Citing Textual Evidence to Support Analysis of the Text

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

This lesson will discuss what textual evidence is and why it is important to use it when analyzing a text. We will also discuss ways to cite textual evidence when analyzing a text to better support your claims.

Why Use Textual Evidence?

If your little brother told you that the mall in your town was going to open up a petting zoo, would you believe him? What if he told you he read it on a sign at the mall? What if he told you specifically that he read about it on a sign to the left of the carousel which read ''Petting zoo coming in September''? The more specifics someone can provide when making a claim, the more they can support their argument.

When analyzing a text, it is important to provide these specifics to support your argument and give it legitimacy. Anyone can say, ''Romeo and Juliet die at the end of Romeo and Juliet,'' but if someone was unfamiliar with the play, they would find more authority in a statement like, ''In Act 5, Scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves, with Romeo saying, 'Thus with a kiss I die' (130).'' In this lesson, we will discuss effective ways to cite textual evidence when analyzing a text to support your claims and, as well as what does not count as sufficient support.

When to Use Textual Evidence

As we saw above, using textual evidence, or specific quotations and examples from a text that directly relate to your point, is essential for supporting your argument, particularly in academic writing. But how do you know when to use textual evidence and when not to? The key is to find a balance in using evidence - you want to support your points with evidence from the text, but you also do not want to overuse quotations and lose sight of your argument.

A good rule of thumb is that no more than 25% of your paper should be made up of quotations and examples. So how do you decide when to use the evidence if you are so limited? When analyzing a text, it is tempting to use your words to connect quotations; however, the point of textual analysis is to make you own argument, then use quotations and examples to support it, rather than the other way around. Instead of supporting each of your points with a quotation, try to decide on your main points - or perhaps the points that seem weakest - and then use quotations and examples to support those.

What to Use to Support Your Analysis

Once you have decided that you should support your point with textual evidence, how do you decide what to use? The two most important things to consider when choosing what quotations to use are relatability and specificity. You first want to consider if the quotation or example you are considering using directly relates to your point. For example, if you were talking about Romeo dying, you would not want to use a quotation about him marrying Juliet because it does not readily relate to your main point.

Similarly, you want to be specific and concise. When you describe Romeo's death, you could use a quotation that shows him killing himself or describes why he decides to do this, but this should be brief. You want to stay specific and not quote his entire final speech. Sometimes, for the sake of specificity, you might want to paraphrase, or restate a quote or passage in your own words, instead of directly quoting the text. Remember that both need proper in-text citations, but quotations, or word-for-word passages from the text, should always use quotation marks.

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