A critical evaluation may refer to a written essay or simply a specific mode of thinking. The main feature in either case is critical analysis, which relies on questioning beliefs or assertions. In other words, a critical evaluation tests the validity of a claim. Factors such as objectivity and reliability are thus important. When this questioning occurs in a structured written format, a critical evaluation essay results.
Certain traits favor a critical evaluation. For one, an individual should be a keen observer and listener, as gathering a full spectrum of information about a subject is crucial for critical evaluations. The individual should also ideally be objective, since a willingness to consider all viewpoints better equips an evaluator with the ability to evaluate those viewpoints. Perhaps most importantly, the evaluator should be flexible in his or her thinking, because studying and challenging a notion often requires revising the individual’s own beliefs and incorporating ever-changing new information.
Some crucial concepts inform the critical evaluation. These include the following: the clarity of an argument, its impartiality, its relevance, and its comprehensiveness. In scientific research, the validity and reliability of theories must further be met. Higher-order thinking that involves forming connections between abstract ideas and concrete applications is also a cornerstone of critical evaluations.
Challenges of a critical nature can manifest on a number of levels. For one, the evaluator must assess his or her goals in the evaluation and any possible biases that exist. The validity of the evidence used to arrive at a conclusion must also be examined, as should the sources — especially if those sources are other people — of that evidence. Finally, each possible conclusion should be evaluated with equal weight, as should any rebuttals to each conclusion.
Critical evaluations are abundant in everyday life. Courtroom juries often critically evaluate evidence in order to arrive at a verdict. Politicians claim to use critical evaluation in order to establish the right guidelines for a region’s citizens. Scholars and historians debate and gain insight into the past through critical analysis. Nearly every decision ever made has derived from critical evaluation. These decisions may be large-scale such as the decision to enter a war or to accept a job offer, or they can be mundane activities like choosing a sandwich or pizza topping.
Writing a critical evaluation typically involves tackling a specific topic and questioning a commonly held assumption. For example, a typical paper might challenge the need for homework in schools. The outline of such a paper would usually include a background of the assertion and its reason for being. An evaluation might then take each point made in favor of homework and challenge its worth. In the conclusion, the essay writer might either back the supposition or reject it.