Inserting Evidence for Your Claim
Proof for what you have written
Once you have completed your draft, insert evidence to highlight or support (or contrast) what you have written.
What is Evidence?
Evidence is what others have said, shown, or argued relating to your claim. In this section, you finish gathering evidence for your claim and inserting it into your writing. You began to collect evidence for your claim when you read your articles and other texts. There are four basic forms of evidence: testimony, data, examples, and analogies.
The difference between the testimony, data, examples, and analogies that you have already given in your essay and these is simply the source: so far, the source has been primarily you; from now on, the source will be other people.
What do I do with the Evidence?
You will insert evidence where you can to show me that someone else also says what you are saying at any point in your essay. Remember, this is a revision step. Mostly what you will do now is read, and where you find people saying things that back up what you are saying, you may use as quotes. Some things you find may contradict what you are saying. You should either explain why you differ with so many people (and still quote them) or revise your essay to account for this evidence.
These outside references (quotes, references, summaries, data, etc.) must be scattered throughout your essay, not only in an Argument.
Most Common Question: “How many Sources do I use?”
You should have the same number of sources as the articles you use for research, with a minimum of around 10. Most of these should be the same types of sources (like journal articles, books, etc.) that are used by the articles you use for research.
For suggestions and guidance on researching and collecting evidence, see any good research handbook. Once you have some outside evidence collected, answer the questions below.
Checklist for Evidence
Look for testimony, what authorities say about your claim, good or bad, and list/copy/quote all that might be useful. Look in the materials you have been collecting/reading all during the course.
Has anyone ever said something like this to you: “Well, according to [so and so], [such and such] is true.”? This is a statement whose claim (“such and such is true”) rests on something an expert or other authority (“so and so”) has said is true. Using the testimony of authorities as proof for your claim means using the statements of experts or other assumed authorities as basis or support. In a sense, this is very careful name-dropping. In another sense, it is a way to align yourself with people who have proven that they are, indeed, “experts” on one or another topic. More commonly, an authority may say in general the same thing you are saying. If this is so, simply look for such testimony in your research and allude to it, paraphrase it, and quote it in your essay.
Some key words in using testimony: according to, says, reports, has found that.
Check for the authority of your testimony. In other words, if you are quoting someone, and you are treating that person as an authority on the subject, make sure he or she is. Check in bibliographies and works cited in books and articles for that name. You may also check with someone in person in that field who may know who is or is not an authority.
Use written testimony. The bulk of your quotes should come from sources that are available to me as a researcher (not so I can check on your sources, but so I can conduct follow-up or continuing research in that area). The harder they are to find, the more suspicious I may be of your sources.
Get all required information. When you collect written testimony, the point is to allow me to follow up (see your handbook for exactly what to do with quotes and references). Facilitate a fellow researcher by including author, title, place of publication, and date of publication. If these are not available, see your handbook for what to do.
Use other testimony. You may also conduct interviews, surveys, and similar activities that collect testimony from other people on the subject at hand. This is important because it brings the audience "up to the present" rather than relying on things that were said years ago, as in some written testimony. However, the bulk of your testimony should not be from these sources because I can only rely on what you say they said, rather than "looking it up," unless I plan to make phone calls and conduct my own surveys. All the rules that apply to written testimony apply to spoken testimony as well.
Look for data that supports or refutes your claim, like statistics, case studies, other long-term studies, *empirical evidence, and studies based on the rules of evidence gathering.
*Empirical evidence is evidence based on observation, with conclusions drawn from these observations. This should come from outside sources. Data sometimes comes in charts, graphs, and other sorts of “visual aids” that may not come in the form of usable quotes. In cases like these, consider creating an Appendix for this kind of information. See MLA handbook for how to do this.
Many times what you are claiming has already been accomplished, though in another setting, a different time, with other people or in different disciplines, with similar effects or outcomes. If you find something similar or the same for what you claim, use it as an example. Examples may frequently be paraphrased or alluded to. Check your MLA handbook for instructions of paraphrasing, alluding to, and referring to different works.
Look for analogies for your claim. You have created an analogy for your Conclusion section, so you know it can be effective. Others have probably gone through the same process in order to argue a similar claim. When you see a good analogy, quote it or refer to it in order to provide evidence in the form of an outside source. One word of caution: one good analogy goes a long way. Limit your outside analogies to one or two good ones.
