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Evidence

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Evidence

Every claim you make in an essay needs evidence to back it up. Evidence is an important part of illustrating your meaning and supporting your ideas. Evidence can include facts, examples, or quotes. Good writing blends different types of evidence. This gets your point across and convinces the reader you are an authority on the subject.

Meaning of Evidence

You might think of evidence as proof that you know what you're talking about. Evidence doesn't have to prove that you are undeniably correct like in a court of law. But it should show the reader how you came to your conclusions and why your argument is logical.

Evidence is what is used to back up the claims of an essay. Evidence can include facts, examples, or quotes.

Believe it or not, you use evidence all the time! Think about the last time you asked your parents to buy you something. You probably showed them the price to demonstrate that it wasn't too expensive. And what about the last time your friends wanted to go somewhere you didn't want to go? Perhaps you told your friend about a negative experience you had there. You used evidence to convince them you were right.

In an essay, evidence works the same way! You make a claim and then provide evidence to convince the reader.

Difference Between Evidence and Examples

You might be wondering if evidence and examples are the same. Examples are just one form of evidence.

People with autism see the world in a unique way. Dr. Temple Grandin, for example, revolutionized how we handle livestock by using her unique view of the world to understand animal behavior.

Think of examples as illustrations. They demonstrate your claims so others can understand them. But illustrations aren't always convincing on their own. They're strongest when you pair them with other forms of evidence. Below, we'll go over other types of evidence and how to use them.

The Importance and Purpose of Evidence

Evidence is important because it shows the reader what you mean and why you are right.

Evidence, reader as a jury that needs evidence to believe your claims, StudySmarterThink of your readers like a jury, StudySmarter.

Think of your essay as a court case. The reader is the jury. To convince the jury of your claims, you need to provide evidence.

You can tell the jury that you are right. But you also have to show them. Without something to back up your claims, the jury is unlikely to believe you.

Evidence can be used to:

  • Show the differences between others' opinions.
  • Demonstrate cause-effect relationships.
  • Disprove the opinions of your opponents.
  • Confirm the logic of your claims.
  • Show how two texts or experiences compare to each other.

When selecting evidence, ask yourself, "What do I want to show the reader?"

Types of Evidence with Examples

The six types of evidence are anecdotal, statistical, testimonial, textual, analogical, and logical. Each type of evidence is useful in different ways. Good writing uses several different types of evidence to support different claims. As you read through each type of evidence below, think about which situations they would be most helpful for.

Statistical Evidence

Statistics are a powerful form of evidence.

Statistical evidence is numerical data, meaning it comes from information collected and translated through numbers.

When they come from credible sources, statistics are difficult to argue with. Therefore, they are effective for supporting your claims.

Statistics are especially useful for:

  • Grabbing the reader's attention at the beginning of an essay (if the statistic is surprising).
  • Showing how serious or widespread a problem or issue is.
  • Precisely explaining the effects of something.
  • Demonstrating the results of a scientific experiment.

Statistics can come from all kinds of sources. Look at the table below for examples of different types of statistics:

Type of statisticSource examplesStatistic examples
Government or nonprofit reportsUNESCO, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Commerce, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, Federal Trade Commission

80% of marine pollution comes from land-based sources (UNESCO).1

Peer-reviewed academic publicationsJournal of American Medicine, Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, Journal of Business & Economic Studies, Studies in Media & Communication

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, one in five physicians has decided to leave medical practice (Journal of American Medicine).2

Data repositoriesOur World In Data, Mendeley Data, Harvard Dataverse, Climate Change Data Portal, National Geographic Data Center, DataONE

One-third of people with depression experience symptoms before the age of 17 (Our World in Data).3

Survey resultsPew Research Center, United States Census Bureau, New York Times polls, NORC at the University of Chicago, RAND Survey Research Group

During the pandemic, 54% of working moms have reported feeling they could not focus on work because they are balancing work and parenting responsibilities (Pew Research Center).4

Statistics from your own researchSurvey of local high schoolers on dress codes, AP Research project, science fair project resultsAccording to a survey I conducted last year, more than 50% of local high schoolers feel anxious about the switch to online learning.

Testimonial Evidence

Expert opinions are another great way to support your claims. Testimonial evidence uses expert opinions to establish credibility and support your ideas.

When using testimonial evidence, introduce the expert whose testimony you are using. Let the reader know who they are. This establishes credibility.

Credibility is trustworthiness. To establish credibility, show the reader your sources can be trusted.

To establish credibility, ask yourself: what makes this person an expert on the subject? Do they have an advanced degree in the subject? Do they have a lot of well-known publications on the subject? Do they have extensive experience in this subject? Share this information with the reader so they know this person is an expert.

Evidence. A dove in flight. StudySmarter.Learn who knows about your topic, pixabay.

Ornithologist Dr. Allison Shultz says the rapid decline in bird populations in America is "alarming." As the resident bird expert for the Natural History Museum, she knows how bird populations reflect environmental health.5

To get testimonial evidence, ask yourself: who is an expert on my topic?

Here are some places you might look for testimonial evidence:

  • Published interviews with an expert
  • Video interviews and documentaries featuring an expert
  • Quotes from an expert’s book, journal article, or newspaper editorial
  • Conclusions from peer-reviewed journal articles written by experts

Textual Evidence

Books, articles, blog posts, news reports, and other written sources all count as texts.

Textual evidence comes from texts you use as sources.

Textual evidence is particularly useful for analyzing stories or poems. For example, you might quote a passage from a short story you are analyzing. This would provide evidence for your analysis. You could show the reader how the writer uses their words to convey meaning.

In Chapter 15 of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses Hester's daughter, Pearl, to describe how the scarlet letter on her mother's chest has shaped her life: “Mother, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. . . . It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet!” (Hawthorne, 1850). Here, Pearl illustrates the symbolism of the scarlet letter. It is the brand that identifies her humanity but causes others to turn away from her.

Note how the above example explains how the quote supports the author's analysis. When using testimonial evidence, consider how you want to use it. Explain how the textual evidence supports your ideas.

Analogical Evidence

Remember how examples are forms of evidence? To be specific, examples are considered a form of analogical evidence. Analogical evidence uses analogies to support your ideas.

Analogies are comparisons between two or more things to explain an idea or concept. Similar to similes, analogies might use words such as "like," or "as" to make comparisons between different situations. However, analogies use these points of comparison to make a point.

Analogical evidence helps explain complicated ideas. They illustrate your meaning by making common-sense comparisons. For example, to explain how computer viruses work, you could compare them to cold and flu viruses in people. Or you might compare the results of a study to the results of a well-known study that the reader is already familiar with.

When using analogical evidence, ask yourself: what comparison would help the reader better understand what I am saying?

Like Pavlov's dogs, Americans have been conditioned to respond to ads designed to make them want.

Here are some examples of analogical evidence you might use:

  • An expert opinion about a topic that is similar to your own
  • A comparison of a concept or object to something that functions similarly
  • An event or experience that is similar to one you are describing

Evidence. A dog with its tongue out. StudySmarter.How does your evidence compare to something famous? pixabay.

Logical Evidence

Logical evidence considers how things could be. This type of evidence uses logic to propose a hypothetical outcome to a situation. Logical evidence is one of the weaker types of evidence. It isn't based on real events and facts. Therefore, it's best to use this type of evidence along with other types of evidence.

If the school district imposed the same dress code on all students regardless of gender, students would get to spend more time on their studies and less time dealing with suspensions for violating gendered dress code rules. Take, for example, the Texan male students that were suspended from school for wearing their hair too long.7 According to Marissa Higgins in her Daily Kos article, these students lost valuable learning time because of gendered dress codes.

Note how the above example blends logical/hypothetical evidence with analogical evidence. The writer supports their hypothesis with a comparison to a real-world situation.

