Evidence, or data, is the universe of interpreted primary sources, empirical observations, or factual information relevant to a paper’s argument. Analysis is the interpretation of sources.
However fascinating an essay’s thesis or compelling its motive, the reader is unlikely to be swayed without valid evidence, proof for the author’s claims, whether in the form of experimental data or quotations gathered from a primary source. Of course, this does not mean that a convincing essay can merely be a collection of claims and supporting evidence. The author must also provide analysis to help the reader interpret the evidence. Ultimately, this analysis links the selected evidence to the author’s claims and then weaves these claims together to support the author’s broader thesis
In the following excerpts, we see how evidence and analysis must work together to help the author first convince the reader that the individual claims in the essay are valid, and then show the reader that these claims can be brought together to justify the thesis as a whole.
In Ali Houston’s excerpt from “The Nature of Gender Inequality in Rousseau’s Second and Third Discourses,” she critically examines the claims of natural female inferiority that pervade Rousseau’s influential writings. Her paper features an exemplary application of evidence and analysis by fragmenting Rousseau’s multifaceted argument into bite-sized pieces that Ali can then introduce to her readers and subsequently counter with examples of her own.
Heather Newman’s excerpt from an essay on the character of Mr. Collins in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice expertly balances the use of evidence and analysis throughout the piece. In addition, Heather use a broad range of evidence, coupled with a unique interpretation of the text, to support her argument from multiple facets while maintaining her own scholarly voice throughout.
The excerpt from Andrew Mullen’s essay “The ‘Immense Edifice’: Memory, Rapture, and the Intertemporal Self in Swann’s Way” concerns the analysis of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way through the lens of Claudia Brodsky’s essay on narration and memory. The essay is an exemplary demonstration of the lens essay–an essay that is structured around the analysis of a source text using a theoretical framework provided by another.
Finally, in Aparna Raghu’s “Works in Progress” excerpt, we see how it is nearly impossible to justify a claim when the evidence is irrelevant or insufficient. This ultimately makes it difficult for the reader to trust the thesis as a whole, since it relies so heavily on precariously justified claims.
For more details, refer to the Evidence & Analysis Preface from our 2014 Issue, available here: https://tortoise.princeton.edu/2015/10/18/evidence-analysis-14/.