The Three Forms of Textual Evidence
The three forms of textual evidence are summary, paraphrase, and direct quote and when we use any one of them, we need to cite our source and accredit the author.
In academic writing, we use paraphrase and summary more than direct quote, to keep our writing in the same voice throughout our paper; this makes our work easier for our audience to read, and builds our credibility by showing our understanding of another person’s work.
When we summarize a source, we express an author’s (or character’s) ideas in our own words, which is a brief, accurate, and objective representation of the original text. We can summarize any amount of text and when we do, our summary is always shorter than the original piece of writing.
Summarize when you want to:
- Condense a text, chapter, or long passage into a paragraph or a sentence.
- State an author’s or a character’s main ideas concisely and briefly in your own words.
- Give your audience an understanding of an author’s or a character’s ideas/words/argument before addressing it or sharing your argument.
When we paraphrase, we convey an author’s ideas in our own words, but unlike summary paraphrases are the same length as the original text.
Paraphrase when you want to:
- Share the author’s or character’s ideas, yet the exact language is not necessary.
- State the author’s or character’s ideas in your words to build your credibility by showing your understanding of the source and/or make the source more readable for your audience.
- Explain or pull out necessary information from a complicated source.
- Reorder the author’s or character’s ideas to suit your argument while properly representing them.
When we directly quote an author (or character), we restate some of the author’s or character’s exact words and enclose them in quotation marks, which shows our audience that these are the author’s or character’s words and ideas, not ours.
Directly quote when you want to:
- Analyze specific, expressive, or vivid language
- Express the author’s or character’s precise words in a sentence, because paraphrasing or summarizing would change the meaning
- Build your credibility by using the exact words of an authority
- Let the author or character share her/his/their position
- Express technical accuracy
The Art of the Direct Quote
When you directly quote an author’s words, do so sparingly. Choose only the word or words you need, so you can integrate these words from the direct quote into your sentences, which makes your writing flow and is easier to read.
How to Incorporate Textual Evidence into an Essay
When we paraphrase, summarize, or directly quote an author’s work in our paper, we introduce the author or character in a signal phrase.
A signal phrase introduces the source, the author of or the character in the source, provides context for the source, the author and/or the character.
When you revise your paper, please look over the signal phrases and choose a verb that is appropriate for the way you are using the source. Are you providing background, explaining a concept, supporting a claim, lending authority, or refuting a belief? Write a signal phrase that communicates the specific relationship between the source’s idea and another idea (whether it is yours or another author or character). By doing so, you energize your writing, engage with the art of rhetoric, and show that you understand the author’s or character’s point of view.
MLA style calls for verbs in the present tense or present perfect tense (“argues” or “has argued”) to introduce source material unless you include a date that specifies the time of the original author’s writing or are citing literature which you may keep in the original verb tense if it makes sense with your sentence.
Using Signal Phrases in MLA Papers
To engage your audience and use language to express your ideas, try to vary the manner in which you introduce textual evidence and the signal words, so they are expressive of what the author or character shares. For example:
- Michael Pollan, who has written extensively about Americans’ unhealthy eating habits, argues that . . .
- As health policy experts Mello and his colleagues point out, …
- Howard Zinn, Boston University professor, historian and activist notes, . . .
- Victorian consulting detective Sherlock Holmes acknowledges that his argument . . .
- In response to critics, Connor offers a persuasive counterargument when he writes, …
A short list of verbs to use in signal phrases
The Textual Evidence Sandwich
Since you typically use textual evidence in your body paragraphs that follow the TEA structure, it makes sense to have a little sandwich with your TEA. A little refreshment, if you will, as you continue to take your audience with you along your travels. When you work with textual evidence, you may find that it is evidence or analysis despite where it lives in your paragraph or paper. You also may use textual evidence in your introduction and conclusion, but always serve the textual evidence as a sandwich to your intended audience.
To do so, you lay down your first piece of bread and introduce the textual evidence with a signal phrase, then, cite the good stuff—cucumbers and cream cheese or cheddar and chutney—which is the textual evidence (summary, paraphrase, direct quote) that makes this sentence or two. Next, follow it up with the bread, which is your analysis and this is the most important part of the sandwich, for without the final piece of bread, the sandwich falls apart.
Here is a visual representation of the textual evidence sandwich, to accompany some TEA:
psst. helpful hints:
What do you do with the title?
Large works’ titles—books, movies, albums, anthologies, televisions series, Web-sites—are italicized (A Study in Scarlet.)
Small work titles—short stories, articles, short films, songs, poems, episode from a television series, page on a website—are embraced by quotation marks (“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”).
How do you introduce a name of an author or character?
We are formal in our writing, so the first time we give both the first and last name, yet without any title. For instance, Arthur Conan Doyle; Sherlock Holmes.
Once they have been introduced, each time after the first (the second time and thereafter), we refer to the author and/or character by the last name, for instance, Conan Doyle; Holmes. In literature, just to complicate things, often female characters are referred to by their first names since they share the same last name with other characters.
Now that you have read about using Textual Evidence, let’s have some fun and put it to work.
Please take notes as you watch the following four videos. Then, use them along with the recipe for a textual evidence sandwich to complete the writing activity.
Using Citations Effectively (3.27 minutes)
Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing (4.42 minutes)
Embedding Quotes 2 (4.26 minutes)
How to Paraphrase: Three Techniques (6.37 minutes)
Revision Activity: Textual Evidence Sandwich Ingredient Hunt
Here is a fun exercise that allows you to see how well you have balanced your ideas and words with your textual evidence sandwich. You may use this as a revision strategy on your own or as a peer review and revision strategy with other writers. If you use it as a peer review strategy, you might ask your peer to hunt for the ingredients in our textual evidence sando.
This revision technique is near the bottom of High Order Concerns, so please keep in mind that you may change some of the content of your paper as you revise your textual evidence sandwich.
1. Choose a paragraph or two in your paper’s draft.
2. Based on each ingredient of the textual evidence sandwich, highlight the parts of it in your work according to these three colors:
Yellow = Signal phrase
Pink = Textual evidence
Green = Follow-up/Analysis
1. You may do this one your own or share your work with a peer from class, to look at the balance of color and then to look at what the color highlights.
- The signal phrase is the shortest, therefore the least amount of color.
- The textual evidence is less than the analysis.
- The analysis is the most prevalent ingredient in the sandwich.
2. Investigate each ingredient of the textual evidence sandwich to make certain:
The signal phrase: Do you include the source’s title? Is it properly cited? Is the author’s or character’s first and last name present (remembering that the second time and after, you only cite the author’s last name)? Is there a present tense descriptive verb? Does it represent what the author/ character shares or could you change it? (This may be presented at the end of the textual evidence by including the author’s last name with the page number. However, for literature share the name of character/s in your sentence.)
Textual Evidence: Is the textual evidence presented appropriately as summary, paraphrase, direct quote? Could you reduce some of the direct quote to make it flow better with your writing? Check to make certain you are properly representing the source. Did you cite the page number in parentheses before the period? Does it support and relate to your topic sentence?
Follow-up/Analysis: Do you analyze the textual evidence explaining the significance of the textual evidence in relationship to the topic and your opinion you present in the topic sentence? Do you need to show the connection more by expressing your ideas with more depth, sharing why you feel the textual evidence is relevant to your argument in your topic sentence and/or thesis statement?
Make a revision plan, noting what you will revise and how you plan to revise your textual evidence. Then, go through your entire paper following the same steps to look at the ingredients in your textual evidence sandwich, before you serve it.