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Chapter 7

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Support and Evidence
Supporting Your Points

In an essay (or any form of argument), you
have an obligation to support the points you
are making.

The amount of support and type of support
will vary according to topic, audience,
purpose, and other factors.
Evidence

Evidence should be:
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Representative: It should illustrate the specifics
and generalities of the point being made
Sufficient: Enough should be provided to the
reader to make the point and should have weight
(credibility) to it
Relevant: The evidence should be timely,
credible, and applicable to the topic and point.
Representative: General vs.
Specific Support
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Evidence should represent/show both the overall trends as well as
provide specific examples
General support:
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Shows overall, larger trends
Often involves hard facts (statistics, graphs, etc)
More easily verified
Doesn‘t always make the point “real”
Tends to be more objective
Specific support:
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Provides narrower examples
May be easier for a reader to relate to
Often appeals more to emotion and credibility
Sometimes more subjective
Researched Support vs Opinions
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Students often rely on the opinions of their sources (conclusions in
which the expert interprets the research and sums it up) than they rely
on the research of the source (taking the material used to support
those conclusions and interpreting it).
While the opinions and conclusions of experts are generally wellregarded, are you willing to accept an expert’s opinion simply because
the expert says it is true?
It’s more effective to discuss and use the research itself as your
support, rather than just use an expert’s interpretation of it.
BOTH can be used in a paper – you can present the evidence from the
research and the expert’s interpretation of it. However, relying solely
on the expert’s interpretation will likely mean you will have to find
more research to support your point.
Researched Support vs Opinion,
con’t

Opinions *can* have validity as proof
–

If multiple sources say the same thing, for
instance, this helps support the opinions of those
sources (when backed up with evidence)
It is best to rely on the researched evidence
first, and then use the opinions of the
sources to further support your point
Sufficient: How Much Support?

The necessary amount of support will vary
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
As a general rule, 2-3 pieces of evidence for each point
should be used in most essays
Fewer than 2 pieces of evidence makes it harder to use
both a general and a specific example
Consider how much evidence it would take to
convince you to change your mind on something you
strongly believe in. It is unlikely you would be
convinced by a single example on its own.
Sufficient: Weight


Evidence should also carry sufficient weight
with the audience
Scholarly sources versus non-scholarly
–
–
Scholarly sources offer expert opinions supported
by research; best for formal academic papers
Non-scholarly sources offer up opinions
(hopefully informed ones); best for casual
discussions, informal writing
Relevant

Timely
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Source
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Out of date evidence can be inaccurate
E.g., using HIV research from the 1990s
Credibility of the author; authors perceived as
inappropriate/unqualified can make the evidence seem less
relevant
E.g., a man writing about the difficulties of pregnancy
Applicable
–
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The evidence should clearly be connected with the point and
argument being made
E.g., statistics for teenage smoking specifically have little bearing
on the dangers of smoking in general
Types of Traditional Evidence

Aristotle
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Evidence that can be laid on the table
Evidence that represents creative thinking

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Logos (logic)
Ethos (credibility)
Pathos (emotion)
Logical Evidence/Proof
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Appeals to people’s reason, understanding,
and common sense.
Relies on reasoned opinion and factual data
Relies on warrants that suggest the
soundness and truth of the support
Aristotle felt this the most important type
Types of Evidence/Proof: Logos
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Based on reality
Rely on factual information
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Sign
Induction
Cause
Deduction
Analogies
Definition
Statistics
Logos: Argument from Signs
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Visible signs
Look for visible clues, symptoms, and
occurences
Logos: Argument from Induction
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Provides a number of examples and draws a claim
Argument from generalization or argument from
example
In “into”
Duc “lead”
An inductive argument uses examples to lead into a
claim or generalization about the examples
Demonstrates probability rather than truth
Must have sufficient number of examples
Logos: Argument from Cause
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Cause-and-effect relationships
Look for events, trends, and people that have
caused certain things to happen
Logos: Argument from Deduction
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Argument from principle
De “from”
Duc “lead”
A deductive argument leads from a general principle
Identity the claim by answering “On the basis of a
general principle (warrant), implied or stated, what
does the author expect me to conclude about this
specific example or case?”
Logos: Argument from Historical,
Literal, or Figurative Analogy
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Explores similarities and differences between
items in the same general category
Figurative analogies do the same
We show how one thing is like another
Analogies compare present with past, two
similar items, items from two different
categories
Logos: Argument from Definition
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Definition is very important. It is tough to
argue anything unless there is an agreement
about the meaning.
Look for definitions or explanations of words
or concepts.
Logos: Argument from Statistics
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Statistics describe relationship among data,
people, and occurrences.
Determine where the evidence comes from
Determine how accurate and reliable
Look for numbers and data
Logos in Language and Style
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Language of Logic
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Rational style
Denotative meaning –commonly held meaning –
the dictionary meaning
Connotative meaning – have extra, unique and
personal meanings
Rational style relies on opinion in the form of
reason, literal or historical analogies,
explanations, and definitions
Evidence/Proof that Establishes
Ethos
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Appeals to audience’s impressions, opinions,
and judgments about the individual stating
the argument.
Arguers who demonstrate following are more
convincing
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Competence
Good character
Fair-mindedness
Goodwill toward the audience
Evidence/Proof that Builds
Credibility: Ethos
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Argument from Authority
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We accept opinions and factual evidence from
those in authority
We are expected to assume that the information
given is accurate
Ethos in Language and Style
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Characteristics
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Consistent awareness of audience’s background
Writer does not “talk down” –use technical jargon – or slang
or colloquial language
Sensitive to different audiences and what they admire
Writers use language to establish reliability with the
audience
Slang, slogans and street language destroy ethos in
formal writing
Mechanical errors destroy ethos
Emotional Evidence/Proof
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Appeal and arouse the feelings of the
audience
Use emotional language
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Examples
Personal narratives
Vivid descriptions
Types of Emotional
Evidence/Proofs: Pathos
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Emotion, some believe, clouds reasoning
and judgment
But, people are not unemotional
Learn to recognize when emotion works in
an argument
Pathos: Motivational
Evidence/Proofs
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Appeal to what all audiences want
Purpose: urge audience to take prescribed
steps to meet identified need
Look for references to items or qualities that
you might want or need
Pathos: Value Evidence/Proofs
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Appeal to what we are expected to value
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Reliability, Honesty
Loyalty, Industry
Patriotism, Courage
Integrity, Conviction
Faithfulness, Dependability
Creativity
Freedom, Equality
Devotion to duty
Pathos in Language and Style
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Emotionally loaded language evokes connotative
meaning
Emotional examples engage the emotions
Vivid description of an emotional scene creates an
emotional reader response
Narratives of emotional events draw readers to the
scene
Emotional tone –indicates strong feelings
Figurative analogies contribute to emotion in an
argument
Value of Evidence/Proofs for Reading
Argument
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Easier to answer the bottom-line questions
Focuses attention on writer’s reasoning
Helps recognize faulty reasoning
Helps writers think of ways to develop a
claim
Makes writers more aware of own warrants
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