Support in the Form of Evidence
Present your supporting evidence in the form of paraphrases and direct quotations. Quotations should be used sparingly; that being said, direct quotations are often handy when you would like to illustrate a particularly well-written passage or draw attention to an author’s use of tone, diction, or syntax that would likely become lost in a paraphrase.
Types of support might include the following:
- Statistics and data
- Research studies and scholarship
- Hypothetical and real-life examples
- Historical analyses
- Case histories
- Expert testimonies or opinions
- Eye-witness accounts
- Applicable personal experiences or anecdotes
Varying your means of support will add credibility to your essay and help maintain your reader’s interest. Keep in mind, though, that some types of support are more appropriate for certain academic disciplines than for others. See section 7.3 for more information about the types of evidence used according to academic discipline.
Providing Context for the Evidence
It may occasionally be necessary to provide some context for your supporting evidence. You should assume that your audience has not read your source texts in their entirety, if at all, so including some background or connecting material between your topic sentence and supporting evidence is frequently essential. Explanatory information that is not contained within your evidence selection or does not appear earlier in your essay might need to be introduced, explained, or defined so that your supporting evidence is perfectly clear to an audience unfamiliar with the source material. For example, your supporting evidence might contain a reference to a concept or term that is not explained or defined in the excerpt or elsewhere in your essay. In this instance, you would need to provide some clarification for your audience. Anticipating your audience is particularly important when incorporating supporting evidence into your essay. See section 3.2 for more information about audience awareness.
Explaining the Evidence
Remember not to conclude your body paragraph with supporting evidence. Rather than assuming that the evidence you have provided speaks for itself, it is important to explain why that evidence proves or supports the idea you present in your topic sentence and (ultimately) the claim you make in your thesis statement. Keep in mind that your voice should control your essay and guide your audience to a greater understanding of the source material’s relevance to your claim.
This explanation can include the following:
- Comparison or contrast
- Refutation or concession
- Suggested action or conclusion
- Proposal of further study
- Personal reaction
Now that we have a good idea what it means to develop support for the main ideas of your paragraphs, let’s talk about how to make sure that those supporting details are solid and convincing.
Good vs. Weak Support
When you’re developing paragraphs, you should already have a plan for your essay, at least at the most basic level. You know what your topic is, you have a working thesis, and you have at least a couple of supporting ideas in mind that will further develop and support your thesis. You need to make sure that the support that you develop for these ideas is solid. Understanding and appealing to your audience can also be helpful in determining what your readers will consider good support and what they’ll consider to be weak. Here are some tips on what to strive for and what to avoid when it comes to supporting evidence.
This chapter contains material from “The Word on College Reading and Writing” by Monique Babin, Carol Burnell, Susan Pesznecker, Nicole Rosevear, Jaime Wood, OpenOregon Educational Resources, Higher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0