Chapter 4: Structuring, Paragraphing, and Styling

4.4 Supporting Evidence

Amanda Lloyd

Adding Supporting Evidence to Body Paragraphs

Supporting your ideas effectively is essential to establishing your credibility as a writer, so you should choose your supporting evidence wisely and clearly explain it to your audience.

Present your supporting evidence in the form of paraphrases and direct quotations.  Quotations should be used sparingly; that said, direct quotations are often handy when you would like to illustrate a particularly well-written passage or draw attention to an author’s use of tone, diction, or syntax that would likely become lost in a paraphrase.

Types of support might include the following:

  • Statistics and data
  • Research studies and scholarship
  • Hypothetical and real-life examples
  • Historical facts
  • Analogies
  • Precedents
  • Laws
  • Case histories
  • Expert testimonies or opinions
  • Eye-witness accounts
  • Applicable personal experiences or anecdotes

Varying your means of support will lend further credibility to your essay and help to maintain your reader’s interest. Keep in mind, though, that some types of support are more appropriate for certain academic disciplines than for others.

Direct quotations and paraphrases must be integrated effortlessly and documented appropriately.  See section 11.4 for information on integrating supporting evidence with signal phrases and section 12.2 for information about citations.

Providing Context for Supporting Evidence

Before introducing your supporting evidence, it may occasionally be necessary to provide some context for that information. You should assume that your audience has not read your source texts in their entirety, if at all, so including some background or connecting material between your topic sentence and supporting evidence is frequently essential.

The information contained in your evidence selection might need to be introduced, explained, or defined so that your supporting evidence is perfectly clear to an audience unfamiliar with the source material. For example, your supporting evidence might contain a reference to a concept or term that is not explained or defined in the excerpt or elsewhere in your essay. In this instance, you would need to provide some clarification for your audience. Anticipating your audience is particularly important when incorporating supporting evidence into your essay. See section 3.2 for more information about audience awareness.

Now that we have a good idea what it means to develop support for the main ideas of your paragraphs, let’s talk about how to make sure that those supporting details are solid and convincing.

Good vs. Weak Support

When you’re developing paragraphs, you should already have a plan for your essay, at least at the most basic level. You know what your topic is, you have a working thesis, and you have at least a couple of supporting ideas in mind that will further develop and support your thesis. You need to make sure that the support that you develop for these ideas is solid. Understanding and appealing to your audience can also be helpful in determining what your readers will consider good support and what they’ll consider to be weak. Here are some tips on what to strive for and what to avoid when it comes to supporting evidence.

Good Support

  • is relevant and focused (sticks to the point)
  • is well developed
  • provides sufficient detail
  • is vivid and descriptive
  • is well organized
  • is coherent and consistent
  • highlights key terms and ideas

Weak Support

  • lacks a clear connection to the point that it’s meant to support
  • lacks development
  • lacks detail or gives too much detail
  • is vague and imprecise
  • lacks organization
  • seems disjointed (ideas don’t clearly relate to each other)
  • lacks emphasis of key terms and ideas



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