Recall that evidence is facts and details that support an argument. When you’re writing an essay, particularly an argumentative essay, each paragraph should make one main point. As you’re working to prove that point, you want to ask yourself what your readers need to know in order to believe that point.
Maybe they’ll need hard statistics from an expert; findings from an experiment, or maybe they’ll need some historical context.
The kind of evidence you use will depend on:
Depending on what each paragraph needs, you can direct your research and choose your type of evidence accordingly.
Once you’ve found your evidence, you need to decide how to use it.
There are three ways that you can present evidence:
Summarizing means giving a brief overview of the main points or ideas of a piece of writing without relying on specific details or language. This would mean writing something very general about a whole piece of text.
You could summarize the entire US National Anthem by saying something like the following:
Notice that by summarizing, you’re giving a general overview of the whole piece without using any details or specifics.
Paraphrasing means restating a passage in your own words, keeping the author’s original intent and meaning.
This would mean rewriting something that a piece of writing has already said using different words entirely, usually to increase clarity. Paraphrases are therefore only of specific lines or sentences, and they must keep the author’s original meaning intact.
A way of paraphrasing the national anthem might be reading the lines in quotation marks, and then writing the following:
Quoting is repeating the exact words of a piece of writing using quotation marks surrounding the quote.
This would mean writing the exact words from a piece of writing and enclosing those words in quotation marks so that it’s clear which words are yours and which come from somewhere else.
Quoting might look like this:
When integrating evidence into your sentences clearly, there are some rules for using quotations in particular that are important to know.
However, these rules can still apply if you’re summarizing and paraphrasing as well:
A citation is an indication that words, ideas, or facts came from another source. This means simply giving credit where it’s due by making sure that you include the author’s name or the title of the original text among other details in your essay.
Specifically, citation format is the way academics, journalists, etc., choose to identify their sources. Citation formats include Modern Language Association (MLA), Associated Press (AP), Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), and more.
Each of these citation formats is different and asks for slightly different information in a slightly different organizational structure, so it’s more important to understand the theory behind when and where to include citations than it is to memorize all of these formats.
For guidance on the specifics about each of these citation formats, the website Purdue OWL and the book Rules for Writers are great tools. The examples in this tutorial will be given in AP format.
4a. Where to Cite
In an essay, you need to cite in two places:
Reference pages are also called bibliographies or works cited pages. They come at the end of an essay, and they include all of the relevant information about where you can find each book, article, movie, etc. that you’re citing, usually in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
The goal of a reference page is to provide enough information that readers can find that book if they want to read it in full.
In-text citations come inside your essay after each paraphrase, summary, or quotation. They contain just a small amount of information, usually the author’s last name, and—depending on whether you’re quoting or paraphrasing—the page number where you got that quotation.
The goal of an in-text citation is to provide enough information that readers can look up that text in your reference page to find all the details they need.
4b. Citations in Practice
The most important thing to remember about citation is that it is necessary to always give credit where credit is due. If you are using ideas, words, or images that someone else came up with, you need to cite that person.
Lack of appropriate citation is called plagiarism, and it can have real consequences, both legally and academically.
Each citation format requires slightly different information in a slightly different organization, so it’s important to always refer to the unique rules of each form. Remember again that Purdue OWL is a great resource for checking out each format.
For in-text citations in AP style, you need:
With an electronic source, you’re going to need the name of the author and the year that the website was made or last updated. Because this is an electronic source, it might not have page numbers. You can instead count the paragraphs and include that number. You put all this information in parentheses, and separate each piece of information with a comma.
For the reference page in AP style, you need:
You create a reference page that comes after your essay by putting in the author’s full last name, then a comma, and then the initial of the author’s first name. You put a period after this information. Then in parentheses, you put the date, again followed by another period.
Then, using italics, you put in the title of the source and another period. Finally, you write “retrieved from” and enter the full web address. Notice that there’s no period at the end of the citation.
If you have any other citations, they will need to be added in alphabetical order, like this:
Take a closer look at the second citation because it’s a little different from the first one. This second citation is for an online periodical, which is a different kind of source. You can see that the title of the article isn’t in italics because there’s another title in italics—the title of the journal that the article comes from. There’s also a volume number for the journal.
You probably also noticed that this second citation is long enough that it takes up more than one line in this document. In a reference page, you need to use what’s called a hanging indent, which indents any line after the first.
Each different kind of source also needs slightly different information, so again, always refer to your style guide for help.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Martina Shabram.
An indication that words, ideas, or facts come from another source.
The way academics, journalists, etc., choose to identify their sources. Citation formats include MLA, APA, Chicago, and more.
Facts and details that support an argument.
Restating a passage in your own words, keeping the author’s original intent and meaning
Repeating the exact words of a piece of writing, using quotation marks surrounding the quote.
Giving a brief overview of the main points or ideas of a piece of writing without relying on specific details or language.