When you have collected your evidence, insert each pertinent piece where it best fits in your essay. Check with your MLA or APA handbook for details on quoting, paraphrasing, and documenting your evidence.
Addressing the Audience
Details that win over the audience
This is a re-reading and revising section. Here you must carefully re-read your essay, and make changes by asking each of the following questions and their parts.
Do not skip this step. When a reader finds “little things” that indicate the writer does not pay attention to details, then that writer’s credibility is questioned. Don’t let a detail ruin your “presentation.” Consider this section a sort of “detail checklist.” This checklist is in sections: Ethos (your credibility as a writer), Pathos (how your language appeals to the reader), Fallacies (“mistakes” in logic), and Documentation (checking your style manual).
Ethos is building credibility by the way you present yourself. Remember when your mother used to say, “always make a good first impression?” She was only interested in your ethos, of course. In writing, like life, we never get a second chance to make a first impression. The point is, if you wish to be taken seriously, you should present yourself as someone who should be taken seriously.
Review all you have written so far for each of the following questions. Make changes for each question as you find places to change.
Checklist for Ethos:
- ___Appropriate Terms
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by using terms and expressions appropriate to the audience?
This is where you have to imagine your audience. If you are writing for a group of people with a specialized vocabulary (a “jargon”), be sure that you use that jargon. Be careful to use it, however, in the way it is understood by that group. Most jargons have glossaries; ask someone in that profession or a librarian where you might find such a glossary.
If you are not sure what your audience expects in terms of vocabulary and expressions, keep yours as simple as possible. It is better to say as simply (but specifically) as possible what you want to say than to misuse terms or completely lose even the most interested or expert reader with difficult or obscure terms.
Take out general terms like “society” or “aspects” or “kinds of” or “types of.”
Ask yourself what terms and expressions are used in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes in your terms and expressions, go to the next question.
- ___Establishing Authority
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by establishing my authority on the subject?
Much of your authority will be established by answering as many questions from this program as possible.
Other ways to establish authority include personal experience with your claim, knowing and citing authorities in the field and what they have said (or might say) about your claim, and (oddly enough) admitting that you are not an expert but that you are very interested in the subject.
Ask yourself how authority is established in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to establish your authority, go to the next question.
- ___Style Standards
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by following all submission and style standards to the letter?
Think of this part of your review this way: “If I get one period out of place, my entire manuscript may be rejected.”
Editors and instructors expect conventions (even if what you have to say – or even the way you use conventions – is unconventional). There are a number of handbooks available that contain rules for conventions, like MLA, APA, and other “styles.” Editors may ask for a specified number of words, an abstract, an outline, a disk, several copies, separate cover sheets or title pages, email, a biography (yours), or any number of other things (or all of the above), in addition to a particular style. Follow all of them to the letter, and ask questions if there is any convention about which you are unsure.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to conform to the submission standards of an editor or instructor, go to the next question.
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by following conventions of that style to the letter?
Remember, no convention is optional. Each must be carried out.
Again, if you are not sure how to proceed, ask your instructor, email the editor, or both. If it calls for MLA style, don’t plan to use whatever you think “looks right.” Check out example essays in any good style manual.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to conform to the conventions of the style under which you are submitting, go to the next question.
- ___Grammatical Person
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by appropriate grammatical person?
Grammatical person refers to the use of the first-person pronouns (“I” or “we”), or the second person-pronoun (“you”), or third-person (where the audience and writer are not directly addressed or alluded to).
If you choose first- or second-person pronouns, you are in effect putting less distance between you and the reader. This may be perfectly acceptable if that is part of the conventions that the audience expects. (Note: avoid “you” unless you are addressing the reader directly, as in the note here).
Many readers consider first- or second-person voice to be more sincere, which in a sense it is, since you are doing all the talking.
In many cases, however, third-person is more appropriate for two reasons: 1) it establishes a distance between the reader and the writer, and 2) it gives the reader a sense of objectivity about what the writer is saying.
Ask yourself which grammatical person seems to be used most often in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to establish an appropriate grammatical person throughout your essay, go to the next question.
- ___Verb Tense
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by using an appropriate verb tense?
Generally we have the past and the present tenses to work from in writing an essay. Again, look at what other writers are doing and follow their lead. However, present tense seems to bring the audience closer to the issue and make it more personal and immediate. Past tense lets a reader keep his or her distance and use a more formal and objective sounding voice.
