In analyzing evidence, it helps to have an idea of the different types that are out there. Then, you can classify the facts in what you are reading: pick which type(s) they belong to. Here are some of the most common types of evidence writers use to support their points:
- Numbers (for example, date and time, or any specific number or measurement: Length of a boat, number of witnesses, votes for a certain bill, score of a game, etc.)
- Statistics. Although technically just one form of number evidence, statistics are special enough to count as their own separate type of evidence, especially because they are so valuable at making evidence representative.
- Names (for example, place names, names of individuals, organizations, movements, etc.)
- Expert opinion (this refers to the use of someone elses knowledge or opinion, not that of the authorwhen the author quotes or mentions a recognized expert in the field)
- Specialized knowledge (the authors own knowledge, not common knowledge, usually acquired through some sort of formal training)
- Individual stories/examples, also known as anecdotal evidence (When the term anecdotal evidence is used, it is generally a negative or critical term suggesting that the evidence is not representative. Individual stories or examples, however, are often useful evidence.)
- Physical details (sense data)things you can see, hear, touch, smell or taste
- Dialogue (Speech of other people reported directly, exactly as spoken, usually with quotation marks [ ] around it and set off in separate paragraphs, one for each speaker. Technically this is a subset of physical detail, because it is something you can hear, but direct reporting of what people have said is important enough to be considered a separate category.)
- Documentary evidence (evidence from documents). This includes all of the following, among many others:
- Unpublished writings (early drafts of works published later; juvenile works by famous authors, etc.)
- Administrative policies, like the Washington Administrative Code
- Court decisions
- Speeches, interviews, and other statements by relevant people
Research requires us to scrutinize information and assess its credibility. Accordingly, when we think about various phenomena, we examine empirical data and craft detailed explanations justifying our interpretations. An essential component of constructing our research narratives is providing supporting evidence and examples.
The type of proof we provide can either bolster our claims or leave readers confused or skeptical of our analysis. Therefore, it’s crucial that we use appropriate, logical phrases that guide readers clearly from one idea to the next. In this article, we discuss situations in which evidence and examples should be used and catalog effective language you can use to support your arguments, examples included.
When to introduce evidence and examples
Evidence and examples create the foundation upon which your claims can stand firm. Without proof, your arguments lack credibility and teeth. However, laundry listing evidence is as bad as failing to provide any materials or information that can substantiate your conclusions. Therefore, when you introduce examples, make sure to judiciously provide evidence when needed and use phrases that will appropriately and clearly explain how the proof supports your argument.
You should introduce and link your arguments to evidence when you
- state information that is not “common knowledge”;
- draw conclusions, make inferences, or suggest implications based on specific data;
- need to clarify a prior statement, and it would be more effectively done with an illustration;
- need to identify representative examples of a category;
- desire to distinguish concepts; and
- emphasize a point by highlighting a specific situation.
Introductory phrases to use and their contexts
To assist you with effectively supporting your statements, we have organized the introductory phrases below according to their function. This list is not exhaustive but will provide you with ideas of the types of phrases you can use.
|stating information that is not “common knowledge”|
|drawing conclusions, making inferences, or suggesting implications based on specific data|
|clarifying a prior statement|
|identifying representative examples of a category|
*NOTE: “such as” and “like” have two different uses. “Such as” introduces a specific example that is part of a category. “Like” suggests the listed items are similar to, but not included in, the topic discussed.
|emphasizing a point by highlighting a specific situation|