Writing Essays


Should all of my points be backed up with evidence?

3 years ago


30 Replies




Cordia Torp

30 Answers

Milly Jones

Yes, wherever possible. You never want to make a blanket statement and have no evidence to prove this or back it up.


It is best if your points are backed up with evidence to prove they are true. Of course some points may be true without evidence but to persuade your audience that your points are legitimate it is best to back them up with as much evidence as possible. But remember, you need to make sure your sources are reliable, particularly in scientific writing.

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Yes! This is how you access the higher grades.

As Lucy has said, it's always best to find the evidence first and then work from there.

Remember, the examiner doesn't want you to retell the plot, for example, they want to know your ideas. Ideas can be very difficult to put across without evidence. Also- if you cannot remember full quotations, you can paraphrase them.

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Yes, both in English Language and English Literature. For the Language question (Q2) in the AQA Language Exam I would include an actual quote and for the Structure question (Q3 )you can make a line or paragraph reference. In the AQA Literature exam, don't worry about having to learn lots of quotes - a detailed reference to a line in a poem or a play or paraphrasing is just as good as a quote. It's your explanation of the job that is done by the technique or the effect it has on the reader that will earn you marks.

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Yes! Evidence is key for making your point a true assertion. Without evidence, your point is merely speculation and is unlikely to get high marks. When including evidence, make sure it is from a reliable source, relevant and up to date!

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Hello Cordia, Thank you for your question. Some things are common knowledge and so it is not necessary to back those things up as evidence. For instance to say that older people generally get grey hair is common knowledge. However if you were to discuss something that was less well known or perhaps controversial you would want to provide evidence.

Here is an example, if you were discussing whether cats were more intelligent than dogs, you would want to provide some research rather than just anecdotes about the behaviour of dogs and cats. If you were writing about dogs and cats as an entertainment piece it is important to write funny anecdotes but if it was a scientific essay then you would need to find studies and possibly experiments from reputable sources that had been peer reviewed.

I hope this answers our question.

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Here's the general answer...

If you want to persuade someone that you know what you are talking about, or that they should believe you, then you do need to use evidence. This is how it works in a critical essay or exam answer for GCSE or A-level Literature or Language (which applies as well if you are in Y7-9)...

If you think about it, why should anyone just take what you have to say at face value, whether in an essay or in life? It can help to think of your English essays as like a conversation in which you are trying to convince someone of your point of view, where you back up your arguments, so that they don't just reply to your point with, 'Really? How do I know that's true?' or 'How does THAT work?!' This is the purpose of evidence in English and in life. You can improve your English essays just by keeping that in mind. It is also how examiners think.

But you specifically asked if ALL your 'points' need evidence - good question! In a bit more detail...

No Need for Evidence

Two places where you do not need to put any evidence are in your introduction and conclusion.

That is because the intro is essentially a list of the points you are going to make to answer the question and any bits and pieces your reader needs to know to understand where you are coming from overall. The main body of your essay is where you then take your reader on a tour of your thoughts, exploring the evidence together. How is evidence relevant to the intro? You need to have thought your evidence through first in order to get to your points in the first place!

In your conclusion, you'll be stepping back to look at all that exploring of evidence you did in the main body of your essay and asking yourself, 'So what?' overall. You can use that moment to add up all your points and see if there are any overall big ideas which tie them all together, or sum up what was most interesting to you overall. No evidence is needed to sum up your best light-bulb moments here, but of course your closing ideas rely on you having explored the evidence before.

Yes Please to Evidence

So the place you DO always need evidence is in each of your main body paragaphs. You're going to make a point, or a claim, and then you're going to tell us what gave you the idea for that claim, which will be a combination of the evidence you looked at and your exploration or analysis of it. The evidence, as you know, can be a combination of paraphrasing of what's happened in a novel/play/poem and quotations from it. It's worth nothing that if the evidence isn't there, then the chances are that you are talking about the text as if it is real life, not a text created by a writer, which is a habit some students easily slip into.

Many schools and students like to use structures/reminders like PEE (point evidence exploration) or PETAL (point evidence technique analysis link) paragraphs. The key with making these work for you is a) to understand what job the evidence is doing, for real, and b) to know that you have to EEP before you PEE. So the simple answer to your question (after all this writing!) is that you need to start with your evidence, explore it and generate your point from that work.

If your question relates to persuasive writing rather than a critical essay, then it's the same for where the evidence goes, but how you plan it is a bit different, because we tend to 1) brainstorm our points first, then 2) see what evidence we can think of for each one, before 3) prioritising the strongest and 4) setting them out, combining our evidence with 5) plenty of rhetorical techniques and emotional writing to manipulate our reader into agreeing with us.

Drop me a line if you'd like to go through some examples together to see how this can work for you.

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Eliza Waters

Yes. This will then support your ideas and give you deeper levels of explanation and implicit and explicit meaning in your analysis.

Hafsah Nur

Yes, your main points needs to have evidence, such as quotes, to back up what you are trying to comment on. There will be stronger quotes than others, the more you can infer from a quote the stronger it is.

Amy Allison

Hi Cordia,

When writing an analytical paragraph on a specific text you should always use evidence from the text. By using evidence, you are showing the examiner that you have skills in selecting relevant evidence, and you can demonstrate that your point is valid.

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Yes. In order for you to really convince the examiner that your argument is convincing it must be supported. For example in History this must be supported by a specific fact or figure. I place particular evidence on the word specific for A Level History, as general figures do not meet the requirements of most exam boards, they are looking for specific "bullets" of evidence to absolutely strengthen your argument to the fullest.

Regarding English Literature, a full quotation is not always necessary. Sometimes it is more effective to break down quotes and do single word analysis. This should be direct and link back to your point.

It is absolutely essential to use evidence to develop and strengthen your points. Without them you merely have statements that are left to fend for themselves.

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Manoor Khan

Not necessarily, as long as most points are backed up with evidence, the rest of your points may have other reasoning such as analysing them against your other points.

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If you are making a point that is common knowledge (say, New York City is in the state of New York, for example), then there is no reason to cite the source. However, let's say you're talking about the first settlers of NYC and you're including details about their daily lives, etc., then you would need to support the points you're making with properly cited evidence. The difference is that one of these examples is common knowledge and the other requires research to learn about or understand.

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If you've got a point to make, prove it. It makes the writing more credible and, also, the reader can then go and verify your points. There are many different ways to back up your points, so the writing doesn't feel stale, but as a rule of thumb; If you have a point to make, and you have the quote/text/line/study to back it up, mention it. Even if its in annotations.

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Hauwa Baba Gana

yes that is important in GCSE English. Use the system PEE, point what is your point then explain your

point and then lastly give an example by giving an example your greatly strengthening your argument and writing

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