to other similar restaurants.  Under those circumstances, you will be using your personal observations, not information from source material, to make your comparisons.  You may not need to use other sources, but you will want to use objective criteria to help establish your comparisons. 

In our example essay, we use an evaluation that draws upon personal experience, and, therefore, does not require the use of sources.  You can look at the example essay to see how you can use personal experience and still provide objective reasons to support your conclusions.

Evaluation Essay Topics

A wide variety of topics lend themselves easily to the evaluation essay format.  One thing that these topics have in common is that they allow the writer to be subjective about the topic, because having an opinion is at the heart of the evaluation essay. 

There are two ways to approach an evaluation essay.  The first one is highlighted in our example, and shows why something is better or worse than comparable things.  Topics for those type of evaluation essay include:

1.  Evaluate which is the best fast-food restaurant chain and why it is better than the competition.

2.  Evaluate whether Apple products or Microsoft products are superior.

3.  Analyze a movie and describe why it is better or worse than other movies in that genre.

4.  Evaluate a social media site and compare it to other social media sites.

5.  Which national chain restaurant serves the best French fries, and why are they superior to other restaurants’ fries?

6.  Examine long-term success in weight loss and analyze whether gastric surgeries provide better long-term results than diet and exercise alone. 

7.  Analyze whether dogs or cats make better pets for students. 

8.  Compare a cover version of a song with the original version and evaluate whether the cover is better than, worse than, or the same as the original version.

9.  Compare two actors who have depicted Batman and analyze which one you feel does the best job of capturing Batman as described in the comic books.

10.  Compare the depictions of Wonder Woman in the TV series and in the recent Wonder Woman movie.

As your courses get more complex, your evaluation essays will be more complex.  Instead of simply drawing comparisons between your topic and other topics, you may be asked to establish criteria and use those criteria to analyze or evaluate your topic. 

11.  Analyze how Shakespeare’s use of women in his tragedies does or does not reflect traditional Elizabethan ideas about womanhood.

12.  Choose a work of historical fiction such as Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, and analyze whether the author’s guesses about events are likely to reflect what actually happened.

13.  Examine the role of adult-humor in the children’s movie Shrek and explain how this humor helps or hinders the movie’s overall appeal. 

14.  Analyze the sexual relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in 50 Shades of Grey and examine how the relationship does and does not differs from a domestic violence situation.

15.  Read several “new adult” fantasies and analyze the role that wealth plays in modern romantic fantasy.

16.  Watch the first season of the series This is Us and describe how the series does or does not capture the reality of modern romantic relationships. 

17.  Describe how the TV series The Walking Dead examines everyday human fears within the context of a zombie apocalypse. 

18.  Analyze how the use of zombies in popular culture, such as books and movies, reflects changes in the political spectrum; do zombies become more popular as a culture grows more conservative? 

19.  Choose a father from a modern situation comedy and explain why he is the best example of modern fatherhood.

20.  Evaluate the use of humor in noir-style detective fiction.

21.  Select a superhero movie and analyze how the superhero depicted in the movie does or does not exemplify the superhero genre.

22.  Select a villain from a superhero movie.  Analyze the villain’s motives and evaluate whether you believe the villain is evil. 

23.  Analyze the Harry Potter series and evaluate whether Severus Snape is a hero or a villain, taken within the context of his behavior throughout the series. 

24.  Evaluate different teaching approaches and determine which one is the best approach for large groups of students.

25.  Analyze how the needs of students on the Autism spectrum differ from the needs of the average student.

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Evaluation Essay Outline

Writing an outline can be an important pre-writing tool to help you organize your thoughts and eliminate material that does not directly support your thesis statement. 

The basic outline format, based on a five-paragraph structure is:

