What Is an Evaluation Essay and Why Should You Care?

If I asked why you love the pizza place across town but hate the pizzeria two blocks away, you’d be able to give me a list of reasons, right?

businessman-607834_640If you can answer this question, then you can write an evaluation essay. Okay, it’s a little bit harder than telling someone why you love a pizza joint, but not much.

So what is an evaluation essay, and why should you care?

Here to help me explain (almost) everything you need to know about evaluation essays is Al, a hip business man who takes pride in evaluating most things in his daily life.

What Is an Evaluation Essay?

An evaluation essay is similar to a review, but it is more specific.

If you’re writing a review (on Yelp perhaps), you can simply explain why you did or did not like something. You don’t need any specific criteria or reasons.

If you’re writing an evaluation essay, you’ll need to choose a topic and explain both positive and negative aspects of the topic. You’ll need to develop specific criteria and offer solid evidence to convince your readers to agree with your evaluation. (Sounds a little like an argumentative essay, doesn’t it?)

Now that you have a basic understanding of the purpose of an evaluation essay, let’s get into the details and start writing.

How to Write an Evaluation Essay in 3 Easy Steps

Step 1: Choose a Topic


Unless your professor specifies what you should be evaluating, your options for an evaluation essay are pretty much endless. Just about any person, place, or thing works for a topic.

That being said, choose your topic carefully. You want to write about something you know about and something you have a strong opinion about.

If you have no opinion and no knowledge as to whether or not the new Ford F-150 is a great truck, it’s probably best not to use it as your topic for an evaluation essay. If you’ve owned three F-150s and swear you’ll never buy another type of truck, then you may have a good idea for a topic.

businessman-607834_640Our friend, Al, loves nothing more than to sip coffee at a cafe. He raves about his favorites and warns people of cafes to avoid. He has visited all but one cafe in his town, and because he has so much passion for coffee and cafes, he plans to evaluate a new cafe for his evaluation essay.

(If coffee and cafes aren’t your thing and you need some topic ideas for your essay, read 20 Evaluation Essay Topics to Help Spark Your Next Paper.)

Step 2: Determine Your Criteria

Create about three to five categories of clear and specific criteria to evaluate. These are the standards by which you’ll judge or evaluate your topic.

Using too few categories won’t provide you with enough information to effectively evaluate your topic.

Using too many categories, on the other hand, means you’ll be overwhelmed with information and won’t have enough time or space to develop sufficient evidence to support your judgments.

Did I mention that your criteria should be specific? (I know I did, but I’m saying it again for emphasis, so pay close attention!)

Here’s a quick example to illustrate the importance of choosing specific criteria.

red xDon’t write: “I think everyone should see Scary Movie because it’s great.”

This type of statement is too broad and doesn’t provide any criteria to evaluate your topic. How do you evaluate “great”?

green checkDo write: “The dark lighting used throughout the movie creates an eerie and ominous mood essential to any horror film.”

This statement uses lighting as a specific criteria and lets you judge whether or not the lighting is effective.

You don’t have to follow my advice and choose specific criteria, but you should. It’s good advice.

businessman-607834_640Remember Al? He’s writing his evaluation essay about cafes. Which criteria should he use in his paper?


His list of potential criteria looks like this: coffee, food, atmosphere, cafe patrons, service, location, price, and evening entertainment.

Al’s list has a total of 8 possible criteria.  This is far too many, so he needs to narrow the criteria to 3 or 4 that he feels are most important.

Al narrows his final list to: location, coffee, and atmosphere.

This specific list allows Al to use three points (location, coffee, and atmosphere) to make a judgment as to whether or not the cafe is a good one.

Step 3: Include Evidence to Support Your Judgment

Whether you have a positive or negative opinion on your subject, you’ll need to provide evidence to convince your readers.

If you tell your friends, “You really should watch Psycho some day because the acting is great,” your friends are going to ask, “What’s so great about the acting?” You’ll need to give them reasons to support your opinion.

The same is true when writing an evaluation essay. You’ll need evidence to support your judgment of each criteria you’ve created for your evaluation.

businessman-607834_640Al’s criteria to evaluate the cafe are: location, coffee, and atmosphere.


Here’s an example of how he might develop evidence to support his judgments about each.


Location: The cafe is two miles from Al’s home and about four miles from his office. The cafe is on a quiet side street in a low-traffic area. This means Al can get to the cafe quickly and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee almost any day of the week. This is solid evidence. Others visiting the cafe will appreciate its location and quiet charm too, so it’s reason enough for Al to give the location a favorable evaluation.


Coffee: Al has a passion for a good strong cup of black coffee. He doesn’t like frappuccinos, anything served “grande,” and doesn’t want a toffee nut latte with 1% milk and cinnamon sprinkles.This cafe offers two options for coffee: regular or dark roast. That alone means Al will write a positive evaluation of the coffee. He knows others might not appreciate the lack of choices, but he informs readers that this cafe appeals to those who like simple, black coffee. (Of course, he will consider price and taste, too.)


Atmosphere: The inside of the cafe is filled with dark mahogany. There are only a few over-stuffed chairs surrounding the fireplace. The roomy cafe is quiet and peaceful with only a low murmur of patrons’ voices. Al loves to sit quietly and contemplate as he sips his coffee. He likes the fact that he can easily have a conversation with the person across the table. He knows others will appreciate the quiet space too, so Al will give a thumbs up to the atmosphere.


It looks like Al gives this cafe 5 stars and a glowing evaluation. (Of course, his writing was made easier by his topic choice and use of specific criteria.)

Turn Your 5-Star Review into a 5-Star Evaluation Essay



If you happen to give your topic a stellar rating, that’s great. Even if it’s 4 stars or closer to 2 stars, that’s fine, too. Your task is to provide an honest evaluation using the criteria you’ve established.

After you’ve chosen your topic, developed criteria, and supported your judgments with evidence, it’s time to turn your notes into an “A” paper.

If you have lots of great ideas and already know what you’re going to write but are feeling a little rusty about how to format your paper, read the Essay Format Survival Guide.

For a quick overview of the evaluation essay, click here. If you need some help structuring your essay, try one of these outlines or use the 5-paragraph essay outline.

Of course, our 5-star Kibin editors can review your paper to make sure your professor gives it a positive evaluation!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.