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Argument: Claims, Reasons, Evidence

Critical thinking means being able to make good arguments. Arguments are claims backed by reasons that are supported by evidence. Argumentation is a social process of two or more people making arguments, responding to one another--not simply restating the same claims and reasons--and modifying or defending their positions accordingly.

Claims are statements about what is true or good or about what should be done or believed. Claims are potentially arguable. "A liberal arts education prepares students best" is a claim, while "I didn't like the book" is not. The rest of the world can't really dispute whether I liked the book or not, but they can argue about the benefits of liberal arts. "I thought the movie was cool" is not an arguable statement, but "the movie was Paul Newman's best" is, for people can disagree and offer support for their different opinions.

Reasons are statements of support for claims, making those claims something more than mere assertions. Reasons are statements in an argument that pass two tests:

Reasons are answers to the hypothetical challenge to your claim:

  • “Why do you say that?”
  • “What reason can you give me to believe that?” If a claim about liberal arts education is so challenged, a response with a reason could be: “It teaches students to think independently.”

Reasons can be linked to claims with the word because:

  • Liberal arts is best [claim] because it teaches students independent thinking [reason];
  • That was Newman's best [claim] because it presented the most difficult role [reason];
  • Global warming is real [claim] because the most reputable science points in that direction [reason].
  • Everyone should stop wearing seat belts [claim] because it would save lives [reason].

If reasons do not make sense in the hypothetical challenge or the 'because' tests, there is probably something wrong with the logic of the argument. Passing those tests, however, does not insure that arguments are sound and compelling.

Evidence serves as support for the reasons offered and helps compel audiences to accept claims. Evidence comes in different sorts, and it tends to vary from one academic field or subject of argument to another. Scientific arguments about global warming require different kinds of evidence than mealtime arguments about Paul Newman's movies. Evidence answers challenges to the reasons given, and it comes in four main types:

Specific instances include examples, case studies, and narratives. Each can be an effective mode of building support for a reason or claim. In a public speech, they offer audiences a way to see an idea illustrated in a particular case. To be effective, specific instances need to be representative of the broader trend or idea they are supporting. With an example as evidence, someone arguing against seat belt use might say "Last year my cousin crashed her car off a bridge and would have drowned if she were wearing her seatbelt" as evidence (the answer to "Why do you believe that?" question.) An opponent might challenge whether this example was a representative one: surely there are many more car crashes that do not end in water, so this one instance is not a fair gauge of the relative safety of not wearing seat belts.

Statistics include raw numbers (117 million visitors to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,), averages ('women's bowling teams drink on average two pitchers less then men's'), statistical probabilities ('crossing North Main during rush hour increases your chances of death 20%'), and statistical trends ('applications have risen 40% over the past three years'). In public speeches, statistics have the advantage of seeming objective, authoritative, and factual, but critical audiences will want to know about the sources and methods for determining your statistical evidence.

Testimony, or appeals to authority, come in two main types, eyewitness and expert. Eyewitness or first-hand testimonies are reports from people who directly experience some phenomenon. If a speaker is arguing about toxic waste dumps, a quotation from someone living next to a dump would fall into this category. First-hand testimony can help give the audience a sense of being there. Experts may also rely on direct experience, but their testimony is also backed by more formal knowledge, methods, and training. Supplementing the neighbor's account with testimony from an environmental scientist, who specializes in toxic waste sites, is an appeal to expertise. When using testimony in arguments, you should always make sure the authority you are appealing to is in fact qualified to speak on the topic being discussed.

Eclipse-based, open source tools for safety, assurance, or dependability cases.

  • Introduction
  • Adelard's ASCE CAE

Claim-Argument-Evidence Notation Arguments

claim argument and evidence

The text-based editor is shown in the figure.

CAE Tree

The graphical editor is shown in the next figure.

CAE Grapical

Argumentation and Persuasion

Claims, reasons, and evidence.

Argument in its most basic form consists of three parts:

  • Reasons to support the claim
  • Evidence to support the reasons

In some cases, including only these three components will be sufficient to demonstrate the merits of your ideas and persuade the reader, but in others you will need to go beyond these, incorporating counterarguments and/or warrants. For now, though, let’s focus our attention on what claims, reasons, and evidence are, as well as ways that you can evaluate the quality of each.

Defining and Evaluating Claims

What is a claim? Simply stated, a claim is a position or stance that the person communicating takes on an issue. Claims exist on a spectrum of complexity; for example, the claim that fruit-flavored candy is better than chocolate is rather minor in comparison to a claim that there is not enough affordable housing in the area, with the former’s focus resting (largely) on dietary preference and the latter’s reach instead extending across financial, political, and educational lines. As you can probably tell then, a claim reflects a position or stance that is the product of a range of influential factors (e.g., biological, psychological, economic, etc.), and as a position or stance it should articulate an idea that is debatable. However, the ability to challenge the claim is not the only criterion that must be met, and the questions below can help guide you in what to look for when evaluating another person’s claim as well as when stating your own.

To evaluate the quality of a claim, consider the following:

  • Is the claim clearly and specifically stated? Clarity and specificity are key to ensuring that the claim’s intent and scope will be understood, so beware vague and/or broadly stated claims.
  • Does the claim state an idea that someone not only could debate but also would want to debate? If someone would be uninterested in debating the idea, then it matters little that he/she could do so.
  • Does the claim state an idea that can effectively be supported? If (sufficient) evidence is unavailable to support a claim, then it may be worthwhile to reconsider the claim’s phrasing and/or scope so that it can be revised to state an idea that can be supported more fully.

evaluating a claim in practice

Bias in the media has long been a topic of discussion, both popular and scholarly, and recently has even led to the creation of charts to show where news outlets fall on a spectrum from “conservative” to “liberal” ideology. Some people even claim that no media outlet can be relied on to report the truth.

Based on what you have learned in this module, is the claim, “Media cannot be trusted,” effective? Why or why not?

  • Claims, Reasons, and Evidence. Authored by : Karla Lyles and Jeanine Rauch. Provided by : University of Mississippi. Project : WRIT 250 Committee OER Project. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

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claim argument and evidence

To craft an original essay, a writer needs to make a unique, defensible Statement . This statement is called a claim . Then, to convince readers to support their claim, they need to offer proof for it. This proof is called Evidence . Together, claims and Evidence work to form credible, convincing writing.

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Claim and Evidence Definition

Claims and evidence are central parts of an essay. An author makes their own claims about a topic and then uses evidence to support that claim.

A claim is a point that a writer makes in a paper.

Evidence is the information the writer uses to support the claim.

Difference Between Claims and Evidence

Claims and evidence are different because claims are the writer's own ideas , and evidence is information from other sources that supports the writer's ideas.

In writing, claims are the author's arguments on a topic. The main claim in an essay—what the writer wants the reader to take away—is usually the thesis. In a thesis Statement , a writer makes a defensible point about a topic. Often the writer also includes smaller claims that they will support with evidence to support the main claim.

For example, imagine a writer crafting a persuasive essay about raising the legal driving age to eighteen. That writer's thesis might look like this:

The United States should raise the legal driving age to eighteen because it will lead to fewer accidents, lower DUI rates, and less adolescent crime.

In this paper, the author's main claim will be that the United States should raise the legal driving age. To make this claim, the author will use the three smaller supporting claims about accidents, DUIs, and crimes. Typically, authors will devote at least one paragraph to each supporting claim and use evidence to explain each one.

When a writer makes a claim about a topic, there is always a reason why they are making that claim. Reasons are the justifications for a point of view. For instance, if a writer claims that guns should be banned, their reasons might involve concerns about safety or personal experiences with gun violence. These reasons help writers formulate an argument and collect evidence.

Reasons are the justifications for a claim.

Claims and Evidence, Claim, StudySmarter

The term evidence refers to material from outside sources that a writer uses to support their claims. To identify evidence for a claim, writers should reflect on their reasons for making a claim and identify sources that demonstrate those reasons. There are many types of evidence, but writers often use the following types:

Scholarly journal articles

Literary texts

Archival documents

Official reports

Evidence is important because it helps writers build credibility, which means gaining the reader's trust. If writers cannot support their claims with any evidence, their claims could appear to be just their opinion.

Claims and Evidence, DNA Evidence, StudySmarter

The amount of evidence a claim needs depends on how narrow the claim is. For example, say a writer claims that "Farmers should herd fewer cows because cows increase the levels of methane in the atmosphere:" This claim can be proved relatively easily using statistics as evidence. However, say a writer claims that "Only people over the age of eighteen should be allowed to use social media." This is a broader claim that would require a great deal of evidence, not just concrete statistics, to prove.

To effectively use evidence, writers need to ensure their evidence comes from credible, trustworthy, sources. For example, information found on a social media forum is not as credible as statistics from a scholarly journal article because the information in the latter has been vetted by scholars.

Claim and Evidence Examples

Claims and evidence look different depending on the topic and the field. However, claims are always statements that the author makes and evidence is always supported by credible sources . For instance, writers of literary analysis essays make claims about a literary text, and then they use evidence from that same text to support it. Here's an example: a writer might make the following claim about F. Scott Fitzgerald's text The Great Gatsby (1925).

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's inability to reach his dream to suggest that the American dream is unrealistic.

To support such an analytical claim, the author would have to use evidence from the text. To do this, the author should reflect on what aspects of the text made them come to this understanding. For instance, they might use a quote from chapter nine to write the following:

In the final lines of the novel, Fitzgerald sums up Gatsby's persistent optimism about his unachievable dream. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…" (Fitzgerald, 1925). Fitzgerald's use of the word "we" suggests he is not just speaking about Gatsby, but about Americans who continue to reach for an impossible reality.

Claims and Evidence, Dock at Night with a Lamp Post, StudySmarter

Writers of literary analysis essays also sometimes use scholarly sources to support their arguments. For instance, the author of the essay on Gatsby might consult a scholarly journal for articles in which authors support the topic. For instance, such evidence might look like this:

Other scholars have noted the symbolic connection between the green light on Gatsby's dock and the American Dream of financial success (O'Brien, 2018, p. 10; Mooney, 2019, p. 50). The way Gatsby reaches for the light is thus symbolic of the way people reach for the American dream but can never obtain it.

Importance of Claims and Evidence in an Essay

Claims are important in an essay because they define the essay's main idea(s). They also help writers express their understanding of texts or research. For instance, if a writer reads several scholarly articles about the benefits of studying on a tablet, the writer might have something new to say on the subject. They could then write an essay in which they make a claim about the value of using a tablet to study and cite information from the studies they read as evidence.

Crafting a clear claim and supporting claims is especially important for exams. To write an essay that is on topic, test-takers have to craft a claim that responds directly to the prompt. They can do this by using similar language to the language in the prompt and then creating a defensible claim.

For example, imagine a prompt asking test-takers to write an essay arguing for or against the value of uniforms in schools. To respond, writers would have to state whether or not uniforms are valuable and summarize why. A thesis that makes a relevant claim might look something like this: Uniforms are valuable in school because they reduce distracting differences, minimize bullying, and instill traditional values in students.

Note how the writer here makes a direct statement about uniforms and reuses the word "valuable" to connect their claim to the prompt. This immediately tells the reader that the writer's essay addresses what the test asks. If the writer disagrees with the prompt, they should use negative phrases with language from the prompt or antonyms of words in the prompt. For instance, in this case, a writer might claim: Uniforms are valueless in schools because they do not impact academic achievement.

Evidence is also a necessary part of an essay because, without evidence, the reader cannot be sure that what the writer is claiming is true. Making honest, fact-based claims is a critical part of establishing academic credibility. For instance, imagine a writer claims that William Shakespeare uses imagery to develop his theme of ambition in Macbeth (1623). If the writer does not discuss any examples of imagery in Macbeth , there is no way for the reader to know whether this claim is true or if the writer is making it up.

Evidence is of increasing importance in the current digital era because there is a great deal of fake or non-credible sources of information. Using and referencing credible sources can help prove important arguments in all academic fields.

Claims and Evidence - Key Takeaways

  • Evidence is the information the writer uses to support a claim.
  • Writers need claims to craft unique arguments and address essay prompts.
  • Writers need evidence to prove that their claims are trustworthy.
  • Writers need to use credible evidence from reputable sources to ensure it is effective.

Frequently Asked Questions about Claims and Evidence

--> what are examples of claims and evidence.

An example of a claim is that the US should raise the legal driving age to eighteen. Evidence to support that claim would include statistics on the rates of teenagers who are younger than eighteen causing driving accidents.

--> What are claims and evidence?

A claim is a point that a writer makes in a paper, and evidence is the information the writer uses to support the claim.

--> What are claims, reasons, and evidence?

Claims are points that a writer makes, reasons are the justifications for making the claim, and evidence is the information the writer uses to support the claim.

--> What is the importance of claims and evidence?

Claims are important because they define the essay's main point. Evidence is important because it ensures claims are fact-based and convincing.

--> What is the difference between claim and evidence?

Claims are points the author makes and evidence is external information that the author uses to support their claims.

Final Claims and Evidence Quiz

Claims and evidence quiz - teste dein wissen.

What is a claim?

Show answer

Show question

What is evidence?

Evidence is the information a writer uses to support their claim.  

True or False. Evidence from a social media post with no cited source is credible.  

False. Professionals vet credible evidence. For instance, a report from a government organization and a scholarly journal article are credible sources.  

Why is evidence important?

It proves that the writer is not just stating an opinion  

What is the difference between claims and evidence?

A claim is a writer’s argument about a topic, and the writer uses evidence to support that claim.  

Which of the following is not an example of credible evidence?

Pages from the writer’s personal journal

What is a thesis?

A thesis is a defensible claim that a writer makes on a topic. 

True or False. A writer can only make one large claim in a paper. 

False. Writers can make smaller sub-claims to support the main claim. 

Why are claims important?

They define the main point of a paper. They also ensure that writers adequately respond to given prompts. 

To build credibility means to establish _____ with the reader.

_____ are the justifications for a claim.

Imagine that a writer is researching for an analysis of a 19th-century novel. Which of the following would not be a credible source of evidence for this analysis?

Articles about the novel from an anonymous source

The broader the claim, the _____ evidence is necessary to support it.

A page from a 90's comic book showing a fight scene would be good evidence for:

the claim that comic books utilize real physics concepts in drawing fight scenes

A scholarly article discussing the neurological and psychological effects of concussions would be good evidence for:

the claim that a comic book character's erratic behavior is due to repeated concussions

The lyrics to a famous song would be good evidence for:

the claim that the songwriter's mental illness symptoms were evident in their writing

The claim that yellow light reduces anxiety compared to blue light would be supported effectively by:

the results of an experiment where participants took a test under either yellow or blue light while their anxiety symptoms were monitored

The claim that a movie takes inspiration from video games would be supported effectively by:

screenshots from the movie next to images of the loading screen of a video game from the same era

The claim that the average school day should end earlier in the afternoon would be supported effectively by:

a comparison of a whole school's grades and attendance in the morning classes versus in the afternoon classes

To be effective, evidence must come from _____.

reputable sources

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  • Arguments and evidence

A claim, or argument, that is backed up by assumptions makes the claim more believable. However, a claim or argument that is backed up by evidence is much stronger. Quality evidence = fact.

Start animation Stop animation

An argument without evidence is weak and your claim will fail.

Strong evidence → modest UBI cost and estimate.

Weak evidence → assumption/anecdotal evidence “I'm yet to meet a proponent of the UBI from a working-class background”.

The example below demonstrates how an essay writer responds to claims made by the author of the article. The essay writer looks critically at the language used, then chooses language (words and phrases) in that text to identify the strengths and weaknesses of that argument. The essay writer will use weak points on which to base their counter arguments. 

This essay demonstrates the use of a quote from Dawson’s article along with another quote to support it.

Dawson E (5 April 2018) 'Plan for universal basic income ignores the value of work', The Age, accessed 27/09/2022.

Throsby D (1994) A work-preference model of artist behaviour. In: Peacock A Rizzo I (eds) Cultural Economics And Cultural Policies . Springer, doi:10.1007/978-94-011-1140-9.

  • Analysing an argument: key steps
  • Elements of an argument
  • Persuasive language techniques
  • An analysis of an argument
  • Critical reading process

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