Evidence Types For Essays

Posted on by Kami

Let's talk about supporting evidence, so this is a really crucial part of your body progress. It's really where you prove your point to be true, it's that evidence that supports it. So one thing to remember is that, the only job of your evidence is to prove the claim to be true, so you've got to be really discerning when it comes to selecting the evidence that you choose. And you can choose three different types of evidence, the first is a summary and it's simply a shorten version of a quote that's written in your own words. You can also choose a paraphrase, which is a retelling of a quote in your own words but it's about the same length as the original or you can actually use the direct quote which is word for word from another text.
And here is a kind of my rule of thumb, a summary is good maybe in a research paper where you are trying to take a long description or a long explanation and shorten it up and fit it into your writing in an accessible way, or maybe in a piece of literature, you've got a really long description of something and you can use maybe ellipses and different kind of modes to really shorten it up and put it in your own words. So then you have a paraphrase and I would use paraphrases when what you're taking and what you're trying to quote has a lot of technical language in it. So things that maybe the average person wouldn't understand and that you could easily put in your own words. And then finally I think a direct quotation works really well when it's really well said. Now that being said if you are quoting from literature, you've got different rules of thumbs. When you are quoting from literature, if you got the book in front of you, you always want to go direct quote. If you have the ability to pull one, pull one in. However, I know we do essay tests and different things like that, so that might be an opportunity for summary or paraphrase. If you can remember basically what a character said, go ahead and paraphrase it if you are trying to recreate a quote, just don't put quotation marks around it alright.
And then a summary is good if you are retelling a series of events from literature. So let's take a look at some examples of all of those. If I've got the topic sentence; in the novel 'Lord of the Flies', William Golding uses Jack's character to highlight the flaws in dictatorial government. Here's an example of a summary "That one time when Jack was sitting on his throne like a king, bossing everyone around which led to disaster." Now I don't know if your summary really works here because it's not a series of event, and especially that phrase "that one time," really makes it seem vague, like you're not really sure what happened. It doesn't make you sound like an authority on the book.
Let's take a look at what it would look like in paraphrase form instead, "Jack who was sitting on his throne, painted, being served by others, ignores the question and commands his group to perform the hunting dance that eventually leads to tragedy." Now that sounds like somebody who's actually read the book. So this would be a great retelling if you didn't have the book in front of you. Now if you have the book in front of you go with the original quote "Jack, [painted], rose from the log that was his throne and sauntered to the edge of the grass...do our dance!...Kill the beast, cut her throat, bash her in!" And that is really effective because you've got the actual words that he's saying there. So you can see these three different types and hopefully this will help you discern which one is the best to use in your situation.

Evidence is the information that helps in the formation of a conclusion or judgment.  Whether you know it or not, you provide evidence in most of your conversations – they’re all the things you say to try and support your claims.  For example, when you leave a movie theater, turn to your friend, and say “That movie was awesome! Did you see those fight scenes?! Unreal!”, you have just made a claim and backed it up. 

Most people think of “evidence” as numbers and quotes from famous people.  While those are valid types of evidence, there are more to choose from than just statistics and quotes, though.  There are four types, to be exact:

  • Statistical Evidence
  • Testimonial Evidence
  • Anecdotal Evidence
  • Analogical Evidence

1. Statistical Evidence

Statistical evidence is the kind of data people tend to look for first when trying to prove a point.  That’s not surprising when you consider how prevalent it is in today’s society.   Remember those McDonald’s signs that said “Over 1 billion served”? How about those Trident chewing gum commercials that say “4 out of 5 dentists recommend chewing sugarless gum”? Every time you use numbers to support a main point, you’re relying on statistical evidence to carry your argument. 

2. Testimonial Evidence

Testimonial evidence is another type of evidence that is commonly turned to by people trying to prove a point.  Commercials that use spokespersons to testify about the quality of a company’s product, lawyers who rely on eye-witness accounts  to win a case, and students who quote an authority in their essays are all using testimonial evidence. 

3. Anecdotal Evidence

Often dismissed as untrustworthy and meaningless, anecdotal evidence is one of the more underutilized types of evidence.  Anecdotal evidence is evidence that is based on a person’s observations of the world.   It can actually be very useful for disproving generalizations because all you need is one example that contradicts a claim. 

Be careful when using this type of evidence to try and support your claims.  One example of a non-native English speaker who has perfect grammar does NOT prove that ALL non-native English speakers have perfect grammar.  All the anecdote can do is disprove the claim that all immigrants who are non-native English speakers have terrible grammar. 

You CAN use this type of evidence to support claims, though, if you use it in conjunction with other types of evidence.  Personal observations can serve as wonderful examples to introduce a topic and build it up – just make sure you include statistical evidence so the reader of your paper doesn’t question whether your examples are just isolated incidents. 

4. Analogical Evidence

The last type of evidence is called analogical evidence.  It is also underutilized, but this time for a reason.  Analogies are mainly useful when dealing with a topic that is under-researched.  If you are on the cutting edge of an issue, you’re the person breaking new ground.  When you don’t have statistics to refer to or other authorities on the matter to quote, you have to get your evidence from somewhere.  Analogical evidence steps in to save the day.

Take the following example: You work for a company that is considering turning some land into a theme park. On that land there happens to be a river that your bosses think would make a great white-water rafting ride.  They’ve called on you to assess whether or not that ride would be a good idea. 

Since the land in question is as yet undeveloped, you have no casualty reports or statistics to refer to.  In this case, you can look to other rivers with the same general shape to them, altitude, etc.  and see if any white-water rafting casualties have occurred on those rivers.  Although the rivers are different, the similarities between them should be strong enough to give credibility to your research.  Realtors use the same type of analogical evidence when determining the value of a home. 

When you use analogies to support your claims, always remember their power. 


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