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8.3: Types of Evidence in Academic Arguments

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    All academic writers use evidence to support their claims. However, different writing tasks in different fields require different types of evidence. Often, a combination of different types of evidence is required in order to adequately support and develop a point. Evidence is not simply “facts.” Evidence is not simply “quotes.”

    Evidence is what a writer uses to support or defend his or her argument, and only valid and credible evidence is enough to make an argument strong.

    For a review of what evidence means in terms of developing body paragraphs within an essay, you can refer back to Section 4.3.

    As you develop your research-supported essay, consider not only what types of evidence might support your ideas but also what types of evidence will be considered valid or credible according to the academic discipline or academic audience for which you are writing.

    Evidence in the Humanities: Literature, Art, Film, Music, Philosophy

    • Scholarly essays that analyze original works
    • Details from an image, a film, or other work of art
    • Passages from a musical composition
    • Passages of text, including poetry

    Evidence in the Humanities: History

    • Primary Sources (photos, letters, maps, official documents, etc.)
    • Other books or articles that interpret primary sources or other evidence.

    Evidence in the Social Sciences: Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology

    • Books or articles that interpret data and results from other people’s original experiments or studies.
    • Results from one’s own field research (including interviews, surveys, observations, etc.)
    • Data from one’s own experiments
    • Statistics derived from large studies

    Evidence in the Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Physics

    • Data from the author of the paper’s own experiments
    • Books or articles that interpret data and results from other people’s original experiments or studies.

    What remains consistent no matter the discipline in which you are writing, however, is that “evidence” NEVER speaks for itself—you must integrate it into your own argument or claim and demonstrate that the evidence supports your thesis. In addition, be alert to evidence that seems to contradict your claims or offers a counterargument to it: rebutting that counterargument can be powerful evidence for your claim. You can also make evidence that isn’t there an integral part of your argument, too. If you can’t find the evidence you think you need, ask yourself why it seems to be lacking, or if its absence adds a new dimension to your thinking about the topic. Remember, evidence is not the piling up of facts or quotes: evidence is only one component of a strong, well supported, well argued, and well written composition.

    Evaluating Evidence

    Two resource videos to help evaluate sources for academic essays:

    CSN Library: ENG 101: Evaluate Your Sources

    CRAAP Test for Evaluating Sources

    “8.3 Types of Evidence in Academic Arguments” has been edited by Angela Spires/ A derivative of the original work by Robin Jeffrey and Yvonne Bruce, which is licensed under CC BY 4.0

    This page titled 8.3: Types of Evidence in Academic Arguments is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Angela Spires, Brendan Shapiro, Geoffrey Kenmuir, Kimberly Kohl, and Linda Gannon via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.