types of supporting evidence
To download a quick reference to the types of evidence outlined in this article click on: Understanding Types of Evidence .
The ability to gather and analyze different types of evidence is one of the most important competencies for anyone who conducts investigations. There are many types of evidence that help the investigator make decisions during a case, even if they aren’t direct proof of an event or claim.
When storytelling is involved as evidence, anecdotal evidence is being used. Due to its less objective nature, anecdotal evidence is not extremely strong. When coupled with statistical or testimonial evidence, anecdotal evidence can be highly effective in determining credibility or proof.
Statistical evidence can be proven as fact. You can actually go out and find hard information to prove your particular claim.
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Supporting evidence proves a claim to be true. Supporting evidence can be a summary, paraphrased or a direct quote. Supporting evidence is a crucial part in body paragraphs and it is important to be discerning in the evidence chosen.
In analyzing evidence, it helps to have an idea of the different types that are out there. Then, you can classify the facts in what you are reading: pick which type(s) they belong to. Here are some of the most common types of evidence writers use to support their points:
- Numbers (for example, date and time, or any specific number or measurement: Length of a boat, number of witnesses, votes for a certain bill, score of a game, etc.)
- Statistics. Although technically just one form of number evidence, statistics are special enough to count as their own separate type of evidence, especially because they are so valuable at making evidence representative.
- Names (for example, place names, names of individuals, organizations, movements, etc.)
- Expert opinion (this refers to the use of someone elses knowledge or opinion, not that of the authorwhen the author quotes or mentions a recognized expert in the field)
- Specialized knowledge (the authors own knowledge, not common knowledge, usually acquired through some sort of formal training)
- Individual stories/examples, also known as anecdotal evidence (When the term anecdotal evidence is used, it is generally a negative or critical term suggesting that the evidence is not representative. Individual stories or examples, however, are often useful evidence.)
- Physical details (sense data)things you can see, hear, touch, smell or taste
- Dialogue (Speech of other people reported directly, exactly as spoken, usually with quotation marks [ ] around it and set off in separate paragraphs, one for each speaker. Technically this is a subset of physical detail, because it is something you can hear, but direct reporting of what people have said is important enough to be considered a separate category.)
- Documentary evidence (evidence from documents). This includes all of the following, among many others:
- Unpublished writings (early drafts of works published later; juvenile works by famous authors, etc.)
- Administrative policies, like the Washington Administrative Code
- Court decisions
- Speeches, interviews, and other statements by relevant people
Here are some questions you can ask yourself about a particular bit of evidence:
Surveys allow you to find out some of what a group of people thinks about a topic. Designing an effective survey and interpreting the data you get can be challenging, so it’s a good idea to check with your instructor before creating or administering a survey.