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Osceola Writing Center

Explanations and Support

When writing your paper, it's best to provide some form of support or at least an explanation when you make a statement about something. If you don't provide at least one of these, especially for major statements, it can make your paper's argument less strong because you haven't built a case for what you're saying.

Types of Evidence*

One of the ways to support a point you are making is by providing evidence. Here are 4 types of evidence that you could use in your paper:

"Einstein" Evidence

This kind of evidence relates to information you get from scholars or experts (Einstein was an expert in physics). When you make a point in your paper, if you can show that an expert believes the same thing as you, your point will be more strongly supported. When using this type of evidence, it is a good idea to provide information about the expert to show your reader that they are credentialed and their opinion is important.

Example:

People with bad time-management skills may be more susceptible to anxiety problems. According to Dr. Gerard, a psychologist who has been working at John Hopkins University Medical Center for 20 years, people who cannot manage their time tend to become anxious when they are late for an appointment or have a deadline approaching (2001, p. 99).

Example Evidence

Example evidence is evidence that uses specific examples to help your reader understand a point. For an academic paper, it will be better to provide an example that you found through research rather than simply coming up with an example off the top of your head.

Example:

One's country of origin usually dictates how many languages a person speaks. Citizens of Switzerland tend to speak 3 languages, while people from the Netherlands most often speak four (Smith 144).

Fact Evidence

This evidence is pretty self-explanatory: your support is in the form of facts or statistics.

Example:

Children with parents who are involved in their schoolwork are usually better prepared for college. In his book, The Prepared Child, John Crane notes that when children have parents that spend at least 2 hours a week talking to their child about school and assignments, it increases college graduation rates by 50 percent (322).

Undocumented Evidence:

Evidence or support that is considered "undocumented" would be anything that you use for support that was not found in a document (online or print). It can include personal experience, anecdotes, or things that fall more into common knowledge. Since undocumented evidence doesn't come from a specific source, you would not have anything to cite. While you can use this kind of evidence in your paper, it is best to make sure that most of your paper includes other forms of evidence (unless you are writing about a personal experience, etc).

Example:

It's very important for people to remember to use their seat belts. Without them, drivers or passengers could be hurt in the event of an accident. Last year, my brother got into a car accident, and he wasn't wearing a seatbelt. He broke several bones and was hospitalized for 2 months.

 

*Adapted from Sourcework: Academic Writing From Sources by Nancy Dollahite and Julie Haun

 

Be Specific

Also, when you are writing an essay, make sure that you don't leave your reader hanging. Depending on the context, if you write, "I have learned a lot in my two years at college," but stop right there, your reader will probably wonder what it is that you learned. It would be better to add another sentence or two explaining what those things were.

Relatedly, you'll often want to answer the "Why?" question for your reader. If you write, "I prefer to travel to Asia rather than Europe," but don't continue, it leaves out information that would help complete the thought. Why do you prefer Asia? Here's a better sentence: I prefer to travel to Asia rather than Europe because I will be able to visit some family members there.

 

So what?

No matter what the point is that you're trying to make, you always want to make sure your reader can answer the "So what?" question, or the "Why do I need to know this?" question. Being able to answer these questions regarding information in your paper will help to make sure that you adequately explain your point or that you use appropriate supporting details.

Example:

Cheetahs are excellent predators. They are able to crouch very low to the ground, providing them opportunity to get close to their prey without the prey noticing. These wild cats also have large incisors and strong jaw muscles. With these features, Cheetahs can quickly strangle their victims, thereby limiting the other animal's suffering. Cheetahs have spots too. Finally, with a top speed of 70mph, these cats can outpace most creatures on their menu.

Consider the bolded text. After reading this sentence, ask yourself the 2 questions above: So what? Why do I need to know this? Based on what is provided, we can't answer these questions. Consequently, it would be better to provide more information showing how this bolded text relates to or supports the main idea (that Cheetahs are excellent predators).

Fixed:

Cheetahs have spots too. These spots provide them a sort of camouflage that prevents prey from noticing these hunters in the African habitat.

 

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