EN1001M – Introduction to Literary Study
Many papers that you write in college will require you to make an argument; this means that you must take a position on the subject you are discussing and support that position with evidence. It’s important that you use the right kind of evidence, that you use it effectively, and that you have an appropriate amount of it.
Comments like “for example?,” “substantiate,” “proof?,” “go deeper,” or “expand” in the margins of your graded paper suggest that you may need more evidence.
Using evidence in an argument
Does evidence speak for itself?
Absolutely not. After you introduce evidence into your writing, you must say why and how this evidence supports your argument. In other words, you have to explain the significance of the evidence and its function in your paper.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself about a particular bit of evidence. Answering them may help you explain how your evidence is related to your overall argument:
1. O.k., I’ve just stated this point, but so what? Why is it interesting? Why should anyone care?
2. What does this information imply?
3. What are the consequences of thinking this way or looking at a problem this way?
4. I’ve just described what something is like or how I see it, but why is it like that?
5. I’ve just said that something happens-so how does it happen? How does it come to be the way it is?
6. Why is this information important? Why does it matter?
7. How is this idea related to my thesis? What connections exist between them? Does it support my thesis? If so, how does it do that?
8. Can I give an example to illustrate this point?
When you quote, you are reproducing another writer’s words exactly as they appear on the page. Here are some tips to help you decide when to use quotations:
1. Quote if you can’t say it any better and the author’s words are particularly brilliant, witty, edgy, distinctive, a good illustration of a point you’re making, or otherwise interesting. 2. Quote if you are using a particularly authoritative source and you need the author’s expertise to back up your point.
3. Quote if you are analyzing diction, tone, or a writer’s use of a specific word or phrase.
4. Quote if you are taking a position that relies on the reader’s understanding exactly what another writer says about the topic.
Be sure to introduce each quotation you use, and always cite your sources.
Like all pieces of evidence, a quotation can’t speak for itself. If you end a paragraph with a quotation, that may be a sign that you have neglected to discuss the importance of the quotation in terms of your argument. It’s important to avoid “plop quotations,” that is, quotations that are just dropped into your paper without any introduction, discussion, or follow-up. Paraphrasing
When you paraphrase, you take a specific section of a text and put it into your own words.
Putting it into your own words doesn’t mean just changing or rearranging a few of the author’s words: to paraphrase well and avoid plagiarism, try setting your source aside and restating the sentence or paragraph you have just read, as though you were describing it to another person. Paraphrasing is different than summary because a paraphrase focuses on a particular, fairly short bit of text (like a phrase, sentence, or paragraph). You’ll need to indicate when you are paraphrasing someone else’s text by citing your source correctly, just as you would with a quotation.
When might you want to paraphrase?
1. Paraphrase when you want to introduce a writer’s position, but his or her original words aren’t special enough to quote.
2. Paraphrase when you are supporting a particular point and need to draw on a certain place in a text that supports your point—for example, when one paragraph in a source is especially relevant.
3. Paraphrase when you want to present a writer’s view on a topic that