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Academic writing: a practical guide

Working with evidence

Working with evidence

Finding, organising and using evidence from sources or your own research to create critical arguments.

Finding suitable sources

Almost all academic writing is based on relevant evidence from suitable sources. 

Firstly, you obviously need to find some sources! You can use various tools to find academic sources and published datasets:

Once you've found a source, you need to decide whether it's appropriate. Is it credible, relevant and suitable for your specific assignment?

This guide will help you interrogate sources:

Open in full screen: Should I believe it? [Google Slides]

You can also use this checklist to help decide if a source is appropriate for your assignment:

More information & advice on choosing whether to believe source information:

Critical reading: identifying useful evidence within sources

Once you've found a useful source, you need to identify the relevant evidence it contains. Be selective: you only want to use the information that's relevant to your argument.

Reading critically will help you to know what you're looking for and find the information you need quickly. Find out more:

Organise your sources: reference management software

Keeping track of your sources can be difficult, especially if you're working on a big piece of work that relies on a lot of references. 

Reference management software is really useful to organise your sources: you can group and tag sources, keep notes, and store PDFs online for easy access. You can even automatically cite your references as you write up your work. 

Find out more:

Recording evidence: note taking

Academic writing is based on evidence from sources, so note-taking is a key skill to support your academic writing.  However, note-taking isn't just a way to record information! It's also a thinking activity that helps you process information to develop your ideas and arguments for your assignments.

Find out more about the types of note-taking and how you can use these effectively to support your learning:

There are many different note-taking techniques, which are useful in different situations:

For more detailed advice, see our dedicated note-taking guide:

Why use evidence?

Academic writing relies on evidence from published sources to build arguments: study findings, frameworks, data sets and much more. But what's the purpose of using this source information?

Discover some of the key situations where you might use evidence in your writing:

Open in full screen: Why use evidence? [Google Slides]

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising are different ways that you can use evidence from sources in your writing. As you move from one method to the next, you integrate the evidence further into your argument, showing increasing critical analysis.

Here's a quick introduction to the three methods and how to use them:

Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising: an introduction [YouTube video] | Quoting, paraphrasing and synthesising [Google Doc]

Want to know more? Check out these resources for more examples of paraphrasing and using notes to synthesise information:

Using evidence to build critical arguments

Academic writing integrates evidence from sources to create your own critical arguments.

We're not looking for a list of summaries of individual sources; ideally, the important evidence should be integrated into a cohesive whole. What does the evidence mean altogether? Of course, a critical argument also needs some critical analysis of this evidence. What does it all mean in terms of your argument?

These resources will help you explore ways to integrate evidence and build critical arguments:

Building a critical argument [YouTube]Building a critical argument [Google Doc]

Citing & referencing source information

Academic writing uses evidence and information from sources to support your points and build a critical argument. When you use source information, you must cite and reference it to show where it came from.

Open in full screen: Citing & Referencing [Google Slides]

Find example citations and references for each style: