Like definition, evaluation (X is a good/bad Y) is a criteria-match argument, at least to some degree.  An evaluation argument makes a claim and provides evidence for the quality of something.  (Note that the adjective in an evaluation argument doesn't have to be "good" or "bad"; it may be any adjective of value: "effective," "legitimate," "just," and so on.  Some evaluation argument claims don't use adjectives at all.)  The writer may establish his criteria explicitly or implicitly; professional writers tend to operate from implicit criteria, while many students writers feel more comfortable discussing their criteria up front. 

As with all the topoi discussed on this page, we all employ evaluation arguments every day, large and small: You like this song on the radio because it has a good beat and you like the singer's voice; you dislike this TV show because it is corny and has bad acting; you like this shirt because it is "your" color and fits you well.  The evaluation argument you will write as a student will involve larger issues: This is a bad school policy because it shifts money away from academics and might cause dissension among students and faculty; Candidate B would make a good president because she is intelligent, well-informed, and her policies demonstrate concern for the poor and disadvantaged; University X is the best graduate school for me because it is close to home, has a good program in my area, and is relatively inexpensive. 

What follows is one way (not the only way) of building an evaluation argument.  Whether one actually runs his or her topic through this exact process or not, from step to step, all these considerations are important and must be accounted for in the process:

1. Choose a relatively controversial person, thing, or event for evaluation, and identify the larger class to which it belongs.  (By "controversial," we simply mean "arguable"; it is not an argument to state, for example, that "Michael Jordan was a great basketball player.")  If I want to evaluate Backyard Burger, I identify my subject as a fast-food restaurant; if I want to evaluate Late Night with Conan O’Brien, I identify my subject as a late night entertainment-talk show.  It is important that the subject be evaluated according to its type.  It would be preposterous, for example, to "argue" that Dumb and Dumber is a "better" film than Citizen Kane, nor would it be fair: the former is an intentionally low-brow comedy, while the latter is a relatively high-brow drama.

2. Make a list of the purposes or functions of that class and then list the criteria that a good member of that class would have to have in order to accomplish its purposes.  So in establishing the criteria for a fast-food restaurant, one may list the following in a roughly descending order of importance: it should have good food, be inexpensive, be clean, serve the food to the customer quickly and accurately, have a decent variety of menu items, and provide courteous service.      

3. Central to the evaluation argument, the writer evaluates the subject ("X") by matching it to each of the criteria.  Along the way, the writer may also want to compare the subject to other members of its class ("This restaurant [X] has a larger menu of items, but that one makes much better french fries").