Here are some of the ways you could use logical/hypothetical evidence in an essay:

  • A hypothetical story about what would likely happen if your argument is right
  • A hypothesis about what will happen if an action is not taken soon
  • A logical explanation of what will happen if experts on the subject turn out to be right

Anecdotal Evidence

Anecdotal evidence includes stories and case studies about individual experiences. Consider anecdotal evidence to be real-world experiences that are not documented anywhere.

There are two types of anecdotal evidence:

  • personal stories (stories from your own experience)
  • case studies (stories about someone else's experience)

Anecdotal evidence is based on individual experiences rather than group experiences. This means they're not very reliable for making arguments about large groups of people. Therefore, it's best to use anecdotal evidence along with another type of evidence.


Anecdotal evidence is most helpful at the beginning of an essay.

My sister has a speech impediment. She struggles with simple tasks like ordering fast food from a drive-thru menu, participating in oral school exams, or asking store workers for help. Why? Because society does not accommodate people with speech impediments. In her article, "Misfits: A Feminist Materialist Disability Concept," disability scholar Rosemarie Garland Thomson describes people with speech impediments as "misfits" who experience segregation and exclusion from experiences that are inadvertently designed for able-bodied people.

Here are some more examples of anecdotal evidence:

  • A case study from an interview you conducted
  • Stories about your personal experience
  • Case studies from friends, family, and other people you know
  • Excerpts from personal diaries, journals, and letters

Evidence - Key Takeaways

  • Evidence is what is used to back up the claims of an essay. Evidence can include facts, examples, or quotes.
  • Examples are just one form of evidence. Think of examples as illustrations that are strongest when used alongside other types of evidence.
  • Evidence is important because it shows the reader what you mean and why you are right.
  • The six types of evidence are anecdotal, statistical, testimonial, textual, analogical, and logical.
  • Good writing uses several different types of evidence to support different claims.

1 UNESCO. "Facts and figures on marine pollution." 2017.

2 Jennifer Abasi. "Pushed to Their Limits, 1 in 5 Physicians Intends to Leave Practice," Journal of American Medicine. 2022.

3 Saloni Dattani. "At what age do people experience depression for the first time?" Our World in Data. 2022.

4 Katherine Schaffer. "Working moms in the U.S. have faced challenges on multiple fronts during the pandemic." Pew Research Center. 2022.

5 Allison Shultz. "Our Expert on Birds." Natural History Museum. 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions about Evidence

Evidence means whatever is used to back up the claims of an essay. Evidence can include facts, examples, or quotes. 

Examples of evidence are quotes from sources, statistics, facts, and anecdotes. 

Another word for evidence is support.

Evidence is important because it shows the reader what you mean and why you are right.  

To use evidence in writing, summarize, paraphrase, or quote sources that support your claims. 

The different types of evidence are anecdotal, statistical, testimonial, textual, analogical, and logical.

Final Evidence Quiz

Question

What is evidence?

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Answer

Evidence is what is used to back up the claims of an essay. Evidence can include facts, examples, or quotes. 

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Question

True or False: 

Evidence and examples are exactly the same thing.

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Answer

False. Examples are just one form of evidence.

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Question

Finish this sentence:

One can think of examples as _____. 

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Answer

illustrations

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Question

If an essay is like a court case, then what role does the reader play?

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Answer

the jury

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Question

What are some of the different uses for evidence?

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Answer

To show the differences between others' opinions.

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Question

True or False:

Good writing uses several different types of evidence to support different claims.

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Answer

True! Each type of evidence offers a unique way to support one's claims. 

Show question

Question

What is statistical evidence?

Show answer

Answer

Statistical evidence is numerical data, meaning it comes from information collected and translated through numbers. 

Show question

Question

What are some examples of government and nonprofit sources one can use to find statistical evidence? 

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Answer

UNESCO

Show question

Question

The Journal of American Medicine is an example of what type of source for finding statistical evidence? 

