Academic Writing

Rhetorical functions in academic writing: Evaluating points of view

Introduction

An essential part of critical writing is evaluating a point of view through arguing and discussing. Evaluation is an essential part of writing critically as defined by Bloom: Writing Functions 10: Critical

Evaluation:

  • Makes judgements about the value of ideas or materials for a given purpose in a given context. 
  • Presents and defends opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria
  • Compares and discriminates between ideas.
  • Recognises subjectivity.

Common verbs associated with evaluation include:  advise, appraise, compare, conclude, contrast, criticise, critiqus, defends, discriminate, evaluate, explain, interpret, judge,  justify, recommend, reflect, relate, summarise, support.

When you argue, you need to present your points of view and deal with different points of view. You often need to present two or more points of view and discuss the positive and negative aspects of each case; you need to evaluate them. These other points of view will often come from your reading. On the basis of your evaluation, you can then choose one point of view and persuade your readers that you are correct. This means giving your opinions (positive and negative) on the work of others that you have read and learned.

First you need to present another person's point of view, perhaps by paraphrasing or summarising from your reading. You then need to evaluate it, either negatively or positively

Examples

Read the following examples how notice how the points of view are evaluated.

Eccleshall argues that libertarian Conservatism was alive and well in the work of Edmund Burke and in the 'Liberal Toryism' which reached its high point during the premiership of Sir Robert Peel. Yet, as recent work on political economy in the late eighteenth century has shown, it is difficult to establish Adam Smith, let alone Burke, as a 'free marketeer' in anything like the modern sense.

 

Cameron (2006) maintains that we could probably become far more healthy by the simple expedient of 'going back in time' in terms of some of our daily activity. We could use a bicycle, walk, or run rather than use a car, bus, or train. Of course, we could all do more domestic tasks by hand rather than using electrically operated gadgets. However, this approach has too many problems to be appealing. After the luxury of labour-saving devices it is just too tedious to go back to the old ways. Also, this is not the most efficient way to build up and maintain a reasonable level of physical fitness. We actually only need to plan three or four exercise sessions a week in order to become fit.

 

Stalingrad was the greatest single blow of the war. Deep shock, dismay, and depression were recorded everywhereIt was correctly viewed as the low point of wartime morale on the home front.

 

While agreeing with Jameson's (2003) suggestion that an increase in funding is reuired to maintain the quality of daily television, it is not enough simply to throw money at the problem.

 

Tuckman and Jensen (1977) developed a theory that groups can potentially pass therough five fairly clearl;y defined stages of development: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. However, a team that survives will go through these stages many times. As new members join, as others leave, as circumstances or the task change, new tensions arise that take the group back to an earlier stage. A new member implies that the team needs to revisit, however briefly, the forming and norming stages. This ensures the new member is brought psychologically into the team and understands how they are expected to behave. A change in task or a conflict over priorities can take a group back to the storming stage, from which it needs to work forward again. The process will be more like Figure 17.6 than the linear progression implied by the original theory.

(Boddy's (2008, p. 571) evaluation and modification of Tuckman and Jensen's theory of group development.)

Exercise

Try these exercises: Exercise 1Exercise 2Exercise 3

Language

Presenting another point of view

Some people
X
In a study of Y, X

maintain(s)
say(s)
argue(s)
assert(s)
believe(s)
claim(s)
point(s) out
is/are of the opinion
seem(s) to believe

that

It is the view of X
The opinion of X is
It can be argued
It has been suggested
It might be said

According to X

Commenting on another point of view

Negatively

They
He
She
X
This

is/are
may be
seem(s) to be
would seem to be

somewhat
rather
-

mistaken.
wrong.
rigid.
inadequate.

X's

approach
position
methods
beliefs


This
These views

is/are

open to doubt.
not always the case.
not necessarily true.
unlikely to be true.
highly debatable.
incorrect.
highly speculative.

cannot be upheld.


Serious

doubts
reservations

can
may

be raised against this.


I disagree with X when he

writes
says

that …


However,
Yet,

it is clear that …


One of the main arguments

against

X is that


One disadvantage of
Another point against
A further argument against
One other disadvantage of

X

is

One objection to this argument

Plus negative words: wrong, mistaken, false, erroneous, misplaced, inaccurate, incorrect, debateable, untrue, not the case.

By indicating a gap

One way to negatively evaluate an author is by indicating a lack of knowledge in a particular area

However little information
attention
work
research
data

....

few studies
investigations
researchers
attempts

The research
The previous research

has

tended to focus on
concentrated on
emphasised
been devoted to

...,

rather than on 
as opposed to

....

These studies 
Most studies

have

Although

the research
considerable research
the previous research

has

tended to focus on
concentrated on
emphasised
been devoted to

...,

rather less attention has been paid to

....

these studies 
most studies

have

Plus negative words: little, few, inadequate, lack, insufficient, hardly.

Positively

I agree with X when he

writes
says

that …


X is certainly correct
X may be correct

when he

says

that …

in saying


One advantage of
Another point in favour of
A further argument supporting
One other advantage of
One of the main arguments in favour of

X

is  

…  

Plus positive words: correct, right, accurate.

Support

After you have given your point of view, either negatively or positively, you will need to provide evidence to support it. See: Writing Functions 20: Supporting