Much of academic reading requires readers to understand, analyze, and evaluate an author's claim and support for that claim. The point and claim can also be thought of as thesis, main idea, or topic sentence, as discussed in previous sections. An author's claim may be one of the following: a claim of value, a claim of policy, or a claim of fact. A claim of value attempts to persuade readers to approve or disapprove of something. Key words that signal this type of claim are better, worse, more...than, right, wrong, and beautiful. A claim of policy is one that attempts to persuade readers to take action. Key words that signal this type of claim are should, ought to, and must. Lastly, a claim of fact is one that presents facts to persuade readers that something existed, currently exists, or will exist. Some key words that indicate this type of claim are leads to, causes, improves, and destroys.
Once you can identify the claim that the author is trying to make, you can start to closely look at the types of support the author uses for their claim.
Types of support might include:
- Personal anecdotes.
- Quotations from experts.
- Case studies.
- Analogies and Logical Reasoning.
After identifying the supporting details and the types of support an author uses, it is crucial to make sure that those supporting details are solid and convincing. Below is the STAR Method for evaluating an author's support for their claim.
|Measure||Question||Examples and Notes|
Is there enough cited evidence to support the conclusion?
Generally, only “strongly” and not “weakly” supported conclusions should be accepted. The more controversial a claim is, the more evidence authors should provide before expecting an audience to accept it. If the evidence is not sufficient, the author may need to modify or qualify the claim, by stating that something is true ‘sometimes’ rather than ‘always’.
Is the cited evidence typical or representative?
If an author makes a claim about a whole group but the evidence is based on a small or biased sample of that group, the evidence is not “typical.” Similar problems stem from relying just on personal experiences (anecdotal evidence) and from “cherry picking” data by citing only the parts that support a conclusion while ignoring parts that might challenge it.
Is the cited evidence up to date and accurate?
Authors using polls, studies and statistics must ask whether the data were produced in a biased way and also ask whether the sample was large and representative of its target population so that results were outside the “margin of error.” (Margin of error: If a sample is too small or not well chosen, results may be meaningless because they may represent random variation.)
Is the cited evidence directly relevant to the claim(s) it is being used to support?
An author may supply lots of evidence, but the evidence may support something different from what the person is actually claiming. If the evidence is not relevant to the claim, the author may need to modify or qualify the claim—or even to acknowledge that the claim is indefensible.
An author may also refute, or disprove, opposing viewpoints in their argument by providing evidence that negates opposing arguments. This may be accomplished in various ways:
- Refutation through Logic: an author may provide evidence that convincingly negates an opposing argument, or by providing more current and credible evidence.
- Refutation through Evidence: an author may refute an opposing argument by deconstructing it in such a way that shows the inconsistencies within that opposing argument.
- Refutation through Exposing Discrepancies: an author may refute an opposing argument by showcasing how that argument is missing core essential elements related to the issue at hand.
Directions: Take some time to read the article about food deserts and answer the following:
Preview the Article
- What is suggested by the title of the article?
- Who is the author of the article?
- When was the article written/published?
- What do you already know about the issue?
Actively Read the Article
- What is the issue presented in the article?
- What is the author's claim (i.e. argument, point)?
- What type of claim does the author make?
- What support does the author provide for their claim?
- What type(s) of support does the author include?
- Using the STAR Method above, answer each question in the Question column of the table (refer to the Examples and Notes column for assistance).
- Does the author provide opposing viewpoints? If so, which one(s) do they include?
- Of the opposing viewpoints provided, does the author refute any? If so, which one(s) are refuted, and how does the author refute them?
License and Attributions:
CC licensed content, Previously shared:
The Word on College Reading and Writing. Authored by: Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear. Located at: https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Composition/Book%3A_The_Word_on_College_Reading_and_Writing_(Babin_et_al.)/Part_2/08%3A_Drafting/8.05%3A_The_Paragraph_Body%3A_Supporting_Your_Ideas
License: CC BY: Attribution.
Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience.