ENGL 102 – Spring 2019
We live in an age where anyone with an opinion can share his/her perspective with the rest of the
world thanks to the democratizing power of the Internet. This adds a number of interesting voices to
the various conversations that are ongoing in our culture. Yet, because this new technology does
not contain any sort of vetting process, people may voice opinions that are not supported by fact,
research, critical reasoning, experience, knowledge, or common sense. It can be difficult for a
serious thinker to decode all this chatter sometimes, and the bulk of opinions being expressed at
any one moment means that we must develop some skills that will allow us to quickly and correctly
analyze the quality of any argument we might come across.
STEP 1: CHOOSING A TOPIC & SETTING UP YOUR GRADING CRITERIA
Where your next essay will ask you to write persuasively developing an academic argument, the
"Evaluation Essay" is going to require a different form of argument on your part. You are going to be
asked to create a set of criteria or standards that will allow you to evaluate (or play judge to) the
quality of something you decide to test. For example, if you consider yourself an "expert" on pop
music, you will set up a list of evaluative criteria that we can use to determine what makes for the
"perfect pop song." If you consider yourself an expert on Disney tween TV, then you'll set the
standards for the tween show. And so on. **I’ll use pizza throughout the instructions for my
example, so you’ll need to avoid that topic option.
What you evaluate is entirely up to you, but obviously you need to have access to some testing
possibilities and you may want to think about other factors (such as transportation, price, etc.)
when choosing. You might think of yourself as an expert in French pastries, but if there are no
French pastry shops in Morgantown, that's not going to work out too well for this paper. Maybe test
doughnuts instead and see how local and chain donuts match up against one another. You will
ultimately need 4 distinct test subjects, so keep that in mind as you are choosing your topic. **You
must run the tests between Jan 31-Feb 14, so make sure testing your topic is achievable in that
Once you’ve chosen a topic, you’ll want to start by creating a list of as many qualities or categories
for grading as possible before winnowing it down. Eventually you'll need four criteria that you can
use to conduct your test. Each of these criteria will be fully developed in its own paragraph that
explores your perfect/ideal version of that criteria. It's not enough to say "good pizza has crispy
crust." You have to be able to define for me what specific qualities you are looking for in that crust
in some detail. What separates a 5-star crust from a 3-star? From a 1-star? This should be generic
information—what makes an ideal crust, for example, and not “Papa John’s is my ideal crust.”
Ultimately you should end up with 4 separate criteria paragraphs, each focusing on an individual
criterion. Make sure the criteria is clearly introduced and described, as well as give your reasons for
that criteria’s overall importance/relevance. Then explain, being very descriptive, the differences
between what constitutes a 5-star, 3-star, 1-star rating for that criteria.
The Evaluation Criteria Draft, consisting of just these four paragraphs, is due in class on
Thursday Jan 31. Bring 2 copies to class for peer review.
STEP 2: RUN YOUR TEST
Like any good judge, you'll need to build some authority (ethos) in order to do a successful job, and
so after you've chosen your area of expertise and set your standards, you are going to have to find a
way to test according to your standards. For example, if you established a set of "rules" for what
makes a good pizza, then you'll want to test those rules. How? You'll need to go try a few slices of
pizza from the local pizzerias in town and take some notes. How do they stack up against your ideal
pizza? Where do they grade in each category you are using to measure them?
You need four distinct test subjects. Remember: you are running your test according to the
standards you set up before you start your survey. So it is important to give yourself detailed
enough grading criteria, and that you keep those points in mind as you run your test.
The following are some points to consider as you test the subject against your standards/criteria:
• Does the test subject make any claims about its quality upfront? (e.g. "Best Ribs in the State")
• What evidence or authority does your test subject have? This may require some light research.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. (e.g. "John has been playing blues guitar for 12 years")
• What qualities are most important to you when you are evaluating your test subject?
• What personal biases might you have? (Note: Bias does not simply mean "disagreeing." It means
having a conflict of interests that prevents the author from being fair.)