Ask yourself which tense is generally used in the works you have read on your subject?
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to the verb tenses, go to the next question.
- ___Grammatical Voice
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by using an appropriate grammatical voice (active/passive)?
Again, the primary consideration for grammatical voice is the space or distance it seems to put between a reader and a writer. Active constructions draw a reader closer to the writer while passive constructions create a distance. It is also a matter of responsibility: If you use the passive voice and say (like my seven-year-old) that “the cookie got eaten,” then there is no one to take responsibility for the act. An active construction accepts (or places) responsibility (“I ate the cookie”), and a passive construction avoids or spreads responsibility for a given action or claim.
Ask yourself what grammatical voice is generally used, and when, in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes in grammatical voice, go to the next question.
- ___Word Size
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by using appropriate word size?
This may be tricky. When in doubt, use your own words. However, many times a particular term is called for when discussing a particular subject. Too many terms, however, and terms used in a way that confuses or confounds the reader, has the effect of distancing and eventually alienating a reader.
Ask yourself what size words are used in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to establish your authority, go to the next question.
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by appropriate qualifiers and adjectives?
A qualifier is a word like “nearly,” “some,” “others,” “all,” “often,” and “most.” These are words that you should consider carefully before using. They should make your phrasing at each point they are used more accurate. If each does not, you should probably not use it. Adjectives should also be considered (or reconsidered) at each point they are used. When in doubt, leave them out. (See also “honorific” and “pejorative” language under pathos below).
Ask yourself what kinds of adjectives and qualifiers are used in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to qualifiers and adjectives, go to the next question.
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by using appropriate punctuation?
Once you get beyond commas and periods to mark standard phrases, clauses, and sentences, punctuation and other typographic marks may also be used to close the distance between the writer and the reader. Only commas and periods imply distance; everything else implies closeness. This includes parentheses, dashes, boldface type, italics, quotation marks (for other than quotations), all caps, underlining, and other marks.
Be sure that you notice what kind of punctuation is used in the works you have read on your subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes to punctuation, go to the next question.
Do I demonstrate a thorough knowledge of my subject by controlled and appropriate voice/tone (happy, serious, angry, etc.)?
You may be very angry about an issue, or you may simply want the reader to take a look at a point for the sake of discussion. Listen for the emotions in the words you have used. What may be appropriate for one audience may not be appropriate for another. An effect might be amplified if you imply that you simply “want to put in your two cents' worth,” even though you may feel strongly (see, for example, Swift's “A Modest Proposal”). Angry or sarcastic words tend to alienate even sympathetic audiences; consider using a polite tone.
Consider the tone in the works you have read on the subject.
When you finish rereading your essay and making changes in its tone, go to the Pathos part of this section.
Pathos is appealing to audience emotions, which is not necessarily “the way they feel.” “Emotion” in pathos refers to beliefs and values and how you react when those beliefs and values are alluded to, questioned, or threatened. Please note that this is different from the usual way we think of “emotions.”
For example, let's say that I am the director of some program that is a “worthy cause,” like a food bank. I need your money to keep the place going (a place that provides food for people who are really hungry). The simplest thing to do might be to write you a letter and ask you for the money, perhaps even giving you a figure (“send one single 20 dollar bill for the whole year”). I will probably be successful, up to a point.
I might be more successful, however, if I appealed to your pathos. I could do this by including an 8x10 black and white photograph of a big-eyed, sad-faced, raggedly dressed child, with a caption that says, “Amy is hoping you can make the hunger pains go away. Amy is saying ‘help me’.” Now the appeal is to your reaction when your beliefs and values are alluded to, questioned, or threatened.
Most of your essay is probably equivalent to only writing the letter above, not the picture. However, be careful with the next few questions. A little pathos goes a long way.
Checklist for pathos:
- ___Honorific language
Do I use honorific language?
Re-read your entire manuscript, adding honorific language – language that is respectful, polite, courteous – wherever you can. Any language that shows respect for other points of view tends to increase the audience’s respect for you.
When you have reread your entire essay and inserted honorific language, go to the next question.
- ___Pejorative language
Do I use pejorative language?
Pejorative language is language that puts down, belittles, sounds sarcastic. As much fun as it may seem to make fun of an opposing view, it makes your audience suspicious of you, particularly if your audience holds an opposing view. This kind of language should be eliminated from your essay.
