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Supporting evidence

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For every claim you make in your writing, you will be required to prove your point. Your opinions and generalisations will need factual detail (evidence) to support them. Those supporting details may come from a number of different types of sources.

This workshop:

Key words: evidence, supported/unsupported fact, example, statistics, quotations

About placing evidence in your essay

In a standard essay, you can follow these general rules (i.e. rules may vary) about where you should put your evidence:

Click on each link for a description.

   Introduction paragraphs
   Body paragraphs
   Conclusion paragraphs

Please note that the APA referencing style is used in this workshop.

Supported facts and unsupported facts

Statements in academic writing need to be supported by factual details. When you are editing your writing, you will need to check that you have supported your claims with adequate evidence. For example:

Facts not supported with evidence Facts supported with evidence
Many students seek assistance with their writing skills at university.

Writing academic paragraphs is the most important skill in academic writing.
Wonderland University (2007, p. 36) reported that in 2006, lecturers recommended that 396 internal and 267 external students should seek assistance with their writing.

The Australian Association of Essay Writing (2005, p. 129) claims that their research in five universities shows that students are required to write academic paragraphs in 90% of their assessment tasks.

Exercise 1: Recognising supported and unsupported facts

Check the following sentence to see if you can recognise unsupported and supported facts:

The learning and teaching report showed that incorrect punctuation caused the most problems for students in conveying meaning in their essay writing (Department of Student Services, 2003, p. 23).
Fact supported with evidence
Unsupported fact

To convey meaning, students must punctuate their work correctly.
Fact supported with evidence
Unsupported fact

Types of supporting details

There are a number of ways you can support your claims in writing by using information/evidence from the work of (significant) writers and researchers. The following are three of the most common techniques:

  1. Quotations (e.g. direct quotes, paraphrases, summaries)
  2. Examples (e.g. illustrations of your points)
  3. Statistics (e.g. facts, figures, diagrams)

Exercise 2: Recognising types of supporting detail

Check the following sentence to see if you can identify quotations, examples and statistics:

Many student writers have difficulty with some aspects of punctuation. For example, researchers (George et al., 2006; Jones & Brown, 2005; Smith, 2002) found that many students misused commas, mixed up colons and semicolons and used capital letters incorrectly.

In its research project, the Literacy Foundation (2002, p. 167) argued that "common punctuation errors caused problems with meaning-making in student writing".

The Literacy Reference Group (2007, para. 10) found that more than 60% of the students who were assessed on their literacy scale made errors in their punctuation.

Using supporting and opposing ideas

When you have sorted out the position you will take in your essay, you will write a number of paragraphs to provide support for your stance. It is also equally valuable to find information that does not support your stance and argue against those opposite points of view. Statements that you use to do this can follow a simple pattern:

Writing support statements
  1. write support statement (sentence)
  2. write the reasons /evidence to support what you say (a number of sentences). Put your most important reasons first.
Read a 'supporting' argument (click)

Writing about the opposing ideas
  1. write a statement with the idea you disagree with (the opposing idea)
  2. write the reasons/evidence you have showing how your position is better (a number of sentences). Put your most important reasons first.
Read an 'opposing' argument (click)

Don't do this!

  1. Put information in your essay that comes from the recesses of your mind without finding an authority to support your statements
  2. Use authorities that have no academic credibility (e.g. a popular magazine)
  3. Use your lecture notes (even with appropriate referencing) as the sole authority in your assignments

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