Supporting evidence

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

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.

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

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
(about 5% of essay word count). INTRODUCTION PARAGRAPHS have a special function. Unless you are referencing a definition or an important introductory fact, avoid using references in your introductions.

Body paragraphs
(about 90% of essay word count). BODY PARAGRAPHS carry your evidence (e.g. explanations, arguments, examples). You will need to use a number of references in almost every paragraph to support your claims.

Conclusion paragraphs
(about 5% of essay word count). CONCLUSION PARAGRAPHS have a special function. Unless you intend to finish your conclusion with a final dramatic statement from a powerful source, avoid using references in your conclusions.

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. Wonderland University (2016, p. 36) reports that during the academic year, lecturers recommended that 396 internal and 267 external students should seek assistance with their writing.
Writing academic paragraphs is the most important skill in academic writing. The Australian Association of Essay Writing (2012, 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:

1.

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, 2013, p. 23).

Fact supported with evidence

Correct!

Unsupported fact

Incorrect.

 

2.

To convey meaning, students must punctuate their work correctly.

Fact supported with evidence

Incorrect.

Unsupported fact

Correct!

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:

1.

Many student writers have difficulty with some aspects of punctuation. For example, researchers (George et al., 2016; Jones & Brown, 2013; Smith, 2012) find that many students misuse commas, mix up colons and semicolons and use capital letters incorrectly.

Quotation

Incorrect.

Example

Correct!

Statistic

Incorrect.

 

2.

In its research project, the Literacy Foundation (2014, p. 167) argues that “common punctuation errors cause problems with meaning-making in student writing”.

Quotation

Correct!

Example

Incorrect.

Statistic

Incorrect.

 

3.

The Literacy Reference Group (2017, para. 10) finds that more than 60% of the students who were assessed on their literacy scale made errors in their punctuation.

Quotation

Incorrect.

Example

Incorrect.

Statistic

Correct!

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

Supporting Argument

A number of researchers have noted that assignment tasks help students to learn the language of their subject (your statement). For instance, Smith and Jones (2014, p. 27) find that students who do assignments demonstrate a better use of the terminology of their subject when they write in their exams than students who do only exam assessment (evidence to support your statement).

 

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

 

Opposing Argument

Some educators argue that assignments are time consuming to mark (your opposing statement). However, evidence from student feedback surveys finds that students value this feedback more than any other learning experience in their courses (Jackson & Peters, 2015) (counter evidence to support your opposing position).

 

Don’t do this!

  • Don’t put information in your essay that comes from the recesses of your mind without finding an authority to support your statements
  • Don’t use authorities that have no academic credibility (e.g. a popular magazine)
  • Don’t use your lecture notes (even with appropriate referencing) as the sole authority in your assignments
More information:

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