Evidence and Analysis: Introduction

In every academic discipline, scholars contribute to our collective knowledge by proposing that a particular understanding of a thing in the world is true. In other words, they claim that they have arrived at a true understanding of at least some aspect of that thing. Of course, they may be wrong, in which case another scholar will eventually point out their error and propose that a different understanding is in fact the true one. Ultimately, all of academia is built around the kind of collective knowledge-building that happens when people come together to argue and debate over the things that are true about the world around us.

But this in turn raises an essential question: on what basis can one scholar claim that their understanding of a thing in the world is true? Conversely, on what basis can a scholar claim that an understanding advanced by someone else is not true? In both cases, evidence and its analysis together form the basis for establishing the validity of a truth-claim.

Scholarship in every discipline relies on evidence, but the form that evidence takes can vary a great deal depending on the real-world phenomenon being studied. Consider, for example, (1) an anthropologist studying the gender politics of gift-giving in Philadelphia suburbs, (2) an evolutionary biologist investigating pair-bonding rituals in non-human primates, and (3) a literary critic examining collective forms of queer world-building in “shipping” fan fiction. What counts as relevant evidence in each of these cases will be very different. Similarly, the best means of analyzing evidence varies across the disciplines (for example, by using quantitative or qualitative methods).

No matter what discipline you are part of, the revision strategies in this section will offer you concrete ways to determine revision needs that pertain both to your evidence and your analysis of it.