CRR Week 5: Evaluating Source Materials CRR Week 5: Evaluating Source Materials 500 WORDS A unique title needed Description: Now that you’ve selected your


CRR Week 5: Evaluating Source Materials


A unique title needed


Now that you’ve selected your final research topics that you will build upon for the last 4 weeks of this course, we are going to take a deep dive into research and source evaluation. To this point, you’ve had experience evaluating other author’s arguments, sources, logic, and claim types and now it’s your turn to try your hand at crafting a multidimensional and hybrid argument of your own.

The choices we make surrounding what kinds of source material help us form our arguments are rhetorical choices. Selecting high quality source material and practicing ethical and sound research is not only important in the context of academia but can tremendously increase your writerly ethos when done well. Using research strategies and techniques outlined by our authors alongside practicing important source annotation techniques will be the first and most vital step in crafting your final hybrid argument and extended research pa.PER.

Module Objectives: 

  1. Integrate outside perspectives into texts
  2. Distinguish high quality source materials 
  3. Practice accurate citation style and MLA formatting conventions


  • Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing 2e, Issue 6 “More Than Detective Work”  p. 220-253
  • Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings 11e 
    • Chapter 4 “Using Evidence Effectively” p. 52-66
    • Chapter 16 “Finding and Evaluating Sources” p. 341-359
    • Chapter 17 “Incorporating Sources into your Own Argument” p. 360-374
    • Chapter 18 “Citing and Documenting Sources” p. 375-396 
  • Video: Annotation

Instructions: You will need to post initial responses and peer responses in a timely manner, responding to instructor discussion threads/prompts or posting uniquely generated content.

Initial Post:

Instructor Prompt #1:

Reflecting upon your research style, what was surprising as you read Issue 6 “More than Detective Work” from Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing 2e? As we think about forming claim types, how might this affect the kind of research we conduct? What does “thinking rhetorically” about sources mean to you

Instructor Prompt #2:

Chapter 16 “Finding and Evaluating Sources“ suggests that source evaluation goes hand in hand with cultivating stronger rhetorical awareness. When we consider online source material, reliability, credibility, angle of vision, and political stance is increasingly important as information and media are produced and available rapidly to millions of consumers. I want you to select one online source you frequently consume information from and link the online source in your discussion post. Using table 16.4 “Criteria for Evaluating Websites” vet your online source keeping in mind the rhetorical indent of the online source.After you complete this evaluation, consider how the idea of evaluating online source materials intersect the ideas of 24-hour news media and the concept of “fake news.”


Chapter 4

Learning Objectives

In this chapter you will learn to:

4.1 Explain the different kinds of evidence

4.2 Make your evidence persuasive by using the STAR criteria
and other strategies

4.3 Understand evidence rhetorically by explaining how the
selection and framing of evidence reveal an angle of vision

In Chapters 2 and 3 we introduced the concept of logos the logical structure of
reasons and evidence in an argument and showed how an effective argument
advances the writer’s claim by linking its supporting reasons to one or more
assumptions, beliefs, or values held by the intended audience. In this chapter,
we turn to the uses of evidence in argument. By evidence, we mean all the verifi-
able data and information a writer might use as support for an argument. In
Toulmin’s terms, evidence is part of the grounds or backing of an argument in
support of reasons or warrants. By understanding evidence rhetorically, you will
better understand how to use evidence ethically, responsibly, and persuasively
in your own arguments.

Kinds of Evidence
4.1 Explain the different kinds of evidence.

You have numerous options for the kinds of evidence you can use in an argument,
including personal experience, observations, interviews, questionnaires, field or
laboratory research, or findings derived from researching primary or secondary
sources found in libraries, databases, or the web. Carmen Tieu’ s argument in
Chapter 3 is based on personal experience. More commonly, college arguments
require library and Internet research skills we teach in Part Two (Entering an

Using Evidence Effectively 53

Argumentative Conversation” ) and Part Five (” The Research ed Argument” ). This
chapter focuses more basically on how evidence functions rhetorically in an argu-
m ent and how it is selected and framed.

We be gin by cate gorizing and ev aluating different kinds of evidence,
illustrating how each might be incorporated into an argument.

DATA FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE One powerful kind of evidence comes
from p ersonal experience.

Example Strengths and Limitations

Despite recent criticism that Ritali n is
overprescribed for hyperactivity and
attention deficit d isorder, it can often
seem li ke a miracle d rug . My little
brother is a perfect example. Before
he was given Ritalin, he was a terror
in school . . .. [Tel l the “before” and
“after” story of your litt le brother.]

