Purpose:These papers encourage you to begin thinking critically about ideas we l

Posted: December 2nd, 2022

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Purpose:These papers encourage you to begin thinking critically about ideas we learn about in class. They provide you the opportunity to question and consider the underlying assumptions and overgeneralizations inherent within ideas that we may initially embrace and value. This does not always mean such ideas should be fully discarded. More often, it means that they should be more detailed, nuanced, and sensitive to context.
Directions: Please follow the steps below, but please write out your paper in essay form, i.e., not as a series of bullet points.
Format: 1.5-2 pages, Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced, see Grading Rubric for Evaluative Papers.
Citations should be inline citations, i.e., author and page number after referenced material, e.g., (McGuire, p. 25). You do not need a works cited list.
You need to make it clear in the title or first paragraph if you are choosing to write a concept- or insight-focused Evaluative Paper. If you do not clarify, your paper will not be graded (see Step 1).
Step 1: Define/explain a concept/insight acquired through one or more of the readings for the current week.
It is important to be specific here. If you are defining a concept, do not add in additional aspects that are your own ideas. Instead, adhere to the author’s definition or description. This will be important for Step 3.
This can be more complicated when it comes to an insight paper in that it will be less precise because an insight may be derived from something less specific than a definition. However, be as specific as you can.
For example, let’s define the concept of “role conflict.” This is when there are “conflicts that someone feels between roles because the expectations [for each role] are at odds with one another” (Henslin, p. 116). [This example is from an introduction to sociology course.]
Step 2: Explain how this concept/insight was addressed or utilized by one or more of the authors.
Step 3: Offer an assessment of why this concept/insight is important for understanding religion in America or any topic our class covers during that week:
Note: Step 3 should offer a critical assessment, which means examining the pros and cons of the usefulness or value of the concept or insight itself to understand what it purports to explain.
Students often overlook the importance of critical evaluation when they evaluate a concept/insight. To avoid that, focus on the definition and ask yourself “What are the assumptions?” You might also look at how the concept may overgeneralize what it purports to explain.
To clarify what these critical assessment papers need to show, consider the “role conflict” example again. The concept is useful in understanding identity and action or how one may struggle to act or make decisions due to conflicting obligations. However, the definition also purports to explain more than it does: it does not consider that some people may rank the roles that they perform. The role of student, friend, daughter, and volunteer may vary in importance to the individual. When these are ranked, the degree of conflict may vary. In other words, there is an assumption within the definition (in Step 1) that all roles are equal or that their differences are inconsequential.
For those who are taking the insight route, you can use Step 3 to provide an analysis of how your insight allowed you to question your own assumptions or a previous perspective.
What to avoid and consider when writing an Evaluative Paper:These are not summary papers. These are not personal reflection papers.
They require critical thinking wherein you provide an assessment, critique, or critical reflection upon the concept or insight. Therefore, it requires your perspective as informed by course material. It is an opportunity to demonstrate how you think, rather than just what you think

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