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What Makes a Piece of Evidence Compelling

Sometimes as writers (and readers) of fiction and nonfiction, we’ve to ask ourselves what makes a piece of evidence persuasive. Evidence is a magical part of any debate. It can end or contradict a dispute or argument and be used against the same information, depending on how it is presented. In law enforcement, it must be relevant, reliable, and trustworthy. Plausibility and simplicity, along with other factors, contribute to people actually believing a piece of evidence. This article takes a broad approach because the worlds of nonfiction and fiction can help each other more than you think!

Compelling Evidence Is Evidence You Can’t Put Down Because It Looks Like the Truth

A compelling piece of evidence that looks like the truth. This type of evidence isn’t only true, but also believable. It’s important to use strong evidence when writing an argument because it helps convince readers of your point of view.

By the way, this applies to both nonfiction and fiction.

If you’ve trouble finding convincing evidence, think about what evidence would make you believe in something yourself.

Write down a list of 3-5 pieces of information that would most convince you if you were reading your own text. For example, if I believed nothing else about a particular topic, these are the things I’d want to see:

  • A statement from a respected person or organization that’s studied the topic and come to conclusions based on their research
  • Facts and statistics that support the original statement
  • Evidence from someone who’s been personally affected by the problem

Compelling evidence is important because it helps convince people to see things the way you see them (or the way your character or plot does).

You don’t want your audience to feel like you’re trying to convince them of something. Instead, you want them to feel like they came up with the idea themselves – and if you give them convincing evidence, they’ll be more likely to do so!

What’s a Compelling Argument?

A persuasive argument is an argument that makes a case for something and explains why it’s true.

When you write, you want to make a persuasive argument so that your reader will be convinced of your main point. The more interested and engaged your reader is, the more likely they’re to respond positively to what you’ve written.

  • A persuasive argument has many parts that give it power:
  • A strong assumption or thesis statement.
  • A logical flow of ideas.
  • Evidence to support the points.
  • A clear conclusion is based on the evidence and arguments presented in the body of the argument.

But credibility doesn’t come from a single piece of insightful evidence. Instead, it’s a compelling narrative that cuts through the fog of assumptions, logic, and facts to evoke strong emotional responses.

So where can you find examples of persuasive arguments? You can look online for examples in magazines like The Atlantic or Slate. Or you can search for academic essays on sites like JSTOR or Google Scholar to find more scholarly examples.

Whether you’re reading about politics, science, or literature, try to pay attention to why some arguments are memorable and others are forgettable.

What’s a Good Example of Compelling Evidence?

Compelling evidence is persuasive evidence that helps make an argument more convincing.

Compelling evidence might be:

  • What a witness saw or experienced firsthand. Get their testimony.
  • Trace evidence, small but important clues left at the scene of a crime
  • Experimental evidence from a scientific experiment or study
  • Contextual evidence from historical events that informs or supports the current discussion
  • Statistical evidence from collected data about a specific event or situation

For example, imagine writing an essay about why you think the city council should build a new park in your city. You might cite the fact that a neighboring city already has a park that’s heavily used on summer weekends as evidence to support your argument.

In a detective story, a key witness might show up who saw the murderer hide the knife he used to commit the crime.

If someone filmed himself committing a crime and left the video on his computer for the police to find when they came looking for him, that would be compelling evidence of his guilt!

Or if someone was given money by a kidnapper who asked them to deliver a ransom note, but they refused and called the police instead, that would also be compelling evidence of a kidnapping.

Use Citations to Strengthen Your Argument

Using citations to support your claims isn’t only an important part of academic writing, but a must. Citing sources that support your argument is an important part of good research, and is a standard practice among professional researchers.

The first thing you should remember is that citations should always be used to support assertions. Assertions are statements you make that need to be substantiated. They aren’t proven facts (although they may be at some point, as we’ll explain in a moment).

Here’s an example of an assertion: “Coffee isn’t only a great way to wake up in the morning, it also has incredible health benefits.”

  • Next, check to see how trustworthy the source is.
  • Does it come from a reputable publication?
  • Does it come from a place with a scientific approach?
  • Have you read the entire source and made sure it doesn’t contain any factual errors?
  • Did you check to see if other credible sources reference or support this information?

Only after you’ve confirmed all of these factors are you allowed to claim something as a fact: “Coffee isn’t only a great way to wake up in the morning (source), but it also has incredible health benefits (source).”

However, it’s also important to know that citation doesn’t work the same way for all types of texts because different publications and audiences expect different forms of citation.

How to Use Quotations in Your Writing

Using quotes in your writing is a great way to engage with the text and provide concrete evidence for your main argument, but there are some rules you should follow.

  • Quotes should be short and to the point. If you use a phrase multiple times in a paragraph, it may be a sign that the quote is too long. Paraphrase instead!
  • Avoid using too many quotes in one paragraph. Use quotations to support specific points you make in the text, not to make the whole text work for you.
  • Put quotation marks (” “) around direct quotes from the text.

Use Paraphrasing to Strengthen An Argument

In paraphrasing, you take another person’s ideas and insert them into your own words.

Good paraphrasing is an important research and writing skill. You need it when you want to show that you understand another person’s point of view, or when you want to make your point but don’t want to use a direct quote.

When you make your argument in someone else’s words, it doesn’t necessarily give the reader the sense that you understand and agree with the evidence.

By paraphrasing, you show that you can take information from one place and make sense of it in your own text. It also shows that you’ve read and understood the material well enough to reproduce it in your own words.

Any Time You Write It’s Important to Have Strong, Credible Evidence

As we learned above, your goal is to convince your readers that your position is the right one. This is especially true in creative writing; as the old adage goes ‘things need to make sense!’

In nonfiction, you need to provide clear and convincing evidence (or reasons) that support your thesis.

For example, if you’re writing an essay against the large-scale hunting of whales, you need evidence that shows why whale hunting is harmful or wrong. You can’t just state a fact like “whale hunting is bad because it kills whales.” You need to make sure that your arguments convince people who may not know or even disagree with you.

Applying this methodology to social media posts will have awesome results, by the way; you’ll stand out by the difference in your standards of evidence!

In fiction, you also need to keep track of the chains of evidence in your plot. Otherwise, the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’ may collapse because the holes in the plot become very obvious!

Compelling Evidence Can Be Hidden

When someone is investigating a crime, it’s their job to look at all the evidence and figure out what happened. This can be a bit difficult because criminals often try to throw investigators off by altering the evidence or hiding it.

If they do this well enough, investigators may not even realize there was a crime!

One way to add suspense to a fictional story is to have strong, believable evidence that’s hidden or hard to find. For example, if you’re writing about a murder case, you could use evidence from a witness that was hidden in past call records to show a pattern of behavior.

The police can’t find that evidence if the person doesn’t cooperate. And that means you’ve to find them first. And provide a compelling reason, as the author, for why they are hiding!