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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns

Critical Strategies and Writing


Although it involves each of the thinking strategies discussed so far, evaluation is a type of comparative analysis. When evaluating, you assign value to your subject by comparing it to a standard or criteria. In the course of comparing, you might use cause and effect analysis to understand why your subject met some parts of your criteria and not others, and you may employ synthesis to establish your criteria. However, the primary activity in an evaluation is comparison and contrast.

What You Do When You Evaluate

The essential element of evaluation is the criteria. By “criteria” we mean a set of qualities with which you can assess the value of your subject. 

To understand more concretely what is meant by “criteria,” consider some real-life scenarios in which you, yourself, have performed an evaluation. 

  • Have you ever checked fruit or vegetables for brown spots or bruises before buying them at the grocery store?

  • Have you ever sniffed a piece of clothing to determine whether to wash it?  

  • Or have you ever been tasked with assessing the performance of an employee or asked to determine the quality of a product made by your employer?

In each case you’ve determined the quality of something based on what it should be: the look of a piece of fruit-based on what it ought to look like, the smell of a piece of clothing based on what it ought to smell like, work product based on qualities it ought to have. The criteria make up the theoretical standard of what ought to be.

When to Evaluate

As you do in your everyday life, you will also encounter opportunities to evaluate as you write academic papers. In humanities and literature courses, you may write evaluations of art, literature, drama, and music. In communications courses, you may evaluate user manuals, technical reports, or business proposals. In management courses, you may evaluate management techniques and their effectiveness in organizations of a certain size. In each case, the process is the same:

  • Establish the evaluation criteria (or the criterion).

  • Select the subject to which you will apply the criteria.

  • Evaluate how well your subject meets the criteria

  • Present your results, along with examples, to support the main points of your comparative analysis.

Key Takeaways

  • Evaluation means establishing criteria to measure ideas and information, and then examining whether they meet the criteria.
  • We evaluate so often in our daily lives, it is ingrained in our thinking patterns.

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