Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)
There are two types of “proof” you must demonstrate throughout the course of your academic studies: 1) proof of knowledge in terms of demonstrating “what you know” through the medium of testing and 2) examples as proof in terms of demonstrating your understanding concerning the purpose of “textual evidence.”
Incorporating in-text evidence within the academic paper is the most important goal that any student writer needs to set. The purpose of your education, as a student, is to learn theory and apply what you learn. In school, you learn knowledge and you talk about knowledge. For example, you learn about an author’s perspective by reading an argument. You learn about the different themes within a short story. You learn about the “character” of a character in a play. You also learn how to demonstrate your knowledge. At the end of the semester, you take a test to determine how well you can apply what you have learned and this type of test typically represents a final exam. The exam measures your ability to retrieve information necessary for providing proof of knowledge.
On the final exam your professor requires you to develop your ideas by making points and providing examples as proof. In other words, it is not enough to tell the reader what the story is about (proof of knowledge) without analyzing relationships and patterns of behavior from the text (examples as proof). The reader must know the embedded meanings, not just meanings that live and breathe on the surface. In order to do this, you must present in-text evidence, examples of how a character thinks about another character.
You can’t write that Katharina is a great character and she likes Petruchio without providing the exact line from the play from which they are both characters. Demonstrating your proof of knowledge and using examples as proof are both necessary for proving that you know what you know.
In the following sample excerpt, the student makes assumptions and fails to provide textual evidence to support her statements. The student doesn’t demonstrate her proof of knowledge, nor does she provide examples as proof within the analysis. Let’s read.
First, Petruchio structures his own behavior just before he marries Katharina, breaking down the usual perception she has of men and people in general. It is his goal that she never figures him out. For example, the day of the wedding he is not only late, but arrives uncouth, disheveled, and uncompromising, a behavior not completely farfetched from Katharina’s own attitude, but is surprisingly uncommon in that Petruchio meticulously strives to dismantle her defenses by taking (the concept of) “shock” to new levels.
The student doesn’t provide in-text evidence of claims she makes within the essay.
1) Where is the in-text evidence of Petruchio’s supposed goal? How do we know that this is his goal?
2) Where is the in-text evidence that Petruchio strives to dismantle Katharina’s defenses? What are Katharina’s defenses?
3) How does he take the concept of shock to new levels? Is it Petruchio’s main objective to shock? What is the in-text evidence?
Remember the commercial from the 1980s of the old woman picking up the hamburger bun and saying, “Where’s the beef?” The in-text evidence is the beef. When you leave it out, you leave out a substantial part. You leave out the author’s contribution to your paper.
You cannot make statements within your paper and not support them with evidence. If you do this, your paper will appear less than credible. There is a certain legitimacy evoked when a student appreciates an author by incorporating in-text evidence from the literary work.
In the sample excerpt, the student makes an unsupported statement and it appears to the reader as just an assumption. The only way to correct statements that lack evidence from the text is to locate a quote within the author’s work that matches the student’s assumption.
Doing this will help to match your ideas about the literary work with the corresponding evidence. In other words, learn how to match white socks with white socks and red socks with red socks. Don’t make a statement, a generalized overview, without incorporating the proof.
For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Prove It.”
Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.