Often times, your writing assignments will require you to make an argument. You’ll be asked to take a stand on a particular topic and support your position with evidence.
If you have been given the task of writing an evidence based essay, you’ll need to know the best ways to incorporate that evidence. Here is a guide to help you with the process.
Types of Evidence
There are several different styles of evidence (or proof). For a well-rounded paper, include a variety of types.
- Einstein Proof – You come across information that reveals a note-worthy person or scholar agrees with the point you are trying to make.
- Case Proof – A case in which your opinion is validated and/or the opposing view isn’t.
- Fact Proof – Includes statistics and objective information.
- For Example Proof – Includes examples that support your primary claim.
Integrating Evidence into the Essay
There are several ways to incorporate evidence into your essay. You might choose to portray data in a graph, chart or table. Sometimes, visuals – like photographs or illustrations with captions – are best. Often times, it is most persuasive to share a scholar’s own words; an interview excerpt works well in this situation.
Most often, though, your evidence will be included as text in the body of your paper as a quotation, paraphrase, or summary.
A quotation is an exact preproduction of another person’s words. Use quotes when:
- You couldn’t possibly say it better. Often times, the original speaker uses words that are witty, edgy, or distinctive.
- You need the author’s expertise to solidify your claim.
- The author uses a specific word or phrase.
As is the case with any other type of evidence, you need to include a citation. You can use our citation generator.
If you take a section of text and put it in your own words, you are paraphrasing. This tactic usually centers on a single phrase, sentence or paragraph rather than a summary of the entire work.
Writers usually paraphrase when they want to reference the author’s ideas, but the actual words aren’t distinctive enough to quote. You can also paraphrase when you want to reference an example the other writer used.
Summaries are the perfect way to reference a large piece of text. Summaries are especially useful when writing shorter papers; you can reference a lot of reputable sources with a minimal amount of text.
Creating a Correlation between your Claim and the Evidence
Evidence can make or break the success of your essay. If you don’t have enough, your readers won’t feel you have a valid argument. Alternately, if you overload your essay with tons of rambling bits of evidence, readers won’t be able to unearth your claims.
For each piece of evidence, tell your readers how or why it supports your overall argument. If you don’t, you have simply created a document full of facts and pieces of information. Establishing a connection to your overall claim is what turns facts into evidence.
Also, the only person inside your head is you. Readers won’t understand the point you are trying to make if you don’t tell them. Make sure there is an obvious connection between what was going on inside your mind when you chose that particular piece of evidence and how it relates to the essay. Don’t assume readers will understand the implication of your evidence.
This is especially relevant when using quotations. Writers often feel the urge to simply drop a quotation into a paragraph and assume it makes sense. Instead, surround the quotation with some sort of discussion or include an introduction and conclusion.
Choose your evidence wisely, cite it properly, tie it to your argument, and you’ll have a very persuasive essay!
Now you know how to incorporate evidence and make your paper sound convincing. If you have your own tips or questions, share in comments!
To write a good essay, you firstly need to have a clear understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do. Looking at the essay question in close detail will help you to identify the topic and ‘directive words’ (Dhann, 2001), which instruct you how to answer the question. Understanding the meaning of these directive words is a vital first step in producing your essay. This glossary provides definitions of some of the more typical words that you may come across in an essay question. Please note that these definitions are meant to provide general, rather than exact guidance, and are not a substitute for reading the question carefully. Get this wrong, and you risk the chance of writing an essay that lacks focus, or is irrelevant. You are advised to use this glossary in conjunction with the following Study Guides: Writing essays and Thought mapping written by Student Learning Development.
To write a good essay, you firstly need to have a clear understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do. Looking at the essay question in close detail will help you to identify the topic and ‘directive words’ (Dhann, 2001), which instruct you how to answer the question. Understanding the meaning of these directive words is a vital first step in producing your essay.
This glossary provides definitions of some of the more typical words that you may come across in an essay question. Please note that these definitions are meant to provide general, rather than exact guidance, and are not a substitute for reading the question carefully. Get this wrong, and you risk the chance of writing an essay that lacks focus, or is irrelevant.
