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How to Evaluate Literature Objectively

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How to Write Book Reviews

What is the difference between objective and subjective evaluations?

There are many purposes to using objective observations to evaluate literature. Before learning how to evaluate literature objectively, it is essential to understand just what it means to objective. On the opposite side of the spectrum for evaluations is the subjective observation. When something is subjective, it means that it is based off of things like experience and individual realities. On the other hand, when it is objective, there is only one right or wrong answer based on facts.

If it helps, think of the tests you took or are taking in school. The ones that have multiple choice and/or can be graded using a computer are objective tests. In these tests, responses are either right or they are wrong and so the grader can go through and check off which ones the student answered correctly. On the other hand, a subjective test would be something with an essay or short answer response that has to be graded on a scale based on the grader's judgement of the response and how correct or incorrect it may be. Computers can't be used because the responses can be partially correct and take more time to review.

When it comes to understanding how to evaluate literature objectively, it is important to note that objective observation relies heavily on the use of the scientific method. The basic purpose of the scientific method is to use sensory input (such as observations) to prove that something exists outside of an individual's perception of it. Facts are understood as objective when individuals have the same experience with the same results each time.

Pile of books

Pile of books

Literature Evaluation

As a literature major, I was almost always asked to evaluate literature subjectively. Individual perspectives just make class discussions much more interesting, after all. However, there were some times where objective evaluations were essential to understanding the novel in the context of the genre it was in or the time period it came from. Either way, always remember to back up your subjective and objective arguments with facts such as quotes or refer to specific passages within the novel.

Outside of the classroom, understanding how to evaluate literature objectively comes in handy when writing reviews on literature. Depending on what kind of book review it is, you may want to look at things like the scholarly merits of the book before using it for your evaluation to verify the credibility of the work and its author. Also, take a look at any sources the author may have used and check for the same things. Keeping your own personal perspective out of the picture means that you are evaluating objectively so just try to keep your own opinions out, unless you can back them up with solid facts that others would agree upon.

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In fiction, you won't always evaluate the novel objectively. This is because, unlike a scholarly work, fiction is based on a narrative written from an individual perspective. However, when writing an evaluative essay on a fiction novel, look at other sources such as critics and make your argument based on your own thoughts using these critics to support it. Are their arguments based on reliable sources? Do they cover all the facts? This is where understanding how to evaluate literature objectively really comes in handy.

Now that you have an idea of what it means to evaluate literature objectively, you can go on and get started on that review or essay that's just waiting to be written. Just remember that when it comes to objective evaluations, there is a right or wrong answer. Use only facts that can be verified and you are on the right track to a successful evaluation.

© 2012 Lisa


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 26, 2012:

Useful information. It is very obvious that you were a Lit major. :) Good job Lisa!

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