How to Use Effective Evidence in Essays

How to Use Effective Evidence in Essays
Many writers have not learned how to write body paragraphs for an essay, article, formal research paper, or business letter. All too often, students only received the following instruction about how to write body paragraphs: Write a topic sentence; write major detail sentences; then, support the major detail sentences with minor detail sentences. Not much help with that limited instruction
The following strategies will help you write learn how to write body paragraphs that will be appropriate to the writing task, provide pertinent evidence to prove your thesis, and also show off your writing skills. The CeF SCALE memory trick will help remind you of the evidence strategies you need to use on timed writing tasks. Not every evidence strategy fits the purpose of every writing task, so learn and practice these options to increase your writing skill-set.

CeF SCALE Evidence Strategies (Think Centigrade Fahrenheit)

1. A comparison means to show how the subject is like something else in a meaningful way. (C)
2. An experience used as evidence may be a commonly known event or an event of which there is limited knowledge. (e)
3. A fact means something actually said or done. Use quotes for direct or indirect quotations. (F)
4. A statistic is a numerical figure that represents evidence gained from scientific research. (S)
5. A counterpoint states an argument against your thesis statement and then provides evidence against that argument. (C)
6. An appeal to authority is a reference from an authority on a certain subject. (A)
7. Logic means to use deductive (general to specific) or inductive (specific to general) reasoning to prove a point. (L)
8. An example is a subset typical of a category or group. (E)

Body paragraphs are organized around the topic sentence, which is the main point, reason, or argument to prove the thesis statement. Always place your topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph. Writing research indicates that the topic sentence is placed at the beginning of the body paragraph 80% of the time in published works, so don't re-invent the wheel. Write in the way your reader expects to read.

Then, use the CeF SCALE evidence strategies to provide the evidence you need to support your topic sentence. Think of writing body paragraphs much as a prosecuting attorney uses evidence to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty of the crime. Connect your body paragraph evidence strategies with effective transition words to maintain coherence. The body paragraph should flow together as one whole. Every word should move the reader toward the demanded verdict, which is your thesis statement.

Use a variety of evidence to support your topic sentence in each paragraph. I suggest that two or three types of evidence per body paragraph is most effective. A good attorney uses a wide variety of evidence. Limiting evidence to one form will weaken your overall argument and not win your conviction. Think of the O.J. Simpson's "Trial of the Century." The prosecution overly relied on DNA evidence and failed to convince its jury. All it took was "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit" to provide enough doubt to the jury to acquit the defendant.

After composing the topic sentence, flesh out each evidence strategy in a compound-complex sentence or two separate sentences. Then, analyze the evidence in another sentence. Of course, sometimes it is also appropriate to do the reverse: state a major detail that addresses the topic sentence and then provide the evidence strategy to support that detail.

A good body paragraph might be structured in this way:

Topic Sentence
Evidence Strategy #1 Sentence
Analysis Sentence
Evidence Strategy #2 Sentence
Analysis Sentence
Major Detail
Evidence Strategy #3 Sentence

Generally, avoid concluding statements in short essays. Concluding statements are helpful when used in longer research papers, following several paragraphs organized by one umbrella topic sentence.

I suggest that you take the time to pre-write before drafting any writing task. Compose your thesis statement first; then, brainstorm the body paragraphs. Next, draft the body paragraphs, skipping space to later write your introductory paragraph. Then, write the introduction. Finish the writing with your conclusion paragraph.

Now you have the right strategies to make your case, using a variety of effective evidence. Using the CeF SCALE evidence strategies will help you convince your jury.

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