Assessing Evidence in Informational Writing

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Social Studies, and Science for seven years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Do you believe everything you read? Everyone is constantly assessing a wide variety of texts on a daily basis. This lesson outlines three ways to assess evidence in an informational text.

What Is Informational Text?

Writing is all around us. Street signs, newspapers, menus, greeting cards, and even the TV guide require some array of reading skills. One writing category in the world of literacy is informational text, which is any sort of writing that focuses on explaining or providing information, statistics or facts on a specific topic. Essays, reports, biographies, and articles are all examples of informational texts.

Imagine you are flipping through a magazine and come across an article about the legalization of marijuana. Whether it is pro or anti-legalization, will you immediately agree with the article? I hope not! For any text, especially informational, it is imperative that you think critically about the material. Never blindly believe what you read.

Instead, be sure to assess the evidence, or evaluate the worth of the evidence. Remember, evidence in an information text consists of the examples and reasons the author uses to support his or her argument or main idea. There are three avenues of thought when assessing evidence in informational text: relevance, importance, and sufficiency.


The first part of your assessment should be based on relevance, which means the significance to the matter at hand. When reading informational text, decide if the evidence is closely related to the main idea or argument of the piece.

Let's return to the fictional article on the legalization of marijuana. Imagine it is stating a case for the legalization of the drug. As evidence, it compares the overuse of alcohol during the Prohibition Era in the 1920s to the overuse of marijuana today. It might even use actual data and statistics from history.

Is this evidence relevant? Even if there is some sort of link between banning alcohol and banning marijuana, statistics from that era are not relevant to today's issue of marijuana. Besides the fact that these are two very different drugs with very different effects on the mind and body, it has been nearly 100 years since Prohibition. So many things have changed during that time that it's impossible to even list them all! Thus, any sort of connection the article will claim to make between the two issues loses its relevance to today's world. When assessing for relevance of the evidence, ask yourself the following question.

  • Is the evidence closely related to the topic or argument?


The next aspect of assessing evidence is importance, which is similar to relevance. Importance is whether or not the evidence is essential or of value. When dealing with informational text, this means the evidence is imperative to the central idea.

Let's look again at the example of an article on the legalization of marijuana. The topic itself is important, or has value to society, as many states are currently trying to legalize the drug or have already legalized the drug to some extent.

Next, look to see if the evidence has value to the main idea. Perhaps the author is in favor of legalization and uses statistics or data showing the positive effects for people with cancer who use the drug. This evidence is of value to the central argument that the drug should be legalized; thus, it is important. When assessing evidence for importance, ask yourself the following question.

  • Does the evidence have value for the main idea?

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