Evidence

  • The points you make need to be backed up by evidence. The evidence you use will depend on your subject, but it may include findings from research studies, facts and statistics, or interpretations of texts.

    Researchers often distinguish between primary evidence and secondary evidence. Primary evidence is first-hand or original sources such as photographs, results from an experiment or survey you have conducted, or a literary text. Secondary evidence is something that has been processed or interpreted by someone else, such as an article on a literary text, or other people’s research findings. Evidence is never unbiased; for example the ways in which the evidence has been collected, interpreted, and used can all influence how valid it is. Therefore, it is good to approach all evidence with some scepticism and a questioning outlook.

    Our top tips

    Finding evidence

    Make the most of your Library. Check out these guides on how to search for reputable sources more effectively:

    Is the evidence appropriate?

    You are usually expected to use academic evidence from books and journal articles, but this doesn’t mean that other non-academic sources are invalid, as long as you are using them for an appropriat purpose. For example, a newspaper may not have well-researched academic evidence, but it can provide evidence of how an issue is being discussed and viewed by the general public. See this guide for more on what makes a suitable academic source:

    Evaluating evidence

    Not sure whether your source is good or not? Try the CRAAP test!

    What about websites?

    It is best to do a search on the Library catalogue first, rather than ‘just Googling it’. However, appropriate websites can be very useful sources as long as you understand why and how you are using them. Look at this guide on how to evaluate websites:

    Evaluating arguments in the evidence

    Once you have decided that the evidence is reputable, you also need to evaluate the strength of the claims made within the source itself. See this useful introduction to assessing arguments:

    Also, if you are using healthcare or medical research, you may find the CASP checklists helpful.

    Using evidence in your work

    It is always better to start from the points you want to make and use evidence to support them, rather than trying to squeeze every good quote or piece of evidence into your assignment, which can lead to a messy patchwork of ideas. Scroll down on this handout for more on when to use (and not use) quotes and how to integrate evidence into your writing: