General Criteria for Workshop and Evaluation (Becker)

We will use two sets of criteria to workshop and evaluate each of the essays you write for this class. The set of definitive criteria will be unique to each essay, setting the guidelines for such things as page length, line space, purpose, audience, number and type of sources you will use, and the degree of objectivity or subjectivity desired. Thus, for the Synthesis, you will word-process a two- to four-page paper, double-spaced, synthesizing the viewpoints of three authors on two main ideas, etc. The definitive criteria will change for each essay we write.

Throughout the rest of the term, however, you will also apply a set of global criteria to each essay you write. This set of criteria remains the same, setting guidelines for all the writing you do, regardless of a piece's specific requirements. For the most part, these criteria have to do with the organization of the essay. What follows is a general description of each of the general criteria terms we will be using in workshop and a couple of sample workshop questions related to each.

Purpose and Audience

Your purpose is the specific reason or goal you have for writing. Your audience is the person or people who will read your writing. These two elements must work closely together if they are to help shape the rest of your essay. For example, you may find as you write that your intended audience is not interested in your purpose (you might have this problem if you tried to inform toddlers about stereotypes of senior citizens in action movies), in which case you would modify either purpose or audience until they fit.

By the time the reader has finished your essay, can he or she clearly state your purpose?

Is you purpose appropriate for your intended audience?


Your focus is your concentration upon a specific subject. When you snap a picture, the camera defines the boundaries of your subject. Similarly, when you write, you must decide the boundaries of your essay by choosing what to include and what to leave out. The topic you choose, therefore, should be narrow enough that you can clearly present it to your audience within the given length of your essay. Clear thesis statements tell your readers what your focus is and prepare them for the development of your topic.

Is your focus clear to the reader?

Is your topic sufficiently narrow that you can do it justice in your essay?


The way you do your topic justice is by supporting your thesis with specific detail and examples. Your thesis ought to be supported by relevant main ideas; each main idea you explore ought to be supported by relevant examples or evidence.

If your purpose is description, do your details give your reader a clear picture of what you are describing?

Do your examples support your point, or are they somehow unrelated?


Coherence has two parts. It is the logical progression of your ideas, so your reader can easily follow you from point to point. It is also the unity of your paper, the degree to which all your points and examples "stick together" to create a paper with clear focus and development. Transition words and referent words (we'll talk more about these in a bit) help give your paper coherence.

Can your reader easily understand how you get from point A to point B?

Do all the points relate to your topic? Do all your examples relate to your main points?


Your voice is the sense of you as a writer in your paper. Your increase your voice by using "I" and by offering personal observations or examples.

Does the "I" in the paper intrigue the reader?

Does the reader come away from the paper with a sense of who you are as a writer?

Adapted from Writers INC: A Guide to Writing, Thinking, and Learning by Patrick Sebranek, Verne Meyer, and Dave Kemper.