GUEST POST: Writing An Evidence-Based Essay

Hi Readers!

Since this week’s Social Media theme has been Analyzing Primary Sources, we’re taking it to the next level and examining how to apply those Inspiration tools to writing. Please welcome Steve Aedy from to the blog with a piece for all high school writers!

How to Write an Evidence Based Essay

At various times in your high school career, you will be asked to write an evidence based essay. This may sound like a difficult task; however, it isn’t as daunting as the name implies.

1. Why is Evidence Important?

When you write an evidence based essay, the main purpose is to take a position on a topic and persuade your readers to accept your claim. You use evidence to support that position and convince readers of your argument’s validity. Evidence is also used to lead the reader through your reasoning, taking them from smoothly from Point A to Point B.

However, in order for your essay to be a success you must choose your evidence wisely. It is important to use the right kind of evidence, have a satisfactory amount and use your chosen evidence effectively.

2. What Type of Evidence Should I Use?

There is no hard and fast answer to this question. The type of evidence you use will change from class to class. For example, you won’t use the same type of evidence for your chemistry mid-term that you would for your American history group project.

Double check the assignment before you begin researching. Did your teacher give you any clues? If you are unsure, ask for clarification. Also, be advised that longer papers will require more evidence.

3. Where Can I Find Evidence?

There are countless types of evidence to use. Consider the following:

Print and Electronic sources – Books, journals, websites, newspapers, magazines, etc. (Click here if you would like assistance evaluating the credibility of a print source.) Also, the school librarian can help if you don’t know where to find reliable and relevant sources.
Observation – You might be able to directly observe the topic you are writing about. For example, you could watch, listen to, touch, taste, or smell something that would count as evidence.
Interviews – This is a good way to collect information you can’t obtain via any other type of research. Also, you can get expert opinions, biographical information, and/or first-hand observations.
Surveys – Surveys will help you determine what a group of people thinks about your topic. However, this research method is quite challenging; designing an effective survey and interpreting the data is a science in itself. Before embarking on a survey, contact your teacher and find out if it is an effective tool for your particular project. If so, perhaps your teacher can help you formulate the survey and interpret the findings.
Experiments – These are the primary form of scientific evidence.

4. How Can I Help Readers Interpret My Evidence?

The main purpose of an evidence-based essay is to take a position on a topic and persuade your readers to accept your claim. Therefore, you’ll want to make that claim very easy to understand. To do this you’ll need to write a thesis.

A thesis is the chief claim you are trying to prove. This provides the controlling idea for the entire essay. Your concise argument (one or two sentences) will tell readers what to expect while reading the rest of your paper.

Here are some things to consider while writing your thesis:
• Your thesis statement should not be completely obvious. For example, “World hunger is a major problem,” is not an original idea.
• Make sure your thesis is assertive, arguable, and takes a stand on a specific topic. Don’t leave it weak or vague.
• Use your thesis statement to help you organize your essay and develop your argument.
• Keep your thesis statement narrow enough to express just one main idea. If you present too much information, you’ll confuse your readers.
• If you must share two ideas, find a way to connect them. A clear and engaging thesis statement might contain words like “because,” “since,” “so,” “although,” “unless,” and/or “however.”

5. How Do I Provide Citations for my Evidence?

It is very important to properly cite your evidence. This distinguishes other writers’ information from your own ideas, and thus you want to give credit to the source of the evidence. Additionally, as you write you’ll need to include in-context citations. Check these online APA and MLA style guides for assistance.

The last page of your essay will be a works cited page. Click here for examples of APA, MLA, Chicago, and CBE/CSE works cited pages. If you are unsure which style guide to use, ask your teacher.

5. How Can I Evaluate my Essay?

After you have written your paper, ask yourself these questions:
• Did I include enough evidence to prove each claim I made?
• Was I specific? Did I show exactly how my chosen evidence backs up my idea? Or was I too general?
• Did I properly cite each quotation and paraphrase?

Don’t be intimidated by the prospects of writing an evidence based essay; embrace it! The process will be a great learning experience that will help you both now as a student and later in life. Everyone can benefit from the ability to make a well-reasoned argument.

In closing, stick to the basics: consider a topic you would like to discuss. Establish a concise, arguable thesis statement. Locate credible sources and take the time to find plenty of relevant evidence. Be sure to properly cite the evidence you use. In the end, you’ll have a nicely researched essay that will effectively prove a point you want to make.

Steve Aedy is a freelance writer and in-house content manager at He enjoys writing on topics surrounding literature, history and college survival. 

Social Media Specialist for Inspiration since 11/12. Loves STEM, environmental education, visual learning and all things related to people overcoming challenges!
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