Citing Textual Evidence to Support Analysis

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  • 0:02 Analyzing a Text
  • 1:28 Textual Evidence
  • 2:49 Giving Credit Where…
  • 4:07 Your Opinion
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we're going to learn how to analyze a text and cite evidence to support an analysis. We'll also learn the difference between quotations, paraphrases, and summaries, and we'll talk about how to give credit where credit is due.

Analyzing a Text

You gulp as you look over your English assignment. Your teacher has given you a short article about recycling and told you to analyze the text in a paragraph or two, being sure to cite textual evidence to support your analysis. Yikes! How are you supposed to do all that? You wonder if you can go hide under the bed now. Never fear! This lesson will show you exactly how to do such an assignment.

First things first. What does it mean to analyze a text? Analyzing a text simply means identifying its component parts. When you analyze a text, you break it down, picking out the author's main idea, the reasons that support the main idea, and the evidence that supports the reasons. Then you usually offer your own opinion about whether the text is convincing and does what the author intends it to do.

In your recycling article, the author's main point is that the city council should provide funding for a new recycling center in your area. He gives several reasons why he thinks this is a good idea: the old center is outdated, people aren't currently recycling because it's inconvenient, the landfill is receiving extra waste that could be recycled, and the benefits of a new center would outweigh the costs in the long run. The author also provides a collection of evidence to support his reasons, including statistics about recycling, stories from employees and users of the old center, and a description of the landfill.

Textual Evidence

'Okay,' you think, 'this isn't so hard. But what does the teacher mean about citing textual evidence?' Let's answer that question next.

Textual evidence is support for your analysis that comes directly from the text itself. When you analyze a text, you want your readers to know what the author actually says rather than merely your interpretation of the author's ideas. This means that you quote, paraphrase, and/or summarize the author's words to support your points.

  • In a quotation, you repeat an author's idea word for word and surround it by quotation marks.
  • In a paraphrase, you rewrite the author's idea in your own words, keeping your rewrite about the same length as the original.
  • In a summary, you condense the author's idea in your own words.

In your analysis of the recycling article, you might directly quote the author's main point: 'This city deserves a brand new recycling center that can take waste management into the future, and the city council needs to throw itself behind the project financially.' Then you can paraphrase his reasons, like we did earlier. Finally, you might summarize his evidence, explaining how the old center's equipment breaks down all the time and how it's hard to get to and not open on the weekends and briefly noting statistics about how many recyclables end up in the landfill and how much money the city would save if it had a more efficient recycling center.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Whenever you use quotations, paraphrases, and summaries, you must be sure to give credit where credit is due. After all, these aren't your ideas; they're the author's ideas.

There are many systems for giving credit, or citing sources, including MLA, Chicago/Turabian, and APA. These systems provide specific rules and methods that help you gather and properly use all the elements you need to cite a source, like the author's name, the source's title, publisher, place of publication, year of publication, page numbers, etc. You'll learn about these as time goes on, but the most important thing to know right now is that you must identify ideas that aren't your own. If you don't, you could be guilty of plagiarism, which is passing off someone else's ideas as your own. This is a very serious academic offense that could get you a failing grade or worse.

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