Integrating Evidence Effectively

Printable version of Integrating Evidence Effectively:


Let’s say you’ve identified some good evidence for an argument in your paper. You’ve already decided to keep the evidence as a direct quote or to paraphrase the information you found. Or maybe your evidence is a table or graph. But what’s the next step? Where should the quotation, paraphrase, or other evidence go in the paragraph? And how do you include it without everything looking choppy, or even worse, confusing? 

Integrating evidence smoothly into your writing requires a few standard tools plus some critical thinking. You can think of the process in three stages: signaling, situating, and synthesizing


Signaling

Let your reader know when a quote or paraphrase is coming. Doing so helps your readers distinguish between what thoughts are your own and what information or commentary is from another author. 

Signaling involves two components: an attribution (the author’s name and/or title of the text) and a signal verb

The choice of signal verb is important because it tells the reader what you think about the source text being paraphrased. Consider, for example, the difference between alleges and affirms. Alleges casts doubt on the statement, while affirms projects confidence and demonstrates agreement. For more information, see Reporting Verbs.  

Tip: Author-prominent and information prominent writing styles

Academic writing requires that you integrate evidence to support your argument. However, the way you blend evidence into your own words depends on both the discipline and what kind of context it prioritizes: authorship or information. For more extensive help, see Integrating evidence effectively: author- or information-prominent citations.

Author-prominent  

Cargill and O’Connor (2009) studied wheat and barley collected from the Virginia field site. 

In the previous sentence, Cargill and O'Connor is the attribution and studied is the signal verb. Notice that the authors appear at the beginning of the sentence. 

Information-prominent  

Wheat and barley, collected from the Virginia field site, were studied (Cargill & O’Connor, 2009). 

In this second example, the attribution is still the same (Cargill and O'Connor), as is the signal verb (were studied). But notice that the information (wheat and barley...) comes at the beginning of the sentence to draw the reader's focus there.


Situating

When situating evidence, you make clear to readers how the original writer presented their information. What larger argument was the writer making? Are there any additional details that may help your reader understand the information more clearly? For instance, did the author provide any exceptions or caveats to what was mentioned?    

Compare the two passages below, which introduce the same quotation. Passage A provides very little context about the author Bordo’s quotation, whereas Passage B situates the quotation within Bordo’s larger argument. 

Passage A: Little context 

Susan Bordo writes about women and dieting. "Fiji is just one example. Until television was introduced in 1995, the islands had no reported cases of eating disorders. In 1998, three years after programs from the United States and Britain began broadcasting there, 62 percent of the girls surveyed reported dieting" (149-50). 

Passage B: Situates the quotation within the context 

The feminist philosopher Susan Bordo deplores Wester media's obsession with female thinness and dieting. Her basic complaint is that increasingnumbers of women across the globe are being led to see themselves as fat and in need of a diet. Citing the islands of Fiji as an example, Bordo notes that "until television was introduced in 1995, the islands had no reported cases of eating disorders. In 1998, three years after programs from the United States and Britain began broadcasting there, 62% of the girls surveyed reported dieting" (149-50). 


Synthesize

You chose your piece of evidence because it helps support your argument, but evidence doesn’t speak for itself.  Your synthesis will be the glue that holds these pieces of evidence together, showing how they support your point.

Below, you can see a sample paragraph that has been divided out into its three main parts. The final section shows how synthesizing clarifies the purpose of the evidence used.

Writer’s main argument/claim: In June 2018, the UK introduced a new Counter-terrorism and Border Security bill, which received Royal Assent on February 12th 2019. However, several clauses are troubling. The bill suffers from vagueness and ambiguities that could inappropriately prosecute academics and journalists. It could also have a chilling effect on free speech and freedom of expression. Most notably, Clause 1 of the bill would criminalize the expression of support for a proscribed terrorist organization.

Evidence that Clause 1 would criminalize support for a proscribed terrorist: When RSF (Reporters Without Borders) briefed the government on the problematic language, they noted the lack of clarity around the word “supportive” in Clause 1, and were concerned it would stifle debate.

Synthesis: Imagine, for example, a conversation between two academics on the ideologies of two terrorist organizations. While both academics might condemn the actions of those groups, one of them might claim that Group A’s ideology is more legitimate than Group B’s. Would this count as expressing support for the terrorist organization? The bill does not specify.

In the synthesis, the writer explains how the vagueness of the word “supportive” could be interpreted in a variety of ways, potentially leading to condemnation of some opinions. This synthesis helps show how the evidence supports both the minor claim, and, ultimately, the author’s main argument.