The Writing Center


Sometimes a professor will ask you to evaluate something. Here's a technique for doing that well. Along with this handout, you should have 1 page from the book The Overworked American by Harvard economist Juliet Schor. She has a chart there that shows that the average number of hours that housewives spend working in the home HAS NOT CHANGED (!) in over 50 years. What if your professor asked you NOT just what her theory was, but rather IS HER THEORY GOOD? EVALUATE HER THEORY. Expect lots of this from college.

  • Make a sentence like this one: Any good _____ does/has the ____

following qualities (and then list them). For example: Any good theory has the five following qualities: it explains behavior; it takes into account all the relevant material; it opens up for us a new way of seeing something; it's open to change; and it is simple enough to understand.

  • Then substitute in YOUR subject and see how many of the qualities

your subject has. For example, Juliet Schor's theory of constancy of housewives' hours working has all of the five following qualities: it explains behavior; opens up a new way of seeing the subject; takes into account relevant material; is open to change and is simple to understand.

  • Then decide whether it's good or bad on how many of the qualities your subject has. If my example has all 5, it's pretty good! if only 2, it's not that good.

First try this exercise with something simple that you can play with. You might try asking whether a particular movie is good.

The benefits of this exercise are that once YOU set the qualities, then your reader cannot argue with YOU. The reader can argue the qualities and that keeps things objective. Imagine using this strategy to hire a new secretary. Defining what qualities your employee should have makes things much less personal.

When you write your paper, you'll want to write out your 3 sentences but in a more lengthy manner. Each paragraph can talk about one quality if you like.