• Personal-experience examples help readers identify w ith
the writer; t hey show the writer’s personal connection to
the issue.

• Vivid stories capture the imagination and appeal to pathos .
• Skeptics may sometimes argue that personal-experience

examples are insufficient (the writer is guilty of hasty
generalization), not typical, or not adequately scientific
or verifiable .

d ence by p ersonally observing a phenomenon or by doing your own field research.


The intersection at Fifth and Montgomery
is particularly dangerous because pedestri-
ans almost never find a comfortable break
in the heavy flow of cars . On April 29, I
watched fifty-seven pedestrians cross t he
street. Not once d id cars driving in either
direction on Fifth Avenue stop before the
pedestrian stepped off the sidewalk to
cross Montgomery Street. [Contin ue with
observed data about danger.]

Strengths and Limitations

• Field research imparts a sense of scientific credibility.
• Observations and field research increase typicality by

expanding the database beyond a si ngle example.
• Observation and field research en hance the ethos of

the writer as personally invested and reasonable.
• Skeptics may point to flaws in how observations

were cond ucted, showing how data are insufficient,
inaccurate, or nontypical.

also gather data by interviewing stakeholders in a controversy, creating ques-
tionnaires, or conducting surveys. (See Chapter 16 for advice on how to conduct
this kind of field research.)


Another reason to ban laptops from class-
rooms is the extent to which laptop users
disturb other students. In a questionnaire
that I d istributed to fifty students in my resi-
dence hall, a surprising 60 percent said that
they are an noyed by fellow students check-
ing lnstagram, sendi ng e-mail, paying their
bil ls , or surfing the Web while pretending
to take notes in class. Add itionally, I inter-
viewed five students w ho gave me specific
examples of how these d istractions interfere
w ith learning. [Report the examples.]

Strengths and Limitations

• Interviews, questionnaires, and surveys enhance the
sufficiency and typicality of evidence by expanding
the database beyond the experiences of one person.

• Quantitative data from questionnaires and surveys
often increase t he argument’s scientific feel.

• Surveys and questionnaires often uncover local or
recent data not available in published research .

• Interviews can provide engaging personal stories,
thus en hancing pathos .

• Skeptics can raise doubts about research method-
ology, q uestionnaire design, or typicality of interview

54 Chapter 4

d ence is d erived from reading, particularly from library or Internet research. Part
Five of this text helps you conduct effective research and incorporate research
sources into your arguments.


The belief that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat
diet is the best way to lose weight has been
challenged by research conducted by Walter
Willett and his colleagues in the department
of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public
Health . Willett’s research suggests that
complex carbohydrates such as pasta and
potatoes spike glucose levels, increasing the
risk of diabetes. Add itionally, some fats-
especially monounsaturated and polyun-
saturated fats found in nuts, fish, and most
vegetable oi Is- he I p lower “bad” cholesterol
levels (45).*

Strengths and Limitations

• Researched evidence is often powerful , especially
when sources speak with verifiable authority/
expertise on their subjects and are respected by
your audience; writers can spotlight the source’s
credentials through attributive tags (see Chapter 17) .

• Researched data may take the form of facts,
examples, quotations, summaries of research
studies, and so forth .

• Skeptics might doubt the accuracy of facts , the cre-
dentials of a source, or the research design of a study.
They might also cite studies with different results.

• Skeptics might raise doubts about sufficiency,
typicality, or relevance of your research data.

TESTIMONY Writers frequently u se testimony when direct data are either
unavailable or highly technical or complex. Testimonial evidence can come from
research or from interv iews.


Althoug h the Swedish economist Bjorn
Lomborg claims that acid rai n is not a sig-
nificant problem , many environmentalists
disagree. According to David Bellamany,
president of the Conservation Founda-
tion, “Acid rain does kill forests and people
around the world, and it’s still doing so in
the most polluted places, such as Russia”
(qtd . in BBC News) .

Strengths and Limitations

• By itself, testimony is generally less persuasive than
direct data.

• Persuasiveness can be increased if the source
has impressive credentials, which the writer can
convey throug h attributive tags introducing the testi-
mony (see Chapter 17).

• Skeptics might undermine testimon ial evidence by
questioning the source’s credentials, showing the
source’s bias, or quoting a countersource.

STATISTICAL DATA Many contemporary arguments rely h eavily on statistical
data, often supplem ented by graphics such as tables, pie charts, and graphs.
(See Chapter 9 for a discussion of the u se of graphics in argument.)


