These advanced ideas and/or applications can help
you understand and use this paper's type of thinking better. For
additional information, check the chapter's
in the right column.
Evaluation Using Elements of Critical Thinking
to Richard Paul and Linda Elder, two of the leading experts in the new
critical-thinking movement, there are nine markers of good critical
thinking: “clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance,
depth, breadth, logic, significance, fairness” (Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools
9, Dillon Beach,
CA, The Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2001.)
These can be turned into a nine-part evaluative system:
A Table: Evaluation Using Critical-Thinking
CLARITY: Is the text clear both in its
usage (words, phrases, and style) and in its explanations of ideas (for
the appropriate audience)?
ACCURACY: Is it factually correct?
PRECISION: Is it precise? Does it not waste words but
make its points efficiently and cleanly?
RELEVANCE: Does the text connect in valuable ways with other
public discussions or needs?
DEPTH: Does it not just skim the surface of the subject but
instead go deeply into the underlying issues, problems, and events?
BREADTH: Does it cover its subject broadly enough to have
meaning for more than just a very narrow segment of people or problems?
LOGIC: Is it logical? Does it proceed in a step by step,
sufficiently cause-and-effect structure that makes sense?
SIGNIFICANCE: Is the subject and the author's treatment of it
significant for a large enough group of readers?
FAIRNESS: Does the
author "play fair" by assuming ethical rules and guidelines
the great majority of readers (and of others in his or her profession)
hold in common (e.g., democracy, equality, disclosure of bias,
Evaluation Using a Rubric
In the "Help" section is a set of guidelines for grading
papers--called a "rubric"--that also can be used for evaluating
texts. This rubric asks about the quality of a paper using these five
steps or parts:
Though meant as an example of a system to grade papers (one, in fact, that I
use), it also can be applied as a tool to evaluate texts. It is especially
applicable for those who wish to become editors of others' texts someday, and
for those who wish to become teachers. For more details about this
particular rubric, please go to "Rubrics"
in the "Grading" part of the "Help" section.
Evaluation Using Problem Solving
Judging the "effectiveness" of something
also is a problem-solving
approach. It is possible to evaluate a reading or subject by examining
what problem it is attempting to solve, and how well or poorly it solves
it. To do so, you simply need to evaluate it using the steps of a good
problem solving system. To see the typical steps in such a system, go to
Thinking--Problem Solving" in this Web site's "General Activities
and Exercises" page (also accessible through each chapter's
"Activities and Exercises" page).
Evaluation of Information
critical-thinking expert John Chaffee's "Questions
to Evaluate Information" at
Evaluation of Logic
critical-thinking expert John Chaffee's "Logical
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Writing an Editorial That
Critiques Methods, Not Beliefs
One specialized form of an evaluation is a newspaper editorial that critiques a
way of doing or saying something, rather than disagreeing with the content of
it. More often, of course, an editorial takes a stance opposing someone or
something. However, editorial writers sometimes will agree in essence with
the subject; however, the editorialist will comment on how the subject is using
an inappropriate, counterproductive, or otherwise incorrect method of arguing or
acting. A typical example of this type of editorial, an evaluative one, is
the editorialist who agrees with the goal of an environmentalist, a judge, a
community group, or a business, but the editorialist believes the person or
group in question is proceeding incorrectly in trying to reach one of its goals.
The editorialist may claim the offending party is unethical, impractical,
injudicious, guilty of illegal acts, or simply poor in its procedures.
Usually such an editorial proceeds first with a brief summarizing statement
claiming the editorialist's and the subject's similar belief or goal, and an
evaluation of how the subject's method is at fault. The editorialist then
proceeds to enlarge on these, often giving a brief description of exactly what
he or she believes in common with the subject. The main part of the
editorial then is devoted to evaluating the subject's poor procedure, point by
point, offering examples and explanations. Usually, in the final
paragraphs (or at the end of each individual point), the editorialist then will
paint a picture of what the subject should be doing to successfully reach his or
The tone usually is one of balance and fairness, sometimes even regret (at
having to correct the subject's methods), though occasionally the subject's
methods may seem so ethically inappropriate that the editorialist may take a
slight tone of displeasure. As in typical editorial writing, the tone can
be somewhat stronger than in academic writing. Even so, there should be,
equally or more so, an overall feeing of fairness and logic. For more on
editorial writing, see "Advanced
Methods" in the thesis essay chapter.
Writing Evaluative Conclusions in a Business Report, Performance Review, or
The most common type of formal
professional and business
writing (other than letters) probably is the "Professional
Report." Often, a professional business report simply is a step-by-step, objective
description of a system, project, or person. However, in some situations,
a writer may be asked to provide evaluative conclusions as well. If that
is the case, an evaluative system must be clear to both the writer and his or
her audience: if it is not obvious (or legal concerns require full reporting),
then the writer should be careful to describe what evaluative criteria are being
used. In this kind of report, the evaluative comments may occur at the end
of each topic section, as a separate evaluative topic section at the end, or
briefly as part of the conclusion.
A job performance review or a systems review are specific types of business
reports that require thorough evaluation. These types of reports can be
broken into topic sections as described above. The introduction and/or
first topic section should, however, very clearly describe the subject, the need
or purpose of the review, and the criteria that will be used. To see more
about writing a simple business report, go to "Professional
Report" in this textbook.
