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Supporting Details

Supporting Details

Author: Linda Neuman

To introduce supporting details.

To explain how to provide details that support the topic sentence.

To explain how to provide supporting details that are relevant to the audience and purpose of the paper (e.g. arguing, persuading, comparing, etc.)



This packet should help a learner seeking to understand how to structure a paper and who is confused about how to write effective supporting details. It will explain how to write supporting details that are appropriate to the audience and purpose of the paper.

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Supporting Details: Prove it!


If you make a statement, you need to support it.

You want people to believe what you are saying or writing, so you need to back it up with proof.  In an essay or paper, this is what supporting details do for you. 

When you are writing about something, you often start with a general statement, then back it up with specifics that are the proof that your original statement is valid or correct.  These are your supporting details. 

Once you have established what your paper is all about, you have a thesis; now you need to explain yourself in a way that leaves no room for doubt that you are correct.  You will want your paper to be organized and easy to read, so you will create paragraphs that contain topic sentences.  For each topic—which is a general statement that conveys one of the main ideas of your paper—you will want to include at least two details that strongly support what you are claiming in that topic sentence. 

Supporting details should be convincing. 

Facts alone do not make a paper worth reading.  Statistics help to strengthen a claim, so it’s always good to add some when you can; however, you don’t want to rely completely on numbers to explain what you are talking about.

You want your reader to be intrigued, even moved, by what you are claiming.  So include examples to help us understand what you are saying, to help us imagine what it means in concrete terms.  Tell us a story from your own experience, or make something up that illustrates your point.  Tell us what other well-known and widely trusted people and groups have said about the same thing.

Because we need to know if what you are giving us is reliable information, you must always cite your sources.  Let us know you used a reliable source, and tell us where to go if we want to look it up for ourselves.

Finally, don’t include details that do nothing to support the topic.  Your job is to convince us that something is true, so everything you say beyond the topic sentence should lend direct, strong support to that sentence.


Supporting a Topic Sentence

Here is an example of a short paragraph that contains two supporting details.

Source: Linda Neuman

Different Kinds of Supporting Details

You don't always want to use the same type of supporting detail for every paper you write, or over and over again within a longer piece of writing. Watch this slideshow to see how different types work to support your main ideas.

Conclusion: Support each main idea with at least two good details from reliable sources.

Supporting details are the heart of your paper.  So use details that you know will convince your reader that what you say is true, and that you are giving them information they can count on.

DON'T clutter up your paper with nonessential detail.  This can bog down the readers, bore them, confuse them, lose them. 

Keep them interested from start to finish by doing the following every time you write:

1)  Make a unique claim or observation in an intriguing way (introduction and thesis)

2)  Break it down into a few main ideas (body paragraphs)

3)  Organize your paragraphs so that they logically follow each other and each deals with one main idea (topic sentence)

4) Use at least two supporting details in each paragraph so that your main idea is clearly understood and believable

Variety is best when using supporting details.  Using different types of supporting details will strengthen your claims and make your paper a more interesting read.

Source: Linda Neuman