Tips on Writing Evaluations

The Introduction

  • Describe what was introduced.
  • Comment on the clarity and means of presentation
  • Did it cover enough?
  • Did it go on too long, leaving nothing for pro and con?
  • Was it fact or opinion?

The Introduction - A Bad Example

  • I think the introduction was really, really great. It was very good. I liked it a lot and the pictures used were really good. The presenter really showed she knew a lot about this material. I didn’t know much about UFOs and now I do.
  • Great job on the introduction!

The Introduction - A Good Example

  • Let’s compose one together:

The Pro Argument

  • Summarize the critical evidence presented
  • Identify exactly what Pro was supporting (the conclusions)
  • What arguments did pro use to support those conclusions?
  • Evaluate the strength of the arguments. (Look over Baloney Detection once again.)
  • How strong was the overall argument? Remember, the Burden of Proof rests on Pro.

The Pro Argument - A Bad Example

  • I could tell the Pro person really believed in UFO’s. He had great pictures that were really convincing. The witnesses couldn’t have been wrong, since they were pilots. There were lots of examples and evidence that the government has covered up. I thought the videos were great too. Great presentation!

The Pro Argument - A Good Example

  • Let’s compose one together:

The Con Argument

  • Since Pro has the Burden of Proof, Con should summarize the conventional view of things and briefly give critical evidence, but does not have to "Prove" that all of it is true.
  • Con should provide good alternative hypotheses to the claims of Pro, and show why they are "better."
  • Evaluate how well Con did this.

The Con Argument - A Bad Example

  • I don’t think Con proved her case at all. She just said a lot of stuff and didn’t give any evidence. I think UFOs and space aliens are real and she did nothing to change my mind.

The Con Argument - A Good Example

  • Let’s compose a good evaluation together.
  • ...

Postscript-Your Opinion

  • You only have two pages, double spaced, to do your evaluation. Is there any space left? Should you use it to better evaluate Intro, Pro, or Con?
  • Your opinion on who made the better case, pro or con, is a good idea here, but back it up with evidence from earlier in your evaluation.
  • Your personal opinion about space aliens can be put in here at the end if you want to, but I bet there is no room left.

Raising the Bar at the Middle of the Course

  • By the middle of the course we have learned to identify arguments and describe the form they take.
    • Identify the Issue, the Premises used, and the Conclusion
    • Identify when no argument is actually presented. Only claims are made.
    • Identify fallacies by name in the premises or in the conclusion.
  • If arguments are made using analogies, evaluate how well these worked.
  • The conclusions reached may be Inductive Generalizations. Look for the Fallacies that render such conclusions weak or invalid.
  • Pro and Con may have presented competing hypotheses. Use the rules for evaluating hypotheses to determine the strengths or weaknesses of the arguments made.
  • As we cover new ways of evaluating arguments and evidence, I expect to see these tools used in the evaluations of the presentations. The same kind of evaluation that got 18/20 at the start of the course, might drop to 12/20 or worse as I expect to see the use of the new tools we are learning.
  • A good way to set up your new and improved evaluations would be to outline Pro and Con using Standard Form [State the Issue; because (premise), and because (premise), and... we therefore conclude that (conclusion)]. For arguments based on the hypothetico-deductive method be sure to list all the competing hypotheses presented by Pro and Con. Then use all the tools at your command to rate the strengths of the arguments used to support the competing hypotheses. This outline can then be used to guide the writing of the two pages you have in which to write your evaluation.
  • Don't forget that the Burden of Proof rests on Pro, who is making the extraordinary claim. Has Pro made the case in a convincing fashion? Con has to show that other, more reasonable hypotheses explain the same observations on which the Issue is based. Did Con do that?