In order to evaluate something, you need to compare it with the best example of that particular thing. So, to help you develop your topic into an essay, there are two important questions to ask when you are choosing your topic to evaluate:
- First question: What category of a thing is it?
- Second question: What is the ideal example of something in that category?
What category is it?For the best evaluation essay, you want to compare your topic with things that are very similar, so try to narrow the category as much as possible. To get there, you want to keep on asking the question, "What kind is it?" What category does McDonald's fit into?
Answer to first question: Restaurant. (What kind of restaurant?) Fast food restaurant. (Better, but what kind of fast food?) Hamburger-serving fast food restaurant. (This is what you want!)
So if you were evaluating McDonald's, you would want to compare it to other fast food restaurants that mostly serve hamburgers.
Now the second question: What is the ideal example of something in that category? What makes that example better than others? Thinking about what you consider to be the very best example of something in the category of what you are reviewing can help you decide what criteria you will use, and also what judgement you can make. For example, here is a list of criteria my students have come up with for an ideal burger fast food restaurant:
- looks clean
- serves food fast
- makes it easy to order
- has great fries
- has options on the menu
- offers large drinks with free refills
- serves juicy burgers with lots of grease
- doesn't cost a lot of money
No two people will come up with exactly the same list, but most restaurant reviews look at the following criteria:
Answer to second question: A great fast food burger joint offers great service, atmosphere, and food at a fair cost.
Now you know what your paper is going to be about how close McDonald's comes to this ideal.
Critical reviews, both short (one page) and long (four pages), usually have a similar structure. Check your assignment instructions for formatting and structural specifications. Headings are usually optional for longer reviews and can be helpful for the reader.
Summarising and paraphrasing are essential skills for academic writing and in particular, the critical review. To summarise means to reduce a text to its main points and its most important ideas. The length of your summary for a critical review should only be about one quarter to one third of the whole critical review.
The best way to summarise is to:
- Scan the text. Look for information that can be deduced from the introduction, conclusion and the title and headings. What do these tell you about the main points of the article?
- Locate the topic sentences and highlight the main points as you read.
- Reread the text and make separate notes of the main points. Examples and evidence do not need to be included at this stage. Usually they are used selectively in your critique.
Paraphrasing means putting it into your own words. Paraphrasing offers an alternative to using direct quotations in your summary (and the critique) and can be an efficient way to integrate your summary notes.
The best way to paraphrase is to:
- Review your summary notes
- Rewrite them in your own words and in complete sentences
- Use reporting verbs and phrases (eg; The author describes…, Smith argues that …).
- If you include unique or specialist phrases from the text, use quotation marks.