Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

7.4: Evaluation Arguments

  • Page ID
  • Audio Version (June 2020):

    What is an evaluation argument?

    Evaluation arguments make a claim about the quality of something, whether that be a film, a presidential candidate, or a new cancer drug. We can think of them as answering the question "How good or bad is it?"

    Evaluation arguments usually need to define and justify the criteria they use to make the evaluation. These criteria may consist of moral standards, aesthetic standards, or tests of successful functioning. Depending on how controversial the criteria are, the argument may need to defend and explain them. In cases where there are multiple valid criteria, the writer may need to rank them in order of importance and justify this ranking. Finally, the argument will need to provide evidence of the way in which the subject meets or does not meet the criteria.

    For example, an editorial supporting Alyesha Jenkins for mayor would need to explain what the city should be looking for in a mayor at the moment. The editorial might argue that the top priority should be finding someone who has a workable plan to address the homelessness crisis. It might then go on to identify as secondary priority finding someone who has been an effective leader of a large organization. Finally, it might argue that finding a candidate who will focus on ending police brutality in the city should be the third priority.

    Given these criteria, it could go on to describe Alyesha Jenkins' concrete, popular plan on homelessness, background as a successful city supervisor and head of a law firm, and past statements on police brutality and possible new body camera policies. It might concede that Ellen Ramirez, as a Black Lives Matter organizer, has more experience and momentum around ending police brutality but then note that Ellen Ramirez does not come close to Alyesha Jenkins on the more important criteria about the homelessness crisis and leadership experience. An opposing argument that put ending police brutality first might defend that ranking of the criteria and use it to promote Ellen Ramirez.

    Of course, any time an evaluation argument uses criteria it will need to provide evidence of the ways in which its subject meets or does not meet those criteria.

    Sample annotated evaluation argument 

    The essay "Universal Health Care Coverage for the United States" can serve as an example. Annotations point out how the author uses several evaluation argument strategies.  

    Practice Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Reflect on the following questions to construct your own evaluation argument. 

    • What makes a person a good role model?  Choose your top three criteria.  
    • How would you rank those criteria in order of importance?
    • Choose two prominent public figures from history, pop culture or politics, dead or alive, who would be interesting to compare as role models. 
    • Evaluate each person according to the three criteria you identified. 
    • Which figure comes out as the better role model?  
    • If you ranked the criteria differently, would the other one come out ahead?
    • What is most controversial in your evaluation?  Is it the choice of criteria, the ranking of the criteria, or the idea that your figure fits certain criteria?