Oklahoma State University, ENGL 1113: Composition I–Evaluation

Below appears an authoritative version of the guidelines for the Evaluation (Eval), superseding any previously published information regarding the assignment


The First-Year Composition Program at Oklahoma State University describes the Eval as enabling students “To practice and develop the ability to construct, define, and support evaluative criteria; To generate a thesis based on evaluative criteria, revise the thesis in order to increase its effectiveness, and arrange, draft, and write a persuasive essay [sic].”

The program stipulates for the Eval that “Students will [each] write a 5-7 page essay [sic]. […] The essay will include carefully developed criteria, support for the criteria and for the evaluation as well as a thesis.”

Sections of the course taught by Prof. Elliott will need to complete a number of individual tasks to negotiate the assignment successfully:

Information about each follows, along with a copy of the grading rubric and relevant notes.

Determine a (Sub-) Genre against Which to Assess the Piece

Evaluating a thing requires determining what group that thing belongs to and against which it can be evaluated. For the Eval, which treats a piece of writing (see Note 1 below), the group of writing—that is, the genre or sub-genre—to which the piece belongs must be identified. In selecting such a group, a tension between inclusivity and manageability emerges; the group must be large enough to admit of reasonable assessment but not so large that the assessment ceases to have meaning. Groups that suggest themselves for the pieces likely to be treated by the Eval are

  • Pieces written by the same author as that of the piece to be treated in the Eval,
  • Pieces appearing in the same sub-section and on the same day as the piece to be treated in the Eval,
  • Pieces appearing in the same series as the piece to be treated in the Eval, and
  • Pieces addressing the same topic as the piece to be treated in the Eval.

Other appropriate groups may be used to incorporate the piece to be treated in the Eval. Each of those listed above, however, offers an easy avenue through which to begin the assessment that informs the essay, pointing to a group that negotiates the tension between breadth and inclusion well, making enough information available to carry out the next task in composing the Eval while not overwhelming the writer with materials to negotiate.

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Develop Criteria for Inclusion in the (Sub-) Genre

After determining what the most appropriate (sub-) genre against which to assess the piece treated by the Eval is, defining qualities for that (sub-) genre must be identified. That is, the features most typical of members of the group must be determined. The determination is accomplished through taking a sample of members of the group and examining them, identifying individual features thereof, and noting which features occur most commonly among the samples. For the Eval, the group members will be pieces of writing, and so their common features will derive from consideration of features and attributes of writing—text, context, and paratext.

No comprehensive list of common features can be provided, given the flexibility of writing, but ideas from which to begin include

  • Diction—How complicated / elevated is the usage in the texts?
  • Figuration—Do the texts make use of common or similar metaphors, similes, analogies, puns, references, cadences, and/or other figurative language constructions?
  • Images—Do the texts deploy visuals? Do they deploy the same kinds of visuals?
  • Phrasing—Are there particular words or phrases that occur frequently in the texts?
  • Referentiality—Do the texts pull information from the same or similar sources? Which sources tend to be used?
  • Register—At what level of formality / politeness (formal, semiformal, informal, casual) do the texts operate?
  • Section Divisions—Do the texts offer explicit sectional divisions? Are they indicated in a consistent manner?
  • Word Counts—How many words are in the texts? How many words are in each paragraph?

No single Eval needs to treat all of the features listed—or, indeed, any of them; the paper can be written examining other qualities entirely. Those listed above are offered as a guide rather than a stricture; they are to be used to help write the paper, not overdetermine its content.

Keep in mind that (sub-) generic boundaries are not absolute and cannot be. Not all qualities will be present in each example of the (sub-) genre, and not all criteria will be of equal importance. It is not necessary to have a comprehensive view to have a convincing one.

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Compose the Eval PV

After conducting the preliminary work to read, understand, and assess the article, draft an initial version of the Eval. Thinking of it as simply laying out criteria and applying them to a given piece of writing may be helpful in the endeavor.

In composing the initial version of the Eval, some prewriting will be helpful. The most significant criteria for inclusion in the (sub-) genre against which the piece treated in the Eval is to be assessed should be determined and explanations of them provided. Those criteria should then be applied to the piece to be treated in the Eval; that is, the piece should be assessed in terms of whether or not it fits those criteria, and to what extent it fits or fails to fit. From that assessment, a thesis indicating whether or not the piece being treated is or is not a representative example of the (sub-) genre should emerge. Again, not all criteria will be of equal importance, and fit within (sub-) generic boundaries may not be exact; the overall tendency should be what informs the thesis.

The Eval will benefit from an introduction that identifies and summarizes in a few sentences the article being analyzed before stating a thesis and providing an essay map. The paragraphs that follow—which should explicate the criteria against which the piece is assessed before demonstrating the degree of adherence to them—will benefit from being placed in either emphatic or topical order and having graceful, appropriate transitions between them. (A paragraph detailing counterargument to the thesis may also do well to be included early among the paragraphs explicating the criteria and indicating the degree of adherence thereto.) As with earlier papers, a conclusion suggesting what readers can do with the thesis—since the Eval should justify that thesis sufficiently to allow it to be used—is a good way to end.

It is not strictly necessary that the draft be the full required length of the Eval FV (five to seven full pages, formatted appropriately, equivalent to some 1,750 to 2,450 words—exclusive of Works Cited); it is assumed that the work is in progress. That said, a more complete draft is more desirable than a less complete one, largely in that it eases the later work that must be done and offers more opportunity for concrete improvement to the writing that is done. Please note also that the text composed in the draft may well need to change; keep in mind that it cannot get better without changing, and that all writing can be improved.