I.  Introduction

A.  Support A

B.  Support B

C.  Support C

D.  Thesis statement

II.  Support A

A. Evidence

B.  Evidence

C.  Evidence

III.  Support B

A.  Evidence

B.  Evidence

C.  Evidence

IV.  Support C

A.  Evidence

B.  Evidence

C.  Evidence

V.  Conclusion

A.  Restate thesis statement

B.  Restate support A

C.  Restate support B

D.  Restate support C

Evaluation Essay Outline Example

I.  Introduction

A.  They offer more privacy.

B.  They are cleaner.

C.  They are always well-stocked.

D.  The restrooms at Buc- ee’s gas stations are the best restrooms to stop at when you are on a road trip.

II.  They offer more privacy.

A.  They have full-sized doors.

B.  They have locks that indicate whether they are occupied or unoccupied from the outside.

C.  Their locks and doors are maintained in working-order.

III.  They are cleaner.

A.  They are regularly cleaned.

B.  All stalls contain seat cleaner.

C.  All stalls contain hand-sanitizer

IV.  They are always well-stocked.

A.  The stalls always have toilet paper.

B.  The sinks have soap.

C.  The sinks have paper towels

V.  The restrooms at Buc-ee’s gas stations are the best restrooms to stop at when you are on a road trip.

A.  They are private.

B.  They are clean.

C.  They are well-stocked. 

Evaluation Essay Example

Even if you are a fan of road trips, one thing that most road trippers dread is the gas station potty break.  The suitability of bathroom facilities can vary wildly from location-to-location, even for gas stations in the same chain.  However, there is one place that weary travelers can rely upon for a decent potty-break experience: Buc-ee’s.  A Texas-based gas-station chain, Buc-ee’s has built part of its reputation on providing clean, family-friendly restrooms for travelers.  What makes their restrooms stand out from other travel stops?  They are private, clean, and well-stocked.  Taken together, these factors mean that the restrooms at Buc-ee’s are the best restrooms to visit when you are on a road trip.

Generally, when traveling, gas-station restrooms are not private.  In fact, at most places, if a restroom does offer privacy, that means it offers a single room or stall for each gender, which can mean waiting for your turn to go to the bathroom.  Stall-style bathrooms usually have short doors and an opening around the perimeter of the door, which allows people to peep in at the people in the stalls.  Furthermore, the open-air concept of the stall means that any noises made in the stall are broadcast throughout the bathroom.  In contrast, Buc-ee’s bathroom stalls are designed to be private.  They have full-sized doors, so that they are actually small toilet rooms, not stalls.  They have locks that indicate whether they are occupied or unoccupied from the outside. Finally, their locks and doors are maintained in working-order.

Buc-ee’s restrooms are also cleaner than almost all other travel-stop bathrooms.  Buc-ee’s places an emphasis on their clean restrooms, so that all of their restrooms are regularly cleaned, multiple times per day.  In addition, all stalls have seat-cleaner available in the stall, so that users can clean their seats before or after use.  Furthermore, all stalls contain hand sanitizer, so that people can sanitize their hands before touching knobs or levers.  This keeps the restrooms cleaner than ones you find in other travel stops.

The final factor that makes Buc-ee’s restrooms superior to their competition is that the restrooms are well-stocked.  Part of the regular inspection and cleaning of the bathrooms is keeping them adequately stocked for users.  The stalls always have toilet paper, so that you never find yourself in a stall, scrambling to find something to use instead of toilet paper.  The sinks always have soap.  Finally, the sinks have paper towels to dry your hands.

While it might be a stretch to call a travel stop bathroom luxurious, the bathrooms at Buc-ee’s are certainly a step above the average travel stop bathroom.  They are well-designed for privacy.  They are regularly cleaned and inspected, so that they are for users.  Finally, they are kept well-stocked with toilet paper, soap, and paper towels.  Because these factors are consistent at all Buc-ee’s locations, Buc-ee’s restrooms are superior to other gas station restrooms. 

Grading Rubric

While each professor uses his or her own criteria to score evaluation essays, we have found that they often follow a pretty standard grading rubric.  An example of a typical evaluation essay grading rubric is below:

Thesis statement/Argument (40 points) - Evaluative thesis statement, use of rhetorical strategies, and integration of evidence to support evaluative position.

Criteria (40 points) - Establishment and support of criteria used to evaluate subject.

Evidence/Support (30 points) - Integration of evidence, in-text citations, works Cited page.

Organization (20 points) - Intro/conclusion, transitions, ordering of information.  

Word Choice/Language (10 points) - Appropriate tone and attention to audience.  

Grammar/Mechanics (10 points) - Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence fluency


While your opinion is important in an evaluation essay, a good evaluation essay requires measuring things with objective criteria to support your position.   While there is no right answer or single position to take in an evaluation essay, it is important that you are able to clearly state reasons why you have reached your conclusion.  If you are able to do this, whether you are writing a simple evaluation essay on which fast-food chain has the best French fries or a complex essay involving an internal analysis of a work of literature, you will be able to write a persuasive evaluation essay. 

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