Balancing the evidence you provide in a paper with your analysis of that evidence is a crucial part of revising. Each time you make a claim that supports your overall argument, you follow it up with (1) evidence and (2) analysis of that evidence’s relationship to your initial claim. The length and detail of analysis you provide affects your reader’s understanding of how the evidence you’re analyzing fits in to your argument: is it factual support, a related study that explores similar material, or text from a primary source that you are about to break down? Each of these examples requires a different level of analysis. In this entry we propose a color-coding technique to that intended to help you find, frame, and evaluate your balance between then amount of evidence in your work and the degree of analysis you empoly when engaging with your evidence.
Your analysis will expand or contract depending on its purpose in your paper. There are many reasons to use evidence: to support a major claim, to highlight a concern or question you want to explore, or to situate your argument within an existing critical conversation, among others. In the same way, there are many reasons to spend more or less time analyzing a particular piece of evidence, depending on its utility in your argument. For example, expanding upon your analysis is useful when the point of one of your claims is unclear. You might determine this by reading through your paper yourself or asking someone to look at it for you. It’s possible that you might include evidence without an explanation of why it is relevant to your argument, expecting the reader to connect the dots, which may confuse them. Alternatively, you may find that you’ve over-explained and included information about your evidence that is not directly related to your argument.
Exercise: Determining the appropriate level of analysis
Going through your paper, color code in three different colors:
- Major claims/arguments
- Evidence in support of those arguments
- Analysis of that evidence
Then read back through the sections you’ve highlighted. Is each claim you make followed by evidence backing it up? Is there a roughly equal amount of evidence and analysis? (In general, you should include at least as much analysis as evidence, to avoid summarizing rather than making your own argument.) Finally, is your level of evidence suitable for the claims you are making and for the audience you are making them to– in other words, are you over- or under- supporting your argument?
This strategy is closely related to Assessing Evidence Detail and Length. When you become familiar with this revision process, you may decide to do both strategies at once.