Expository Writing Quality of Evidence Handout

How do you determine whether or not the evidence you’re using in your essay is credible?

The following guidelines can help you decide.

1. Personal experience. Your own experience carries weight. However, for most academic papers, you’ll need other evidence as well.

2. If the evidence is from a written source or the internet, you need to ask certain questions, such as the following:

a. Who is the author?

b. Does the author have expertise on the subject?

c. What is the author’s education, experience, job, reputation, achievements?

d. Is the author free of bias?

e. How recently was the source written?

f. What is the author’s purpose for writing the book, article, etc.?

g. Is this a source my audience will value? If you’re writing about autism, for example, and your audience is medical doctors, anecdotal stories from parents of an autistic child may not carry much weight. However, research from a respected university research center that is doing scientific studies on what causes autism probably will.

3. What type of evidence is it?

a. Fact
b. Opinion
c. Claim that needs verification
d. Statistic
e. Physical evidence (an artifact)
f. Observation
g. Belief or feelings