Feel free to interview or poll others while you are running your test. Get their opinions. Grab a few
quotes. This will make your paper much more entertaining and it will provide you with evidence
that you can use to support your findings! (Just make sure you get the names of anyone you
question or survey.)
STEP 3: SET UP YOUR THESIS
Once you've run your test, it's time to create a thesis according to your findings. If you reviewed a
bunch of local ska bands and found one band to be better than the rest, then your thesis might be
that "Band X is the best ska band in Morgantown." If you found that all of the bands failed to live
up to the criteria you set, you might argue "There are no great ska bands in Morgantown." Or
perhaps you want to start with your research question in your intro and use the paper (and its
conclusion) to answer that question. *You must have a clearly defined thesis, and state it in the
introduction to your essay.
STEP 4: SHARE YOUR FINDINGS
You've got a working thesis (or research question) in place. It may change some as you write, but for
now it's good to start. Now walk me through each test subject and how they fared against each
standard you set. Your goal here is to use your findings as evidence in order to prove your thesis.
For example, if "Quality of Crust" was one of your criteria for judging a good slice of pizza, then tell
me what you discovered about the pizza crust from each place you ate at. Then determine which
place had the best crust and why. Repeat the process with each point of evaluation.
There are a couple basic structures for outlining this essay.
-In one introductory paragraph, list the 4 criteria and the 4 test subjects as well as explain your
overall goals and provide a clear, argument-driven thesis statement.
-In four separate paragraphs, you’ll clearly define and explain your 4 criteria. This will be the same
thing as the Criteria Rough Draft, and you’ll be able to just cut and paste those paragraphs into the
main essay here.
Then comes the Test Subjects section, and here’s where you’ll have options.
*note, this is an entirely new and separate section from the criteria paragraphs that precede it.
Describe Test Subject 1:
-Apply Criteria 1
Test Subject 2:
and so on..
Apply Criteria 1:
-Describe Test Subject 1
-Test Subject 2
-Test Subject 3
-Test Subject 4
-Test Subject 1
-Test Subject 2
-Test Subject 3
-Test Subject 4
and so on…
A clear conclusion that wraps up the essay; see Step 5.
STEP 5: QUALIFIERS AND CONCLUSION
Once you've finished relating your findings, it's time to return to the thesis of your paper and render
your final verdict. After giving us the run-down, you should summarize your findings, focusing in
on the "winner(s)" of your test. As you do this, you'll want to consider any mitigating factors that
might undermine the argument you made in your thesis. For example, if you are arguing that
Mario's Fishbowl is the best restaurant in WV, have you tested enough restaurants to be sure? Did
you try enough items from the menu to get a relevant sample? Did you try similar items at the
various places you ate in order to control your test? How might you revise your thesis for accuracy?
Perhaps your argument about Mario's Fishbowl becomes this: "Mario's is the best place for a college
student to get an inexpensive lunch in Morgantown." Consider what you would like your reader to
do with this bit of information? What are you suggesting in this paper? How do your findings
answer a question, resolve a problem, or satisfy a need?
STEP 6: INTRODUCTION AND STYLE
Take a look at how you start your paper. Is it vivid? Interesting? Catchy? Do we know why you are
undertaking this experiment? Have you done enough to establish your own "expert status" (ethos)
or do you need to say more about your qualifications to run this test? Have you made an argument
for what makes this particular survey exigent? Have you gotten us excited about the topic of your
Any good review has a sense of style and so this is going to be a very important element in this
paper. If you are boring about it, no one is going to want to read what you have to say. They also
aren't going to want to try the pizzeria you suggested, go golfing at the golf course you checked out,
listen to the bands you reviewed, etc. You must be personable, funny, engaging, and fun to read.
Take the assignment seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. If you recognize the inherent
silliness of comparing beef jerky brands against one another, then have fun with it. Be overly
dramatic and play for laughs. If you ate the worst egg roll of your entire life during this experiment
or read the worst newspaper or listened to the world's worst beat-boxer, then don't hold back. Give
us the experience in every excruciating detail and let us suffer along with you. (This might be a good
paper for you to try out a few metaphors.)