Re-read your entire manuscript, eliminating any pejorative language. This may include phrases, punctuation, or the use of qualifiers and adjectives that make you look like you can only make fun of an opposing view, rather than make a serious point.
Note: If you find that this is the only kind of language you can use to make your point, then you may not have a point to make, and both pejorative language and not making a point alienate audiences.
When you have reread your entire essay and eliminated pejorative language, go to the next question.
Do I use anecdotes?
You could very easily insert a number of anecdotes to highlight what you are claiming, in the same way I included the photograph above. You have done this already in your Introduction with a single anecdote. However, most readers of persuasive essays at this level do not appreciate many direct emotional appeals. I would limit your anecdote to the one in your Introduction, though the more anecdotes you use, the more emotional the argument. This includes anecdotes you tell yourself and anecdotes you find other places.
When you are satisfied that you have used a number of anecdotes appropriate for the audience, go to the next question.
Do I allude to my anecdotes or other well-known symbols?
At most, I would only allude to your single, beginning anecdote. Pathos in writing like this should be limited to the kind of language you use, and the way you use it. However, you may also allude to anything that puts you and the audience in the same system of beliefs, or values, or assumptions about life. In the example Introduction I recounted an anecdote about a teacher’s comment on one of my essays. In a long persuasive essay, it is probably enough to remind the reader of the anecdote in the conclusion by referring to it indirectly, like I did in the sentence before this one.
3. Logical Fallacies
This next step involves a careful re-reading of your claims, grounds, and the objections of your Refutation section (and for any quotes that seem to contradict your claim), for logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are to be avoided in your argument, and pointed out in the claims of those who oppose or object to your claim. A logical fallacy is a mistake in logic.
Take any of the below arguments out of your own writing.
- Ad hominem (against the man)
Attacking the person who presents a claim or issue rather than the claim or issue itself: “We should not accept President Clinton’s budget proposal because we can’t trust him to tell us the truth.”
Argument on the grounds that everyone else does it, so it must be right and I must do it too: “Chevy trucks are the best selling vehicle in the state of Oklahoma.”
- Begging the question
Arguing by restating the claim or issue and claiming it is proof: “Becoming a teacher is a good thing because teachers are good people.” “He is lazy because he does not like to work.”
An argument that rests on the use of a term in two different senses: “Guns don’t kill people, people do [kill people].” “Kill” is used in two different senses.
- False analogy
An argument based on the assumption that because things are alike in some ways they are alike in other ways, too: “Buy a pre-owned Chevrolet Geo from General Motors, the same company that makes Cadillacs and other fine cars.”
- False authority
Assuming an expert in one field is credible in another: “I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV (therefore what I have to say is credible).” Any celebrity endorsement.
- Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
Assuming that because something happens after some event, it is caused by that event: “I washed my car yesterday, and it rained.”
- False dilemma
An argument that assumes there are only two choices to make regarding an issue, when in fact there are others: “We must have the freedom to own guns without government control or lose our freedom altogether.”
- Guilt by association
An argument that assumes that because a person is associated with others who are indeed guilty, that person is guilty as well: “He is probably a drug dealer because he lives in the same building where a drug dealer was arrested last week.”
- Hasty generalization
An argument that assumes that if something is true of a few, it is true for many, but with too small a sample or with biased evidence: “A high school driver nearly ran me off the road. High school drivers are just too young and inexperienced to drive and should not be allowed to.”
- Non sequitur
A statement that does not necessarily follow logically from another statement: “I have worked really hard this semester. I deserve an ‘A’.”
An argument that ignores key elements of an issue in order to draw a conclusion: “People who pass tests are lucky.” (They also probably study more).
- Red herring
An argument designed to draw attention away from the issue at hand: “Why are we talking about more police on the street when our school buildings are falling down around our children?”
- Slippery slope
An argument that implies that if we accept the issue at hand it will be step one in a series of steps that leads only to disaster: “If we let the president get away with this, it will destroy the integrity of the office, cause a whole generation of children to think it is OK to lie and then become adults without any moral foundation, and destroy civilization as we know it.”
If your argument contains any of these, you should remove them or replace them or otherwise clarify them. If your refutations or quotes contain any of these, you simply point out each one as the fallacy it is.
Assemble documentation according to the style manual you are using (MLA, APA, Chicago style, etc.). Refer to any good handbook or the style manual.