Tag Archives: Evidence

Evidence, Spring 2021


One perennial challenge of essay-writing is finding and incorporating good evidence into our pieces. For this issue, we showcase three examples of evidence-use from different disciplines. In her anthropology essay, author Ariadni Kertsikof illustrates the power of careful orienting in bringing out the value and depth of a given source; in her commentary on Kertsikof’s piece, editor Natalia Zorrilla explicates this orienting, showing us exactly why it is so effective. In Julia Walton’s junior paper on Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Normal People, she shows us how a close-reading can mediate between granular, sentence-level analysis, and a larger discussion of the themes of a story, while editor Diane Yang parses Walton’s essay in terms of the Writing Center lexicon. Finally, in Noori Zubieta’s HUM sequence essay on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, she gives a further illustration of the power of good close-reading, while editor Annabelle Duval gives a broader context on the “close-reading” as a style of analysis.

— Isabella Khan, ’21

Evidence, Spring 2021

The Futile Female Fight

In a Tortoiseshell: In a paper for the Humanities Sequence, Noori Zubieta strikes a balance between carefully working through her evidence, orienting her reader, and building to a nuanced thesis in a close reading of a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

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Tortoise Tuesday: From Evidence to Argument in Haircutting

One unexpected perk of quarantine is that I’ve been able to live my alternative career fantasy of cutting hair. It started sometime in October when my bangs grew past my eyes and I decided I was less afraid of trimming them myself than of going to a hair salon in the middle of a pandemic. I studied a series of online how-to articles, picked up the right kind of scissors from CVS, and gingerly set to work over the bathroom sink. A few weeks after the (relative) success of this endeavor, one of my housemates asked if I would cut her hair, too. We set up shop in the kitchen (the plastic bar stool we picked up on the side of the road made an excellent impromptu salon chair!) Thirty minutes of careful cutting later, my housemate had a perfectly acceptable bob. 

I’ve always thought that if I were to decide against higher education and take my life in a completely different direction, I would want to be a hairdresser. Maybe it’s the attention to detail that appeals to me, or maybe it’s the idea of getting to share brief but meaningful moments of connection with so many people, and to watch them leave feeling even just a little bit more confident. More than anything, though, I think it’s this idea I have that hairdressers have vision, and that they get to realize that vision on a daily basis.

Of course, my current skills are nothing like this romantic fantasy I have of what haircutting could be— I’m just happy if I manage to get a relatively straight line.  But when I imagine how a master stylist gets from before to after, I wonder if it’s similar to the way I get from evidence to argument when writing a paper. Looking at a mountain of evidence with all its tensions and contradictions can be overwhelming, as can looking at a head of hair filled with tangles and split ends. But a good stylist like a good writer can also discern potential within all the messiness.

For anyone who’s ever watched Queer Eye, there’s something distinctly satisfying about watching Jonathan Van Ness come up with the perfect haircut for each episode’s hero. In creating a style for someone, he always takes into consideration their own preferences and comfort, the amount of time they want or are able to spend on grooming, how they want their appearance to help them meet their goals in life (whether that be by boosting their confidence or helping them look professional for job interviews), etc. As a result, it seems that Jonathan manages to find a style that not only looks fantastic, but that genuinely suits and feels authentic to that particular person. Even better than seeing the dramatic difference in their hairstyle is seeing the difference in the way they look at themselves in the mirror. It’s like Jonathan can see something in them that the rest of us can’t— and oftentimes that they can’t even see in themselves— and bring it to light.

I think a strong argument in an academic paper does something quite similar. To write a strong argument, you need to start by carefully examining the source texts, taking the time and care to get to know them and understand what they want to say rather than forcing your own interpretation of what they “should” say.  In writing as in haircutting, it’s not about making something up; it’s about seeing something in what’s already there and presenting it in such a way that everyone else can see it too.

— Meigan Clark ’23

Evidence and Analysis, Spring 2020

The Invisible Man: Distribution of Blame for the Spread of HIV in African American Communities

In a Tortoiseshell: In her paper, Debby Cheng utilizes her thesis to roadmap her text to explore the nuances surrounding the distribution of blame within the black community during the AIDS epidemic prior to the introduction of an effective treatment. Using enriching and creative sources to provide evidence to her claims, Debby efficiently asks the reader to question, just as she does, the role of the heterosexual black man as the “invisible” force that perpetuated the spread of HIV in the United States during the last two decades of the 20th century.

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Tortoise Tuesday: The Evidence-Based Argument in Salt Fat Acid Heat

            Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat is just one of many cooking shows available for binge watching on Netflix’s online streaming platform. Nosrat’s approach, however, stands out—unlike many shows, which simply display certain recipes or exotic cuisines, Salt Fat Acid Heat aims to teach viewers the basic principles of cooking. Based on Nosrat’s cookbook of the same name, Salt Fat Acid Heat is a cooking show with a methodology, evidence-based approach, and thesis, which shines through in the title of the show itself. Nosrat claims that by understanding these four basic elements of food, viewers will not only gain an intuitive sense of good cooking, but they will know a bit more about what makes cuisines from around the world so delicious.

            At first glance, Nosrat’s methodology appears very similar to other travel-based cooking shows. She visits one country in each episode, focusing on a specific element of cuisine: “Salt” brings her to Japan, “Fat” to Italy, and “Acid” to Mexico. Along the way, however, Nosrat’s approach is uniquely shaped by her thoughtful accumulation of evidence. In Japan, she visits a salt vendor, a traditional soy sauce manufacturer, and a woman who makes her own miso at home. She explains to her viewers how the differences between types of salt can make certain dishes, flavors, or types of seafood shine in Japanese cooking. When discussing how fat is an essential component of good food, Nosrat focuses on how olive oil shapes Italian cuisine. She briefly mentions, however, how different choices have shaped other cuisines—food in the American South uses a lot of animal fat, for instance, while French food is defined by the flavor of butter. Her discussion of acid is particularly illuminating, because this is an element of cooking that’s particularly hard for most people to pinpoint. Nosrat starts the episode in a fruit market in Mexico. She shops for different types of citrus, which is the most immediate association people have with acidity. Over the course of the episode, however, Nosrat shows how other elements of Mexican food like sour cream, vinegary salsa, and honey also provide a delicious acidic zing that can transform a dish. Nosrat’s evidence-based approach allows her viewers to follow her reasoning and intuitively understand her claims.

            In the final installment of the show, “Heat,” Nosrat develops the evidence she’s accumulated in her travels into her final thesis about intuitive and informed cooking. She returns home to California in this episode, combining her travel experiences with her Iranian roots and time spent as a chef at Chez Panisse. Nosrat cooks a variety of dishes, including short ribs, steak, fava bean and roasted vegetable salad, and tag dig rice. Each of these meals combines her learnings about salt, fat, and acid with her final element of applying heat—the very essence of cooking. This episode serves as Nosrat’s thesis, demonstrating that with an intuitive sense of these flavors and elements, anyone can learn to be a great cook. Her argument brings simplicity and elegance to the often-intimidating realm of gourmet food.

— Caroline Bailey ’20


Workouts and the Lexicon

In my eternal attempt to get in shape, I recently started attending a group fitness class at Dillon Gym called BODYPUMP.  Written by the fitness company Les Mills, BODYPUMP is a strength-training class in which you use a barbell and plates to tone specific muscle groups.  The workout is choreographed to upbeat music, where each song is paired with a major muscle group in the body.  During one track, we might do different kinds of squats to target our glutes, and in another we might do chest presses and push-ups to work our chest muscles.  We do hundreds of reps, until our entire bodies are sore and shaky, but stronger.

While doing all those reps, I started thinking about workout classes like BODYPUMP and how they relate to the Lexicon.  They are choreographed just like essays are written, so we can analyze them with the same concepts.  They have, for example, theses and motives.  BODYPUMP’s mission or thesis is to build strength and tone muscles so that attendees become healthier.  Workouts can have structure built around the muscles in the body, like BODYPUMP does, or on skills or techniques that are being used, such as karate or boxing.  One might think of individual moves—squats, chest presses, push-ups, etc.—as evidence, since these are what must be manipulated for the workout to achieve its goal (or support its thesis).  Our reps of these moves are like our analysis, since they are how we enact our moves (or interpret our evidence).  Lastly, specific kinds of reps are the key terms of workouts.  For example, in BODYPUMP we have a rep which consists of a move done quickly twice in a row followed by the same move done slowly with pulses.  We perform this kind of rep with all our moves—squats, deadlifts and rows, chest presses, etc.—and it marks our maximum effort level for each muscle group.  Like key terms, it is versatile, gives each of our tracks a focus, and helps the workout feel cohesive.

Next time you are at the gym, think about how you structure your workout to achieve your health goals.  Maybe you’ll find that your “evidence” is not varied enough, or that you aren’t doing enough “analysis.”  And if you don’t even know where to start, try out a class like BODYPUMP and let them structure your workout for you.  I hope to see you there!

— Leina Thurn, ’20


Tortoise Tuesday: Evidence/Analysis in Project Runway

Believe it or not, even unscripted competition shows can be understood through writing lexicon terms!

Project Runway: All Stars is a fashion face-off show where seasoned designers compete in weekly challenges for a grand prize of $100,000. Despite being unscripted, All Stars still successfully develops an argument in each episode regarding who wins and loses each challenge by providing evidence and analysis through the structure of the show. The evidence is presented in the first half of the show, as viewers watch designers go through the process of creating their looks. Through a carefully edited mixture of primary sources—like design sketches, footage of the designers working, and interviews with designers about their looks (excerpted below from episode 10 of season 5; spoiler warning!)—and secondary sources—like workroom advice from their mentor Anne Fulenwider and interviews with designers about their competitors’ looks—the audience is able to see what design choices and fashion contexts direct the analysis provided in the second half of the show. This analysis comes in the form of comments and deliberations from judges, some of which are excerpted below. The judges, who are iconic fashion designers or models themselves, discuss which elements of the designs worked and which did not. Viewers follow the logic of these critiques as they ultimately culminate in the thesis of each episode, that is, whose design was the most successful and whose was the least.

By the end of each challenge, viewers remain either convinced or unconvinced by the evidence and analysis Project Runway: All Stars presents to support each outcome. Regardless of whether they agree or not, viewers still find themselves entertained by the structure of the show’s evidence and analysis, and they inevitably find themselves tuning in week after week to experience it all over again.

— Leina Thurn ’20

Analyzing a medium, Spring 2017

‘Entombment’: Moretto da Brescia’s Command of Obedience

In a Tortoiseshell: In this essay on Moretto da Brescia’s painting ‘Entombment,’ the author transitions seamlessly between descriptive orienting and insightful analysis. Using evidence in the form of the painting’s scenery, figures, and lighting, she argues for the nuanced depiction of instantaneous and eternal anguish in the representation of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

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Characterization of the Pathogenicity of the MSH2 P640T Mutation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

In a Tortoiseshell: The discussion, done as well as it is in Ramie’s Molecular Biology Core Lab paper, is a very exciting part of the scientific manuscript because it weaves together specific results into a model with broad implications and opportunities for future research. A logical structure and informative subheadings make the discussion easy to follow, while grounding in published literature gives credibility to Ramie’s explanations.

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