There are no specific topic restrictions, but I do want you to keep the following in mind:
• Length: In order to do this kind of evaluation properly, you will need to select a topic rich enough
and varied enough to give you material to write about.
• Cost: You aren't required to spend money on this project. There are plenty of things you can
evaluate for free. That said, if you want to spend money, that's fine. Just do so within reason
• Locality: Again, you have to be able to run your test while writing this paper. Don't make your
experiment: "Finding the best chowder house in Boston" (unless you anticipate being in
Boston sometime in the next couple weeks).
• Appropriateness: While you will need to pick a topic that is arguable, you should not pick any
subject that seems inappropriate for a college classroom (e.g. "Kindest Drug Dealer in
Morgantown"). Choose wisely, and if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask me.
Note: As with any paper, I reserve the right to veto any topic at my discretion.
EVALUATIVE GRADING CRITERIA:
• The presentation of clear, artful, and fully developed evaluation criteria.
• Do you have 4 distinct criteria and 4 distinct test subjects?
• A clear and defendable thesis or a pointed and narrow research question that takes into
consideration the scope of your test and any necessary qualifiers.
• Skillful analysis of the evidence taken from your test.
• Be descriptive. Help your reader experience the evaluation alongside you.
• An appropriate tone--do you take an intelligent attitude toward your subject matter while still
being engaging? Originality is a huge bonus.
• The strength of your conclusion--is your verdict fair and fairly articulated? Is it clear why
someone looking at your evaluation should care about your verdict? Do you offer thoughtful
suggestions on what a reader might do with your findings?
• A discernible and logical organization of your ideas, including accurate paragraph breaks.
• Attention to grammar and punctuation conventions, appropriate word choice, and varied
• Length -- Does the essay meet the minimum word count of 2000 words?
Your Topic must be finalized during your conference on Thurs Jan 24. The Evaluation Criteria
Rough Draft is due in class on Thurs Jan 31. Bring 2 (stapled) copies to class for review. The Full
Rough Draft (which should be a complete draft, including the evaluation criteria section) is due in
class on Thurs Feb 14. Bring 2 (stapled) copies to class for peer review. The Final-for-Now Draft is
due in class on Thurs Feb 21, as part of the Midterm Portfolio. Both the Full Rough Draft and
the Final-for-Now Draft should have the word count listed on the paper. I do not accept emailed
papers, nor do I accept late papers. If it is not turned in on-time, it cannot count towards your final
The Unsung Heroes
Nobody enjoys doing the dirty work. The behind-the-scenes jobs that keep organizations
running smoothly, such as janitors, are almost as important as the people in charge. Underwear
are the janitors of clothing, and it is important to choose the ones that best satisfy the demands of
the job. The four types I will be evaluating are boxers, briefs, boxer briefs, and long underwear.
In order to maintain continuity, the brand Hanes will be used to represent each candidate. They
will be tested based on the following four criteria: basic comfort, breathability, performance
throughout a normal day, and performance while exercising. Using these parameters, I will
determine which type is superior and award the crown for best men’s underwear.
My first criteria for the underwear is basic comfort of wearing them while at rest, with
very minimal movement. This will include the kind of material they are made of, the fit on my
body when wearing them, the tag on the back, and the waistband. As far as the material, my ideal
underwear are made of a soft cotton. The next best would be woven cotton, which is typically the
material used for boxers. After that would be waffle fabric, which is often used for long
underwear and is not as soft. The fit on my body is a complicated thing to describe but simply
put, I prefer them to go down to just above mid-thigh length and be somewhat tight to the skin,
but not completely form fitting. The waistband should not be irritating or too tight, and there
should definitely not be a tag that flaps around or rubs on the skin. If the underwear fits all these
ideals, they will receive a 5. If they are lacking in one or more, that drops to a 3, and if none of
the ideals are met, then a 1 is in order.
