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Supporting Your Writing with Examples and Evidence

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  • 0:01 Why You Need Evidence
  • 0:58 What Is Evidence?
  • 2:18 Evidence and Relevance
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Watch this lesson to learn how to make strong arguments and write better papers by using evidence effectively. It's not just about piling on a bunch of facts!

Why You Need Evidence

Hey, did you know that ever since 1969, NASA has been secretly staffed by aliens who hitched a ride back from the moon on Apollo 11?

Probably not - and you probably wouldn't believe that tall of a tale without a pretty watertight argument to back it up. In other words, you'd want some evidence, data, facts, and examples that support your point. Evidence is your answer to the reader who says, 'So wait…why should I just believe you?'

In your own writing, you might not be shocking the world with any grand conspiracy theories about Area 51 or the Illuminati, but even if you're just writing about character development in Hamlet, you'll need some evidence to back it up. In this lesson, you'll learn how to effectively use evidence in your own writing, so you can persuade a doubting reader that no, really, you're right!

What Is Evidence?

Earlier in the lesson, we defined evidence as data, facts, and examples that support your point. The type of evidence you use will depend on what kind of writing you're doing. For example, in a scientific paper, you'd use citations to other studies as evidence. In a paper for English class, you might use quotations from the text. In a standardized test essay, you'd use examples from history or literature.

As a test case to look at in more detail, let's take our NASA-infiltrating aliens. Here are some pieces of evidence that could theoretically support this claim:

  • During a BioScan, strange and unidentifiable life forms were detected somewhere aboard Apollo 11 as it was returning to Earth.
  • Leaked security footage from NASA buildings shows unidentified green humanoid objects moving around.
  • Independent observers have identified strange transmissions in an alien language being sent between NASA headquarters and the moon.

If a writer could persuade you that all these things were true, you'd probably be much more open to believing that little green men are at least up to something at NASA. That's the power of evidence.

Evidence and Relevance

It's not always enough to just bring up a lot of facts, though. You also have to connect them to your main argument. Don't rely on the reader to figure this out for herself - at best, it's frustrating, and at worst, she'll totally miss your point.

For example, what if you read this: 'Aliens have infiltrated NASA. We know this because chemical scans revealed dust with a high concentration of the mineral anorthite inside the building.'

You probably wouldn't be very convinced, right? What does anorthite have to do with aliens and NASA? It's not convincing evidence because you have no idea how it's relevant. This evidence isn't likely to persuade you of anything.

But what if the author went on to tell you that anorthite is rare on Earth, but rocks from the moon often have a high concentration of it? So if there's a bunch of anorthite dust in the building, it's probably a sign that something from the surface of the moon got in there. Now that's a lot more persuasive, right?

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