Write an essay that categorizes the evidence you have up to this point in order to assess the strengths and weakness of various types of evidence, to draw some conclusions about your evidence and topic, and to take inventory of your research. Be sure to explain the categories you establish for comparing and contrasting your evidence and to make some sort of conclusion based on your criteria.
In this writing exercise you need to be especially careful about understanding your audience. If your main audience for this project is a group of readers who are already familiar with the evidence you will be comparing (because they are classmates that you’ve been collaborating with all semester, for example) and the purposes of your comparison, then you may not have to provide much summary of the research you are categorizing and evaluating.
On the other hand, if your main audience for this project is not already familiar with your research or the process you’ve gone through to categorize your evidence, you might have to provide both a detailed explanation of the process you went through to categorize your evidence and a summary of the evidence you are categorizing. When in doubt, you should assume that your readers are not familiar with the process of categorization or the evidence being categorized and evaluated.
Another important part of this writing exercise is focusing in on just a few categories in order to make an overall evaluation of the evidence. Remember: the goal of categorizing your evidence the way you have here is to make evaluations of your evidence that are interesting to you and potential readers. In the example discussed in the previous section of this chapter, there are five different “observations” or points that could be the focus of evaluation. While some of these observations could be combined for the purposes of an essay for this project, it would be very difficult for the writer to talk about all of these points and still have a focused and clear essay.
Questions to consider as you write your first draft
- Have you revisited your working thesis yet again? Based on the research and the writing that you have done, has it changed since the beginning of your project? Has it changed since chapter four? How?
- Have you gathered enough research to effectively categorize and evaluate it, at least five or six different pieces of evidence (and ideally more)?
- What sorts of categories are you using to “divide and conquer” your evidence? Which of your categories seem unique to your research project? Have you considered some of the categories suggested in the “Some Sample Categories” section of this chapter?
- Have you followed the guidelines discussed in the “Dividing, Conquering, and Categorizing: A Few Rules to Follow” section of this chapter? Can you fit all of your research into at least one of your categories? Have you avoided single item categories or “miscellaneous” categories? Is there a clear difference between your categories? Do your categories help you and your potential readers make sense of the evidence you are comparing?
- Did you chart your categories using a word processor’s table function, a spread sheet, or paper and pen/pencil as suggested in the “Charting Your Categories” section? Would additional evidence or categories make your comparisons more useful? If you didn’t create a chart similar to the example in this chapter, how did you decide to categorize your research in order to evaluate it?
- What observations did you make about your categorization chart? Were there relationships, comparisons, contrasts, or other connections between evidence and categories that you were expecting? Were there ones you weren’t? Did your categorization chart give you a better sense of the kinds of evidence you have? Did you get a sense of the kinds of evidence that you don’t have and perhaps need to research further?
- What sort of evaluations can you make about your evidence based on these categorizations? Do you notice any patterns within categories or between different categories? Did you find yourself making evaluative statements similar to the examples at the end of the “Charting Your Categories” section of this chapter?
- What do you think your audience will see as the one or two most important points of evaluation that you’ve learned from categorizing your evidence?
Revision and Review
If you made a chart to categorize your evidence as you wrote a draft of your essay, you might want to share that with your peers in the revision process. They might see something about the relationship between your pieces of evidence that you haven’t noted in your essay.
Here are some questions you and your classmates want to consider as you revise your critique essays (of course, you and your teachers might have other ideas and questions to ask in review too!):
- Is the writer’s evaluation and comparison of the research clear to readers? Do readers understand the point the writer is trying to make with this categorization and evaluation essay project? What would make this evaluation clearer?
- Is the writer providing sufficient summary and explanation of the research being categorized and evaluated for this group of readers? What additional information might some readers need to understand the writer’s point? Is there too much summary for the writer’s intended audience?
- Does the writer explain the categorization process they went through in evaluating their research? Do the categories make sense in understanding the research? As a reader, do you have any other suggestions for ways the writer could categorize their research?