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Supporting Your Ideas

Even the most well-organized, audience-centered, goal-oriented of essays can lack pizzazz. Often, writers don’t know what to do to improve the impact of their writing or how to defend their points.

It is important to reinforce your ideas with a solid base of support. Support can include:

  • Responses from an interview
  • Results from a survey
  • Evidence from research
  • Statistics
  • A clear and relevant analogy
  • A clever metaphor
  • Sensory description
  • Personal narrative or relative anecdote
  • Illustration
  • Analysis of an example or an idea
  • Counter-arguments (obvious oppositional ideas) refuted logically

Understanding, choosing from, and adding to this list will help you build adequate support for your paragraphs, resulting in a thorough and detailed essay. Try to incorporate a minimum of two pieces of support per main idea or body paragraph.

It is also important to evaluate your support to ensure that it is clear and relevant. Some strategies for evaluating support are:

  1. Underline the thesis. Is each piece of support in the essay consistent with the argument in this thesis?
  2. Determine the audience. Is your support appropriate for this audience? Is it sufficient to convince this audience?
  3. Determine the purpose of the paper. Is it persuasive, expository, descriptive, or something else? Make sure that your support is appropriate and sufficient for the type of paper you are writing.
  4. Make an outline of the paper. Give each topic sentence a heading, and list each piece of support under the heading it relates to. Does each topic sentence have at least two pieces of support? Where is your support strongest? Weakest? What can you do to strengthen the support in weak areas?

by Sandy Eckard
revised by Elizabeth Guiden, February 2005

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