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Student Handbook|English 1010

Types of Evidence

In academic writing, you'll be asked to provide evidence to support the claims you make.  "Common sense" isn't enough to prove a point; instead, you're expected to provide the theories, examples, frameworks, and experiences that help you understand an issue and that guide you to your position on the issue you're writing about. 

Good writers evaluate their sources and select types of evidence that will be seen as credible by their readers and that will help their readers connect emotionally with the paper's topic.  In general, though, There are several broad categories of evidence that you'll want to consider using in your writing:

Key Concepts

In this course, your teacher will probably talk about the need to find "key concepts" in the texts that you're reading.  A key concept is a big idea stated by the author; it is not just an example or statistic from the text.  Instead, a key concept is a concept, framework, or definition that the author has discovered and now shares with his audience based on support from his/her own reasoning and research. The advantage of identifying key concepts from your sources it that key concepts allow you to transfer a logical argument from one topic to a new topic.


Expert Testimony

An "expert" can be an individual or a group, and they are generally seen as credible because of extraordinary study, professional experience, or personal experience.  If your audience may not be familiar with your source's expertise, you may want to include a brief sentence or phrase to establish the expert's authority.


Facts and Statistics

Facts and statistics provide information about events that exist or have existed.  Facts and statistics can provide information about times, amounts, sizes, processes, relationships among groups, etc.  In general, your writing will probably use a variety of facts and statisticsinformation--which can be tested--to help support your interpretations about how people should act or believe.  (For example, the fact that UW requires students to scan their UWID cards in order to enter the dorms at night can be interpreted in different ways to support different claims about UW's treatment of students.) 



An analogy is an extended comparison of two things (such as objects or actions).  The advantage of an analogy is that it can help make a complex, unfamiliar object/action more accessible by comparing it to something that is more easily understood by the audience.  Relating the human body's circulatory system to various sizes of roadways, for example, could help readers more clearly understand how blood flows through their bodies.


Personal Experience, Examples, and Anecdotes

As a human being, you've begun to accumulate your own set of experiences.  Often those personal experiences can help you establish a close, concrete connection to the topic you're writing about.  Since your experience is limited, however, you should not rely too heavily on your own personal experience (or personal experiences of a friend or colleague) when trying to persuade others.  When combined with other types of evidence, though, personal experience can add a compelling dimension to your writing.  Like personal experience, concrete examples or stories about an event (anecdotes) can be used to help readers more clearly imagine the topic that you're addressing in your writing.


What doesn't count as evidence in academic writing?

In academic writing, evidence is not a general, vague statement.  It is not your unsupported opinion.  It is not an incorrect interpretation or an unexplored assumption.  It is not manipulating of text to make it say what you want it to say. Using inappropriate forms of evidence in your papers damages your credibility, while choosing good evidence builds your credibility!


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