The second criteria will be breathability. This will mostly focus on the amount of air flow
that occurs when wearing the underwear and the resulting temperature-based comfort. The last
thing I want when wearing underwear is to let my “privates” marinate all day and feel like I need
a shower by the time I get home. Basically, the more air flow the better. The ratings for this
section are pretty simple since there is only one factor. Full breathability and air flow will earn a
5, partial breathability gets a 3, and the underwear will receive a 1 if they feel more like a slowcook Crock-Pot than clothing.
The third criteria is the performance of the underwear over a course of a normal day. This
includes many things, one of which is how annoying they are. The perfect underwear would go
unnoticed throughout the day because they would not be bothering me at all, whereas a pair that
keep riding up in my area and require constant adjustments would not grade well. Another factor
in this criteria is how they feel while sitting down. Some underwear are soft and essentially are
invisible when seated, while others are not as soft and can hurt your butt and thighs a bit when
sitting on them. Also, this will include flexibility. I like my underwear to be flexible and stretchy,
not rigid and restricting. The scoring for this section will be very similar to basic comfort, where
meeting all requirements is a 5, missing one or more is a 3, and hitting on none of them is a 1.
The final criteria I plan on using is the performance of the underwear while exercising.
For this, I will also be checking for flexibility, since that is hugely important when exercising. If
they make it difficult to go through a full range of motion, they will be penalized. Also, it will be
important to see how they handle sweat. Obviously they will not be water repellent, but I will be
looking to see if any of the comfort factors are compromised significantly by the underwear
becoming sweaty. Also, it would be ideal if they are able to dry somewhat quickly, so I will try
to compare that as well. A pair that are flexible, comfortable, and handle sweat well will receive
a score of 5. Again, missing one or more will lower the score to 3, and a 1 will be given if none
After testing the four types of underwear, I have come away with valuable lessons about
each of them. When it comes to the basic comfort of wearing them, there are clear winners and
losers. The boxer briefs were made of a soft cotton material and had a similarly soft waistband,
which is a good start. Also, the fit was nearly perfect; they go down to mid-thigh and are tight
enough to keep everything secure, but loose enough to still be comfortable and flexible. Lastly,
there was no tag to worry about moving around and scratching at my skin. The boxer briefs
easily meet each of the four main portions of this criteria, earning them a 5.
As for the briefs, also sometimes referred to as “tighty whities”, they were more of a
mixed bag. The soft cotton material and waistband were up to standard, in addition to the fact
that there was no tag. However, the fit on my body was arguably the worst of the four subjects,
with the bottoms of the underwear wrapping around the groin and upper thigh with a somewhat
tight elastic. I have never been a huge fan of this kind of fit because it feels very tight and is
prone to causing wedgies, which will be covered in the performance category. Since the briefs
were able to meet three of the four ideals, they will receive a 3 for this section, but the fit brings
them down a significant amount.
Like the briefs, the boxers ended up being a combination of good and bad. The material
was a woven cotton, which is acceptable but sort of feels like wearing bedsheets with a low
thread count. The waistband had an uncomfortable material on the inside and the tag was easily
noticeable, which hurts them. When it comes to the fit, the boxers are a good length but too loose
for me, personally. I prefer my underwear to have some level of tightness in order to keep
everything in place, and these just do not get the job done. Surprisingly, the boxers will receive a
score of 1 for the basic comfort, since they do not meet any of my ideals for this criteria.
Lastly, the long underwear were not great but had some positives. First of all, the ones I
tested were made of a waffle fabric, which is not very soft or flexible. The fit on my body was
obviously not great considering they go down to my ankles, and it felt like I was wearing an
uncomfortable pair of joggers because of the form-fitting nature. On the bright side, the
waistband was reasonably comfortable and the tag was a non-factor. Since they meet two of the
ideals, they will scrape by with a 3 for basic comfort, but they are lacking some important
Moving on to breathability, the boxer briefs did fairly well for the most part. When I was
walking to class outside, I definitely felt some heat building up, but there was also enough
ventilation to keep things manageable. When seated, the boxer briefs are able to loosen up a bit
on my thighs ...
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