Writing papers is one of the most important skills anyone should master in their life, but students especially benefit from it.
It’s well known that a student has to write at least a few hundred essays in his life, so the sooner he can master the skill, the better. While there are lots of features that separate good papers from bad ones, there’s one skill that’s critical to successful paper writing: learning to find and use evidence.
What is evidence?
Although the question might seem very straightforward, there are lots of students out there who confuse arguments and evidence. Textbooks are very often the reason why students confuse these two terms – they don’t offer great examples of writing and more often than not just list facts, rather them putting them together into an argument. To put it simply, scientific, cold facts with no opinions or personal insights count as evidence – what you do with them, how you build them up to support your case, is an argument. When writing an essay, you typically need anywhere between 3 and 5 clearly structured arguments to support your cause. These will all be founded upon clear, trustworthy pieces of evidence.
Where to find evidence?
The importance of these pieces of evidence is clear by now. Finding them among the vast ocean of resources that is the internet isn’t as easy as you might think at first. Evidence research usually takes up time, especially if you have a certain standard and want to use credible sources. Another problem you might encounter is that not every point you want to make in your essay can be supported by cold facts. While some of them can find a basis in scientific studies or statistical evidence, other might lack any anchor in hard facts. This is where evidence searching comes in handy.
Here are some of the most important pieces of information you need about finding and using evidence:
- Don’t be afraid to change your opinion. Finding evidence to support each and every stream of thought might be very hard, but if you do stumble upon mountains of proof that dictate the exact opposite of what you believe, don’t be afraid to change your beliefs. This is a sign of maturity, not weakness, and your final paper will thank you.
- Look for evidence near key people from the field. More often than not, key resources or influencers from a certain field have already looked into the domain you’re writing about and have a thing or two to say about it. It’s very important to remember to check the background and previous opinions of these people so that you’re certain to be using credible sources, not just someone with a big mouth.
- Use google scholar. It’s a great resource to find serious scientific papers, statistical data and much, much more. The great benefit of this is that every google scholar article sends you towards other studies, data or even opinion pieces written by professional who disagree with the opinions stated. There is really way to underestimate the value of this tool.
- Talk to people directly. If you’re finding trouble with the sources above, there’s no better way to come up with evidence that contacting a serious professional directly. If their time allows them, they’re usually very eager to share their experience.
- Avoid argument-softeners. Sometimes, bad evidence (logical fallacies, opinion from less-respected professionals, data curated only to support a certain part of your argument) can hinder the overall power of an essay. Only keep the best evidence you can find and leave the rest behind.
If you follow the above guidelines for finding evidence, essay writing will be a breeze and a pleasure. Your arguments will be much more structured and anchored in reality – which means your grades and relationship with your teacher will skyrocket.