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Answer

peer-reviewed academic publication

Show question

Question

True or False: 

Statistical evidence can come from one's own research projects. 

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Answer

True! Science fair projects, AP research projects, and other forms of research are all valid sources of statistical evidence.

Show question

Question

Finish this sentence: 

When using testimonial evidence, it is important to establish experts' _____. 

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Answer

credibility

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Question

What is the difference between textual evidence and other types of evidence? 

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Answer

Textual evidence uses the ideas or words used by the author of that text. For example, instead of sharing a statistic from a source on climate change, one might use a quote from that source.

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What is one thing textual evidence is particularly useful for? 

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Answer

analyzing texts

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What are the three ways one can write textual evidence into an essay?

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Answer

summary

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What are analogies?

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Answer

Analogies are comparisons between two or more things.  Analogies might use words such as "like," or "as"  to make comparisons between different situations.

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An author describes a possible outcome that could logically come out of a situation. What type of evidence is this an example of? 

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Answer

logical/hypothetical evidence

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Which types of evidence are best used along with other types of evidence?

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Answer

logical/hypothetical evidence

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What are the two types of anecdotal evidence? 

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Answer

personal stories

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Where is anecdotal evidence most helpful?

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Answer

Anecdotal evidence is most helpful at the beginning of an essay. Stories are great for grabbing the reader's attention!

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What is paraphrase?

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When you reword someone else's thoughts.

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You paraphrase to:

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Support your argument

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Paraphrase only works for 5 paragraph essays.

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False

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Paraphrasing is the same as summarizing.

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False

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You should use paraphrase to shape evidence into something entirely new and suitable to your essay.

True or false?

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False. While you should use paraphrase to suss the critical information out of passages, the spirit of these passages should remain true to the original source.

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You might paraphrase:

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A scene from a play

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You cannot use both quotes and paraphrase in the same paragraph.

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False

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If the material you want to use is a few words, you should:

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Quote it

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If the passage you want to use is two paragraphs, you should:

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Paraphrase it

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It helps you shorten someone else's thoughts.

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Paraphrase

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What is a quotation?

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A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source. 

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True or False. The word quotation and the word quote mean the same thing. 

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False. The word quotation is a noun that references what is taken from another source. The word quote is often used as a verb that refers to the act of taking direct information from another source.

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What are the two main types of quotes?

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Direct and indirect

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What do writers have to do when they use indirect quotes?

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Reference the original source. 

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What do writers need to put at the beginning and end of a direct quote?

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Quotation marks 

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True or False. Quotation marks are only found in non-fiction writing. 

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False. Fiction writers put quotation marks around dialogue. 

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Why do writers use quotation marks?

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All of these

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What are direct quotations?

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Quotations that are taken verbatim from the source. 

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When do writers use single quotation marks?

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When citing a quote within a quote. 

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True or false. Only direct quotations need references. 

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False. Any information taken from an outside source needs to be properly cited. 

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What are the two types of summary?

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Descriptive and evaluative 

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True or False. Summarizing can help develop memory skills. 

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Answer

True. Recalling the main ideas of a text can help improve people’s memory skills. 

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Which of the following should writers avoid when writing evaluative summaries?

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Minor details from the text 

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Which of the following is a synonym for the word summarize?

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Condense 

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True or False. Paraphrasing is a synonym for summarizing. 

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False. Paraphrasing is different from summarizing because it is when writers use their own words to describe information but does not require condensing the information like a summary. 

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What is active reading? 


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Engaging with a text for a specific purpose 

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What is the first step in writing a summary of a book?

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Reading the entire book 

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What is the name of a summary that includes the writer’s opinions?

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Evaluative summary 

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What is the name for a summary that includes only facts and none of the writer’s opinions?


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Descriptive summary 

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What does it mean to summarize?

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 To summarize is to briefly describe something’s main points.

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What does it mean to restate? 


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To restate something means to say it again, often with slightly different language. 


Show question

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