As simple as it sounds, an evaluation essay is the writer's opinion on the quality of an 'object' or lack thereof. The object in question could be a book, a movie, a short story, a television show, a meal in a restaurant, a recipe, a work of art, or anything else about which a person can form an opinion. Clearly, evaluation essay topics are nearly limitless. Here are five steps that writers can follow if they want to produce an essay of the highest possible quality (and ensure a good grade, of course).
Whatever you decide to evaluate, it is extremely important to set the criteria that you will be using. This enables you to evaluate fairly. Remember that evaluation essays are based on your opinion, but there needs to be some level of formality. Let's say for example, that you are going to be evaluating your experience at a restaurant. Prior to entering the establishment, you need to know by what standards you will be basing your evaluation. This can be accomplished by simply writing out your basic expectations. In this case that could be: I expect my food to be served at the proper temperature; I want my server to be polite and attentive without being intrusive or cutesy; I want the wine list to include a variety of options; I want the atmosphere in the restaurant to be fun, but quiet enough to carry on a conversation. The reason for establishing your criteria first is so that you will have a jumping off point from which to write when you are ready to begin, and that you are judging based on a fair set of criteria. Finally, if you are going to deviate from universally accepted criteria, that is fine. However, you must inform the reader that you are doing so.
One of the best ways to get a good idea of what makes a decent evaluation essay is to read an evaluation essay sample or two. Of course, it's also a great way to find out what isn't a decent evaluation essay. As you read, ask yourself a few questions. Does it seem as if the author is being fair? As the reader, do you feel as if you are being given enough information about the subject that is being reviewed? Do the writer's words read like an essay, or do you feel as if you are reading an online review? If applicable, is the writer using generally accepted standards as criteria, or does he or she appear to be using self-appointed criteria? If they are using their own criteria (which is fine), are they letting the reader know what that criteria is? Your instructor should be able to guide you to an appropriate evaluation essay example.
After you have finished reading, viewing, eating, observing, etc., it is extremely important to get as many thoughts out onto paper as quickly as possible. Write down what you like and disliked and why. Write down anything that surprised you. Write down what emotions you felt during the experience and what events during your experience were the catalysts for those emotions. As you are doing this, keep your list of predetermined criteria nearby for reference.
You have a few options when it comes time to build your outline. You can write in chronological order; you can split the outline into three parts by jotting down which elements met your criteria which elements did not, and finally which elements took you by surprise. A third way is to begin with the element that was the most disappointing and then build up to the element that was the most satisfying.
As you learn how to write an evaluation essay, please remember that there are still the usual steps to take. Make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand. Be descriptive. Check and double check for spelling and punctuation errors. Finally, allow a peer to read your rough draft and get his/her honest opinion.