You are advised to use this glossary in conjunction with the following Study Guides: Writing essays and Thought mapping written by Student Learning Development.
|Analyse||Break an issue into its constituent parts. Look in depth at each part using supporting arguments and evidence for and against as well as how these interrelate to one another.|
|Assess||Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter-arguments as well. Conclude by stating clearly how far you are in agreement with the original proposition.|
|Clarify||Literally make something clearer and, where appropriate, simplify it. This could involve, for example, explaining in simpler terms a complex process or theory, or the relationship between two variables.|
|Comment upon||Pick out the main points on a subject and give your opinion, reinforcing your point of view using logic and reference to relevant evidence, including any wider reading you have done.|
|Compare||Identify the similarities and differences between two or more phenomena. Say if any of the shared similarities or differences are more important than others. ‘Compare’ and ‘contrast’ will often feature together in an essay question.|
|Consider||Say what you think and have observed about something. Back up your comments using appropriate evidence from external sources, or your own experience. Include any views which are contrary to your own and how they relate to what you originally thought.|
|Contrast||Similar to compare but concentrate on the dissimilarities between two or more phenomena, or what sets them apart. Point out any differences which are particularly significant.|
|Critically evaluate||Give your verdict as to what extent a statement or findings within a piece of research are true, or to what extent you agree with them. Provide evidence taken from a wide range of sources which both agree with and contradict an argument. Come to a final conclusion, basing your decision on what you judge to be the most important factors and justify how you have made your choice.|
|Define||To give in precise terms the meaning of something. Bring to attention any problems posed with the definition and different interpretations that may exist.|
|Demonstrate||Show how, with examples to illustrate.|
|Describe||Provide a detailed explanation as to how and why something happens.|
|Discuss||Essentially this is a written debate where you are using your skill at reasoning, backed up by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of a given context. Remember to arrive at a conclusion.|
|Elaborate||To give in more detail, provide more information on.|
|Evaluate||See the explanation for ‘critically evaluate’.|
|Examine||Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding a topic. This should be a critical evaluation and you should try and offer reasons as to why the facts and issues you have identified are the most important, as well as explain the different ways they could be construed.|
|Explain||Clarify a topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurs, or what is meant by the use of this term in a particular context. Your writing should have clarity so that complex procedures or sequences of events can be understood, defining key terms where appropriate, and be substantiated with relevant research.|
|Explore||Adopt a questioning approach and consider a variety of different viewpoints. Where possible reconcile opposing views by presenting a final line of argument.|
|Give an account of||Means give a detailed description of something. Not to be confused with ‘account for’ which asks you not only what, but why something happened.|
|Identify||Determine what are the key points to be addressed and implications thereof.|
|Illustrate||A similar instruction to ‘explain’ whereby you are asked to show the workings of something, making use of definite examples and statistics if appropriate to add weight to your explanation.|
|Interpret||Demonstrate your understanding of an issue or topic. This can be the use of particular terminology by an author, or what the findings from a piece of research suggest to you. In the latter instance, comment on any significant patterns and causal relationships.|
|Justify||Make a case by providing a body of evidence to support your ideas and points of view. In order to present a balanced argument, consider opinions which may run contrary to your own before stating your conclusion.|
|Outline||Convey the main points placing emphasis on global structures and interrelationships rather than minute detail.|
|Review||Look thoroughly into a subject. This should be a critical assessment and not merely descriptive.|
|Show how||Present, in a logical order, and with reference to relevant evidence the stages and combination of factors that give rise to something.|
|State||To specify in clear terms the key aspects pertaining to a topic without being overly descriptive. Refer to evidence and examples where appropriate.|
|Summarise||Give a condensed version drawing out the main facts and omit superfluous information. Brief or general examples will normally suffice for this kind of answer.|
|To what extent||Evokes a similar response to questions containing 'How far...'. This type of question calls for a thorough assessment of the evidence in presenting your argument. Explore alternative explanations where they exist.|
Dhann, S., (2001) How to ... 'Answer assignment questions'. Accessed 12/09/11. http://www.education.ex.ac.uk/dll/studyskills/answering_questions.htm
The following resources have also been consulted in writing this guide:
Johnson, R., (1996) Essay instruction terms. Accessed 12/09/11. http://www.mantex.co.uk/samples/inst.htm
Student Study Support Unit Canterbury Christchurch College (no date) Common terms in essay questions. Accessed 22/02/08. http://www.wmin.ac.uk/page-2714
Taylor, A.M. and Turner, J., (2004) Key words used in examination questions and essay titles. Accessed 12/09/11 http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Essays/sta-planningessay.aspx#answering