Reacting to a Text
When we read texts, especially when we are engaged in the act of reading, we cannot help but give our opinions and react—at least in our minds. We express agreement, surprise, shock, disgust, skepticism, and resistance to the ideas, among other things.
This lesson will teach you how to react and evaluate a text, in a way that is clear, objective, and tactful.
Looking for the Strengths of a Text
An objective evaluator looks at both the good and bad sides of anything he/she is assessing. In a text, what is commendable? What is convincing? What is logical? When reading a text, do not forget to consider the following in order to look for its strengths:
- The helpfulness of the text to people. Will you learn something from it? Will it make you a better person, student, and/or professional?
- The quality of the information cited. Did the ideas come from credible sources? Were the ideas that were not the author’s properly cited, thus respecting the intellectual property of others?
- The conciseness. In the age of information overload, we do not have all the time to read long texts that have little substance. Was it short enough to be understood, yet substantial enough to be educative?
- Its grammatical and mechanical correctness. Was it free from errors in terms of language use and mechanics?
Noting the Weaknesses of a Text
Part of the evaluation process is finding faults, not to criticize or ruin the writer, but to suggest improvements—which will help the writer and the readers later on. Since criticisms can be negative, you need to exercise extreme caution in expressing your views. Remember the following:
- Focus on the text, not the author. While a text is a product of an author’s ideas, you must not attack the writer on a personal level. Focus on the text, no matter how irate you are at the ideas put forth by the author.
- Do not use emotionally laced words; stay objective. Emotionally laced words include those that pertain to our feelings. As much as you can, avoid using them, for they reduce objectivity. Scath-ing words and accusations like “How dare you,” “I feel hurt,” and “You’re foolish” are among emotionally laden comments, and they lessen your credibility.
- After criticizing-suggest improvements. One who points out people’s problems but are not willing to help the criticized party solve the problem is unfair. Point out what’s wrong, then suggest an improvement. That is called constructive criticism.
Now that you know. the tips on how to be a good critic, how do we spot weaknesses? Let’s consider the following:
- Unsupported claims. You learned in an earlier lesson that you must not make baseless claims and accusations. Check if there were sources or at least supportive evidence for claims. Otherwise, they are just untested hypotheses or baseless conjectures.
- Doubtful sources. Your information is only as good as your source. Were the sources credible? Take commercials for example. Commercials have endorsers, like a skin exfoliating cream to get whiter skin, and this is endorsed by a celebrity. The problem is, the endorser is often someone who is already pale-skinned. In all honesty, do you think this person needs such material? For academic texts, did the website or publication have an editorial group to review published information?
- Logical fallacies. Did the author use threats? Did the author maliciously attack the person/s involved? Was there an attempt to make it appear that because many support or do it, it is automatically right? ‘Withhold judgment when you detect these; don’t be fooled.
- Incomplete information. If the text you read were an announcement, did it give complete information? Did it tell you when and what will happen but failed to tell you where? If it were a task, were the instructions complete?
- Grammatical and mechanical errors. These can destroy a text even if the content is commendable. Grammatical, mechanical, and spelling errors can distort facts and worse, hinder understanding. These errors must be corrected, especially for academic and technical publications—there should be language editors and proofreaders hired or tapped for corrections.
Identifying Words and Phrases that Signal Evaluation
There are ways to introduce your evaluation of texts. These have similarities to the words used to express claims or opinions. Let’s take a look at some of these words/phrases and examples of how they are actually used.
|“The work is (adjective).”||“I believe that the work (evaluation).”||“What is lacking is (evaluation).”||“The positive points of the work include (praises).”|
|The work is|
|I believe that|
the work needs
improvement in terms of grammar and mechanics.
|What is lacking is evidence for the claims.||The positive points of the work include its conciseness, relevance, and organization|
There are so many other words and phrases that you can use. You can think of totally new ones, or use the synonyms of those already given. Why not give some of your own ideas? Write them in the spaces below.
Formulating Evaluative Statements
For this part of the lesson, you will learn about evaluative statements or those that express one’s opinion about a text: its strengths and weaknesses, as well as possible improvements. Here are two points you need to reflect on:
- How should evaluative statements be written?
- Why must evaluative statements be written carefully?
The questions above are important things to consider when discussing the concept of evaluative statements. Since evaluations pass judgment onto works of authors, they must be written and expressed with care and after much diligence.
You learned earlier about the considerations you need to make when formulating evaluative statements, as well as the signal words that you may use. Now’s let’s put what you learned to the test. Per text, formulate an evaluative statement and label it as either positive or negative, depending on the focus of the evaluation.
Let’s analyze the following situation:
An employer received a curriculum vitae of an applicant who was a fresh college graduate. The company was looking for someone who had a college degree, work experience, and skills. As the employer evaluated the credentials, though, he saw that what was lacking was work experience. The credentials were impressive—a student leader, an honor student, a volunteer in the community. He wanted to hire the applicant, but there was something missing: work experience. Hence, he wrote an evaluation and submitted it to his superior for consideration:
“Applicant #23 has an impressive curriculum vitae for an applicant so young. He has an impressive academic background, with honors, and has had leadership experience, which is important in business. There is also experience in community outreach, which can help in our company’s corporate social responsibility thrusts.
However, the applicant lacks work experience, being a fresh graduate. Sadly, this is a minimum requirement in our company.
I am, inclined to give the applicant a chance to work in our company, though, albeit on a contractual or project-based capacity. This way, he can gain work experience while utilizing his abilities to help our company.
This is submitted for your consideration.”
The evaluator began giving his feedback by mentioning the strengths.
Always remember to begin with positives.
The feedback was also short and concise, because it is expected that the audience—the boss—is a busy person and needs to make decisions quickly.
Here, the evaluator mentioned the negative, but did not, in any way insult the fresh graduate. The evaluator likewise mentioned why being a fresh graduate was a disadvantage.
The evaluator now gives his opinion (to hire the applicant) and gives a solution to the problem of lack of experience. He also mentions the benefits of the solution.
The example given above is a good way of expressing evaluation. Do not forget what you learned from the sample:
- Begin with the positives.
- Keep your feedback concise.
- When pointing out negatives, focus on the situation, not the person. Mention, too, why it is a negative.
- Provide a solution or suggested improvement to the negatives, as well as a justification about why the solution or suggestion will work.