Please type the draft, either initially or as a later stage of composition, prior to class time on 9 November 2015. Please bring a typed and printed copy of that draft to class as the Eval PV on that day; class that day will concern itself with peer review, with students reading and commenting on one another’s papers. (Guidelines for how to do so will be provided.) This will allow students 1) access to other readers to help ensure comprehensibility of their narratives and 2) practice in reading and assessing written work, which they may then apply to their own writing moving forward.

A holistic minor assignment grade will be taken from the presence or absence of your Eval PV in class that day; the instructor will call for student drafts while peer review is in session during class that day. A reasonably complete or complete draft for the Eval PV will receive an A. One mostly in place but still lacking one or two major components will receive a B. One perhaps half-done will receive a C. One that lacks several major components will receive a D. One that is barely sketched-out will receive an F. Papers that are directed away from the thrust of the assignment will receive a lowered grade, as well. Students who arrive in class without drafts will receive a zero for the minor assignment grade, as will those who fail to attend class that day (excepting those covered under class attendance policies expressed in the syllabus and detailed during class discussions).

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Writing Center during the process of composing the Eval PV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Revise the Eval PV into the Eval RV

Following peer review of the Eval PV, you are strongly encouraged to revise your draft in light of the comments made by your peer reviewer/s. Work from global issues—such as strengthening the thesis and support for it—to more local issues—such as how best to transition between each major part, how to transition from paragraph to paragraph and sentence to sentence, and how best to phrase for concision and emphasis. Only after all of that is done should there be any thought of checking and amending as appropriate the surface-level features of formatting, spelling, punctuation, and the like.

The draft that results from that process of revision, the Eval RV, should still have an introduction that identifies and summarizes in a few sentences the article being assessed (see Note 2, below) before stating a thesis and providing an essay map; paragraphs supporting the thesis (possibly including a counterpoint) in either emphatic or topical order and having graceful, appropriate transitions between them; and a conclusion suggesting what readers can do with the thesis, since the Eval should justify that thesis sufficiently to allow it to be used. It does need to be at the full length of the assignment (five to seven full pages, formatted appropriately, equivalent to some 1,750 to 2,450 words—exclusive of Works Cited); even though it is still a work in progress, it should be nearing completion. It may still need to change, however, as all writing can be improved.

It is to the end of improving it yet further that the Eval RV is to be submitted to the instructor via D2L before the beginning of class time on 16 November 2015. It needs to be a .doc, .docx, or .rtf document, so that comments may be appended to it. A version of the form that will be returned to students along with the reviewed Eval RV appears below; assessment standards are outlined more thoroughly thereupon. A minor assignment grade will be taken therefrom. Ideally, the grade and comments will serve to motivate further improvement in advance of the final submission detailed below.

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Writing Center during the process of developing the Eval RV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Revise the Eval RV into the Eval FV

Once the Eval RV is returned—which will be via email through the D2L classlist—you are strongly encouraged to revise it in light of the comments made on it by the instructor. As with revising the Eval PV into the Eval RV, work from global issues— such as strengthening the thesis and support for it—to more local issues—such as how best to transition between each major part, how to transition from paragraph to paragraph and sentence to sentence, and how best to phrase for concision and emphasis. Only after all of that is done should there be any thought of checking and amending as appropriate the surface-level features of formatting, spelling, punctuation, and the like.

The draft that results from that process of revision, the Eval FV, should still have an introduction that identifies and summarizes in a few sentences the article being analyzed before stating a thesis and providing an essay map; paragraphs supporting the thesis (possibly including a counterpoint) in either emphatic or topical order and having graceful, appropriate transitions between them; and a conclusion suggesting what readers can do with the thesis, since the Eval should justify that thesis sufficiently to allow it to be used.. It does need to be at the full length of the assignment (five to seven full pages, formatted appropriately, equivalent to some 1,750 to 2,450 words—exclusive of Works Cited), since it is the final submission of the Eval project. While all writing can be improved, there comes a point at which the task of developing a piece of writing must be set aside in favor of other concerns; the Eval FV is that point for the Eval project.

It is in the interests of providing feedback with which to develop other writing that the Eval FV is to be submitted to the instructor via D2L before the beginning of class time on 23 November 2015. It needs to be a .doc, .docx, or .rtf document, so that comments may be appended to it. A version of the form that will be returned to students along with the reviewed Eval FV appears below; assessment standards are outlined more thoroughly thereupon. A major assignment grade worth 20% of the total course grade will be taken therefrom.

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Writing Center during the process of developing the Eval FV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Grading Rubric

Please find a copy of the grading rubric that will be used for both the Eval RV and the Eval FV here. Grading of the Eval PV is detailed above.

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Notes

  1. Ideally, the Eval will assess the same piece treated by the TxtAn. That is, the article analyzed in the TxtAn will be evaluated for the Eval. A shift in topics is permissible, but only after consultation with and receiving the approval of the instructor; changing topics without approval may result in summary failure of the assignment. Shifting topics will result in much more work to do, and there is not much time in the term to attend to the Eval.
  2. The summary of the piece to be assessed may derive from the summary expected in the TxtAn, provided the piece treated by the Eval is the same.
  3. Because the Eval is a paper in a relatively formal genre, and it will be making use of primary and secondary sources to make its argument, semiformal register and MLA-style formal citation (in-text citations and an appropriate Works Cited page) will be required. Failure to provide the first will result in lowered grades as the expectations of audiences are not met. Failure to provide the second may be investigated as an academic integrity violation.
  4. Aside from the examples of such pieces and similar pieces provided in the Norton, many examples of the kind of work to be done for the Eval project can be found in any number of rhetorical studies. Another example is linked below. Review of such examples is encouraged, as having models to follow tends to make work easier to do.

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Geoffrey B. Elliott
29 October 2015

Updated to incorporate instructor example.

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