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An evaluation essay is one in which the writer presents a case and renders an opinion or judgment about it. Such essays are often used to evaluate a single process, product, or situation, but they may also be used to compare two or more similar items in order to determine which is superlative. Evaluation essays are often assigned at all levels of formal schooling but may take many other forms, such as online product reviews and business cases written by management professionals.
Unlike essays that only state information, an evaluation essay seeks to present a subjective opinion. The key defining feature of such an essay, however, is its objective tone. The writer should form his opinion based on the facts of the case. This differs somewhat from a persuasive essay, in which the main goal is to sway the reader to the writer's position. In a persuasive essay, the writer begins with an opinion and then presents facts to support it, but in an evaluation essay, the writer begins with the facts of the situation and concludes an opinion from them.
To that end, an evaluation essay should begin with a clear description of the situation. For example, a writer might explain that he is seeking to find the best Chinese food restaurant in his town. He would then list all the restaurants he has visited and explain his criteria for judging each. He would also provide a description of his experience at each restaurant.
The second part of an evaluation essay should present a judgment based on the first section. For example, in the Chinese restaurant instance, the writer should state which restaurant he considers to be the best and should support the statement by listing the reasons he chose that particular establishment. These might include the quality of the service, the speed at which he was served, the cost of the meal, and the freshness of the food. He might further give examples of the service quality by pointing out that the server met special requests correctly, checked in with him frequently, and made sure that his drink was always full.
Evaluation essays also may simply evaluate one item on its own merits rather than comparing several. For example, the Chinese restaurant writer might instead have chosen to visit a single restaurant and determine whether or not it was a good place to eat. To formulate the essay, he would follow the same process of explaining his purpose, what criteria he used to evaluate the establishment, and then state his subsequent finding.