Writing a Recommendation
recommendation report is a specific type of
business or professional paper with its own, specific pattern of
development. It is an evaluative paper in that it uses a thoroughly
developed set of criteria in order to judge the value or usefulness of several
differing proposals. It is a rich, complex, and--for those who enjoy
business writing--rewarding evaluative method of writing. To see more, go
to the "Recommendation Report" chapter
in the "Writing for Work" section of this textbook.
Writing a Critical Review
This section--"Responding to Readings"--also covers methods of "Writing
a Critical Review." A critical review combines three
to four types of papers from this section: summary, argument or analysis, and
evaluation. Often a critical review reviews--and evaluates--a book, play,
art show, or some other creative production.
OnlineGrammar.org's "Chapter 16.
Research Writing, Plagiarism, &
Samples" also has links to evaluation of research resources.
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The Modes in Evaluation
If you are working with the rhetorical modes, you sometimes can evaluate a text
by describing how well or poorly the rhetorical modes in it are used. This
is true whether the basic structure and substructures use argumentation or other
modes such as definition, example, cause and effect, classification,
comparison/contrast, and process.
Texts sometimes are set up, organized, or formed using the modes as structural
patterns. If so, its structure probably looks something like this:
Introduction: Issue or Main Argument
Body Sections: Rhetorical Mode Development (Comparison/Contrast,
Classification, Exemplification, Process, etc.)
Conclusion: Concluding Argument
Often, however, a number of different modes may be used repeatedly as each
point, reason, or explanation is developed. For example, the mode of
exemplification often is used over and over--because, as the text makes a series
of points, it may also use a series of examples about those points; or, for
example, the text might use cause and effect to prove one point, exemplification
to prove another point, and classification to prove yet another. There may even
be a definition mode in the introduction or before the first point is made.
It is possible to evaluate a text entirely on the quality, quantity, and
usefulness of its rhetorical modes, step by step. However, even if you use
a different evaluative system, your awareness of the use of the modes in the
text will help you better understand the connections between all the various
points, arguments, explanations, and examples or other proofs, thus improving
your evaluative comments using whatever criteria you have chosen.
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for Students: Writing an Evaluation
This part briefly discusses the theories that
instructors use to teach and assign this kind of paper.
Evaluation is, according to contemporary critical thinking theory, the highest
level of thinking to which one can aspire. Benjamin Bloom described evaluation
in such a way in 1964 when he listed his "Taxonomy of Thinking
--Bloom, B. S., ed. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.
: David McKay, 1964.
A taxonomy is--as
explained in more details on the "Theory"
page of the "Writing an Analysis" chapter--a classification system in
which each element is a step requiring the one before it. In other words, Bloom's "evaluation" includes not only its
own particular intellectual behavior or methods, but also all the other thinking
skills listed beneath it. All of these skills are necessary to good
evaluation. If you think about it in terms of what a good judge must do,
it makes sense. If a judge is to accurately deliver a verdict in a complex
case, he or she must be able to recall all the evidence presented in court and
also all relevant laws, comprehend the meaning of each, apply the laws to the
evidence, analyze which laws apply to the evidence and how, synthesize the
several possible results or outcomes of this analysis, and only then, finally,
evaluate which result or outcome is the most correct.
in an evaluation process, you usually don't consciously tell yourself to use
each of these steps, one by one. However, good evaluation--not a
"snap judgment" but rather a thorough, balanced one--almost always
involves some kind of process. The
solving process is one such method of arriving at a final evaluation; it
duplicates in many respects the typical process people go through when they
solve a problem well (with emphasis on well). This section,
"Responding to Readings," in this textbook offers another type of
critical-thinking process that is taxonomic and that has evaluation at its
highest level. This taxonomic list can be applied to readings, as has been
done in this section, but it also can be applied to understanding and dealing
with professional and personal matters. Each of these levels of thinking
represents one of the chapters in this section:
analyzing (sorting and regrouping)
Another way to describe this is to use the acronym "D.A.R.E. (not the high
school anti-drug program, but rather something new!). If you place this in
a taxonomic arrangement, with its beginning at the top (not at the bottom, as in
Bloom's taxonomy above), the result is as follows:
Describe your text (or your
problem or need) and all its surrounding issues.
Analyze your information by
sorting it according to several possible systems.
Respond or react by offering several possible
pros and cons--arguments--from public, academic, or other spheres and/or
your own carefully weighed thoughts..
Having collected all this data,
evaluate which is best using a set of criteria: judge it as a legal
judge might, using the evidence to critique it fairly and squarely.
(For additional discussion about using these four steps of
D.A.R.E., go to "The
Steps of D.A.R.E. in a Critical Review" in another chapter.)
If you have read most or all of this section of responding to readings, this,
then, is one of the final results. You now have a very concrete set of
methods to use at each step for assessing the quality of a written work.
This evaluative system--D.A.R.E.--also is transferable to work and to personal
life. You simply develop each step, one at a time, to examine a person,
situation, activity, problem, or need.
However, ultimately, what most counts from your reading of this chapter or this
section is not that you remember any one, particular evaluative system.
Rather, what you should remember is that any evaluation can--and
should--be broken into steps so that you gain a complete picture of what you are
evaluating and your options for evaluating it. Problem solving and
evaluative systems are natural to good, careful thinking, and if this chapter
has taught you simply to take the time to develop some kind of careful,
thoughtful steps in evaluating, it has met its most important goal.
For a discussion of the value of writing about readings in composition courses, please go to
this major section's "Theory
and Pedagogy for Instructors" page.
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