Using Effective Evidentiary Support

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the most effective portions of a text to use as evidence in an essay or written response.
  • Use attributive phrases and in-text citations appropriately in an essay or written response.

Part of developing an essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. involves identifying sourcesA person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. that will strengthen your thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work.. Equally important is recognizing the most effective portions of those sources that you should present to your readers. Finding the right sources and the most effective portions of those sources is crucial to building evidentiary supportEvidence that supports the claims or viewpoints expressed in an essay and helps convince readers that an argument has merit. Evidentiary support may take the form of facts and statistics, expert opinions, or anecdotal evidence. for your thesis.

It is wise to be selective about the type and amount of source material you use in your essays. Be cautious in using others' work; your readers want to read your ideas—not a copy of someone else's. Using too much source material without enough of your own analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing. demonstrating how the evidence supports your own thesis can detract from your own authority on the topicThe subject of a reading. .

Once you have identified the relevant source materialInformation that is quoted or paraphrased from outside works, such as journal articles, online documents, and books. , make sure you incorporate it properly using attributive phrasesA short introduction to source material that identifies the author and often the title of a work that will be quoted or discussed in an essay or research paper. and in-text citationsInformation about a source, such as the author, date, and page number, in an essay or research paper that helps readers find the source in the works cited or references page. There are different rules for how to use in-text citations depending on the context of the citation and the style of formatting you are using.. In this lesson, you will learn how to identify the most effective parts of source material to use as evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. in an essay, as well as how to citeTo give credit to the source of ideas or information. them appropriately with attributive phrases and in-text citations.

Identifying the Most Effective Portions of a Text

To identify the most important portions of a readingA piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage). to use as support, you first need to have an idea of the claimsA statement that something is true, such as the thesis of an essay. A successful writer must present evidence to prove his/her claim. that you are going to make so that you can develop questions to select the best evidence. For this lesson, let's suppose that you are writing an analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing. of the book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.

First, develop a thesis, such as: In Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin successfully argues that one's possessions greatly contribute to one's happiness.

Next, develop the questions that this thesis prompts in both your mind and the mind of your intended audienceThe group of people a writer expects to read a text. Writers use specific language, details, and examples to speak directly to their intended audience. For example, you would write and organize your work differently if your audience was a group of experts in the field of your work than if it was a group of undergraduate students being introduced to the topic..

After creating these questions, read through the text and search for the answers to them. To begin with, skimTo read over quickly in order to pick out the main ideas but not the details. the text for any quick signs of identifying markers that an answer may be near. These could be headings, pictures, figures, and charts. Quotation marksA set of single or double inverted commas (' ' or " ") that are placed around a word or passage to mark the beginning and end of a direct quotation or a title. are an indicator that your source has incorporated its own source. Additionally, you may develop new questions as you read. Your research may turn up new evidence that will cause you to adjust your thesis and analysis.

For example, in reading Happier at Home, one would find an answer to the last question, "What sources does Rubin incorporate to strengthen her claim?"

On pages 21 and 22, Rubin quotes researchers who have found that in most cultures, people's possessions are central to their lives.

Continue to analyze the reading until you've found the answers to all your questions. Be sure to note where the words and ideas are coming from because you will need that information to properly incorporate your source into your essay.

Finding the answers in the text to these types of questions shows you exactly which parts of the reading will work best as evidentiary support for your essay. Although there may be many aspects of a text that are interesting and important, answering questions related to your thesis will help you narrow your focus to what is absolutely necessary.

Citing Sources Using Attributive Phrases and In-text Citations

Once you have identified the information from your source that will best support your claims, you need to properly incorporate it into your own essay or response. Whether you paraphraseThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech. or quoteTo use the exact words of someone else in a writing. Quotes are indicted in a writing using quotation marks and attributive phrases. your source, it is always best to introduce your source with an attributive phrase. If additional information is required to lead your readers to the correct entry in your list of works cited/references page, include that information in an in-text citation. In MLAA grammar and reference guide used mainly by students and scholars writing about the humanities (languages and literature). style, the attributive phrase and in-text citation must include the author's last name and the page number where the particular quote or paraphrase comes from. In APAA set of guidelines for citing sources used in literary and academic writing. APA style is most commonly used in the social sciences. style, the required information is the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number.

MLA example:

APA example:

Sometimes, an attributive phrase does not include any of the necessary information, in which case it all needs to appear in the in-text citation.

MLA example:

APA example:

There are also instances when you may not utilize an attributive phrase at all—for example, when an idea or fact is present in several cited sources, or when you wish to place the emphasis on the idea or fact rather than on its author. In these instances, you will need to include all the required information in the in-text citation.

MLA example:

APA Example: