Using Evidence Effectively

Instructors have read far too many research essays in which students found an insightful quotation or nugget of information from an outside source, dropped that nugget into one of their paragraphs… and then left it there untouched, hoping that readers will just intuitively know why it's relevant. Classroom teachers and librarians agree: it's not enough to teach students how to conduct effective research—we also need to help them learn what to do with all that great material once they find it.

Students can become both effective researchers and smart critical thinkers when we show them how to interact with their outside source material. Why is this sometimes a challenging lesson to teach? Maybe because students are often unused to the idea that they can actively engage with, and even question, the sources they find. This writer knows the topic better than me, they may think, so who am I to judge?

There's something uniquely empowering about the moment a student realizes he or she has something to contribute to the conversation about a topic or issue—a seat at the table. Such a realization often comes when students begins to engage in that conversation for the first time—with their own research. And where better to make that discovery than the place where all the best information comes from: the library!

Whether they use a source to corroborate their own claims, illustrate a complicated idea, or even provide a perspective they can push back on, students gain more intellectual confidence when they learn how to interact with their outside source material. There are numerous methods and clever acronyms to teach this concept: the ICE strategy ("Introduce, Cite, and Explain"), and the slightly clunkier formula CQCC ("Claim, Quote, Commentary, Commentary") are popular. We like the "quotation sandwich," in which students discover how to introduce outside information at the top of a paragraph, provide the "filling" with information from their source, and then complete the meal with their own response to the source. (Fair warning: food analogy lessons may be risky to teach before lunch!)

With methods like the "quotation sandwich" paragraph described in this exercise, classroom teachers and librarians can help students not only see how outside research can contribute to their own ideas, but also realize that their voice plays a valuable role in the ongoing dialogue about the topic.

Start with this short video tutorial, which shows your students the key steps to effectively using evidence: identifying reasoning statements, connecting reasoning with support, and discovering new ways to engage with that supporting information (also available for students on all ABC-CLIO databases). And then get more ideas for teaching this topic and a ready-to-use handout in the lesson plan, "The Quotation Sandwich: Strategies for Interacting with Sources."

About the Author

Seth Taylor, MFA, has 20 years of experience in higher education as a teacher, administrator and professional development specialist. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Rhetoric, Composition and Research Methodology San Diego State University, Colorado State University, and the University of Redlands.

MLA Citation Taylor, Seth. "Using Evidence Effectively." School Library Connection, December 2019,

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Entry ID: 2232371

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