Skip to main content

Using Evidence Effectively

What is Evidence?

Evidence refers to the research that supports your ideas. This evidence is gathered from your research. There are different ways to incorporate evidence, such as

  • paraphrases (using your own words and sentence structure to communicate an idea from the source),
  • quotations (using exact words from the source), and
  • statistics (using numbers and data from the source).

Whenever you use evidence, no matter how you incorporate it, you have to cite and reference it.

Why is Evidence Needed?

Evidence makes your writing more convincing. Without evidence, your ideas may appear to be unsupported personal opinion. We all have our own opinions on a wide range of topics, but your instructors want to see research that backs up your ideas, arguments, suggestions/recommendations, or conclusions.

What Not to Do

Always integrate evidence into your writing. Look at the following example, which is not integrated:

When quitting smoking, support is essential. "Group programmes are more effective for helping people to stop smoking than being given self-help materials without face-to-face instruction and group support" (Stead & Lancaster, 2009, p. 2).

Evidence should blend seamlessly into your own writing. Failing to do this can disrupt the flow of your writing, which can be distracting to your audience.

Integrating Evidence: Introducing and Analyzing

There are two key steps to integrating evidence: introducing and analyzing.

Introducing Evidence

When you introduce evidence, you tell readers that they are about to read information from another source. There are four ways to introduce evidence:

  1. Use a short signal phrase, such as "According to," "Research has shown," or "The authors note":
  2. According to Stead and Lancaster (2009), an individual is twice as likely to quit smoking when they have the support of a group or face-to-face instruction as opposed to solely relying on self-help materials (p. 2).

  3. Use a colon to introduce a quotation if the introductory words are a complete sentence:
  4. Research (Stead & Lancaster, 2009) has demonstrated the role support plays when trying to quit smoking: "Group programmes are more effective for helping people to stop smoking than being given self-help materials without face-to-face instruction and group support" (p. 2).

  5. Use punctuation that fits the sentence structure if a quotation is a couple of words or a phrase (and not a complete sentence). Depending on the structure of the sentence, you may or may not need punctuation.
  6. No Punctuation Needed

    Stead and Lancaster (2009) state group support programs "are more effective for helping people to stop smoking" (p. 2).

    Punctuation Needed

    Stead and Lancaster (2009) state group support programs, as opposed to self-help books, " are more effective for helping people to stop smoking" (p. 2).

  7. Use commas to separate a quotation if you insert your own words into the middle:
  8. "Group programmes are more effective," write Stead and Lancaster (2009), "for helping people to stop smoking than being given self-help materials without face-to-face instruction and group support" (p. 2).

Analyzing Evidence

You can't let evidence speak for itself. Think of it this way: In a courtroom, lawyers use evidence to convince the jury that the accused is either guilty or innocent. Sometimes both sides use the same evidence, so they explain how the evidence supports their interpretations of the crime. In a paper, you need to do the same thing and comment on how the evidence you present supports your ideas.

Look at the following example of how a piece of evidence can be analyzed to support the point you are trying to make:

When quitting smoking, support is essential. According to Stead and Lancaster (2009), " Group programmes are more effective for helping people to stop smoking than being given self-help materials without face-to-face instruction and group support. The chances of quitting are approximately doubled" (p. 2). This significantly higher success rate clearly demonstrates that support from others who can relate to the experience is invaluable and should be seriously considered by anyone wanting to quit smoking.

Since evidence should be analyzed, you need to make sure that you don't "over quote." If your paper has one quotation after another, you haven't shown your own critical thinking. Make sure you keep quotations to a couple of sentences at a time and include your own explanation between the quoted sentences.

Other Resources