Although students may think at first that evaluations are really matters
Although students may think at first that evaluations are really matters of personal taste, we can demonstrate that most evaluations take the form of arguable propositions. Statements like “I hate my dorm room,” or “I like Obama” may actually become assertions of value that the writer can defend by setting out standards or criteria and showing how the subject fits those criteria. To determine whether an evaluation is really arguable, we can make the object or person the subject of a proposition of value:
My dorm room is bad.
Obama is good.
Our impulse is to immediately ask, “A good or bad what?” If we can put a noun after the
adjective, we probably have the beginning of an argumentative thesis:
My dorm room is a bad place to study.
Obama is a good statesman.
Once that assertion of taste has been translated into an assertion of value, students will
see that the next step is to define the predicate term, in this case by setting up the
standards or criteria by which we evaluate the subject. For example, we might define “a
good place to study” according to three criteria:
2) good lighting
3) plenty of space
Like all arguments then, evaluations require careful definition and precise use of
evidence, particularly those in which the stake are higher and the disagreement more
radical. Further, an evaluation never occurs in a vacuum; the purpose and audience of an
evaluation help determine its criteria, evidence, and focus.
There are three ways to construct an evaluation:
1) The basic evaluation: Batman: The Dark Knight is a good movie.
2) The comparative evaluation: the Harry Potter books are better than the
3) The superlative evaluation: Lance Armstrong is the greatest living
As in any evaluation, however, the same criteria must be applicable to the various objects
under analysis. For example, would it be fair to assert that Armstrong is the best because
he won seven consecutive Tour de France titles?
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