After graduating from college, millennials aren’t
leaving their parents’ homes the way college
graduates used to. According to the U.S. Cen-
sus Bureau’s 2015 American Community Sur-
vey, 34. 1 percent of people between the ages
of eighteen and thirty-four lived in their par-
ents’ households, with the percentage even
higher in states with high real-estate costs.

Strengths and Limitations

• Statistics can provide powerful snapshots of
aggregate data from a wide database.

• Statistics are often used in conjunction with graphics.
• Statistics can be calculated and displayed in differ-

ent ways to achieve different rhetorical effects, so
the reader must be wary.

• Skeptics might question statistical methods,
research design, and interpretation of data.

sionally use hypothetical examples, cases, or scenarios, particularly to illustrate
conjectured consequences of an event or to test philosophical hypotheses.

*Parenthetical citations in this example and the next follow the MLA documentation system.
See Chapter 18 for a full discussion of how to cite and document sources.


Consider what might happen if we continue
to use biotech soybeans that are resistant to
herbicides. The resistant gene, through cross-
pollination, might be transferred to an ordinary
weed , creating an out-of-control superweed
that herbicides couldn’t kil l. Such a superweed
cou ld be an ecological disaster.

Using Evidence Effectively 55

Strengths and Limitations

• Scenarios have strong imaginative appeal.
• Scenarios are persuasive only if they seem plausible.
• A scenario narrative often conveys a sense of

“inevitability” even if the actual scenario is unlikely;
hence, the rhetorical effect may be illogical.

• Skeptics might show the implausibility of the
scenario or offer an alternative scenario.

REASONED SEQUENCE OF IDEAS Sometimes arguments are supported with
a reasoned sequence of ideas rather than with concrete facts or other forms of
empirical evidence . The writer ‘ s goal is to support a point through a logical
progression of ideas. Such arguments are conceptual, supported by linked ideas,
rather than evidential. This kind of support occurs frequently in arguments and is
often intermingled with evidential support.


Embryonic stem cell research, despite its
promise in fighting diseases, may have negative
social consequences. This research encourages
us to place embryos in the category of mere
cellular matter that can be manipulated at will.
Currently we reduce animals to th is category
when we genetically alter them for human pur-
poses, such as engineering pigs to grow more
human-like heart valves for use in transplants.
Using human embryos in the same way-as
material that can be altered and destroyed
at will- may benefit society materially, but
this quest for greater knowledge and control
involves a reclassifying of embryos that could
potentially lead to a devaluing of human life.

Strengths and Limitations

• These sequences are often used in causal argu-
ments to show how causes are linked to effects
or in definitional or values arguments to show
links among ideas.

• A sequence of ideas has great potential to clarify
values and show the belief structure on wh ich a
claim is founded.

• A sequence of ideas can sketch out ideas and
connections that would otherwise remain latent.

• The effectiveness of this type of evidence
depends on the audience’s acceptance of each
link in the sequence of ideas.

• Skeptics might raise objections at any link in the
sequence, often by pointing to different val ues or
outlining different conseq uences.

The Persuasive Use of Evidence
4.2 Make your evidence persuasive by using the STAR criteria

and other strategies.

We turn now from kinds of evidence to strategies for making evidence as
convincing and p ersuasive as possible. Consider a target audience of educated,
reasonable, and careful readers who approach an issue with healthy skepticism,
open-minded but cautious. What d emands would such readers make on a writer’s
use of evidence? To answer that question, let’s look at some general principles for
using evidence persuasively.

Applyfhe STAR Criteria to Evidence
Our open-minded but skeptical audience would expect the ev idence to meet what
rhetorician Richard Fulkerson calls the STAR criteria:*

*Richard Fulkerson, Teaching the A rgumen t in W riting (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teach-
ers of English , 1996), 44-53. In this section, w e are indebted to Fulkerson’s discussion.

56 Chapter 4

Sufficiency: Is there enough evidence?

Typicality: Is the chosen evidence representative and typical?

Accuracy: Is the evidence accurate and up-to-date?

Relevance: Is the evidence relevant to the claim?

Let’s examine each in turn.

SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE How much evidence you need is a function of
your rhetorical context. In a court trial, opposing attorneys often agree to waive
evidence for points that aren’t in doubt in order to concentrate on contested
points. The more contested a claim or the more skeptical your audience, the more
evidence you may need to present. On the one hand, if you provide too little
evidence you may be accused of hasty generalization (see Appendix), a reason-
ing fallacy in which you make a sweeping conclusion based on only one or two
instances. On the other hand, if you provide too much evidence your argument
may become overly long and tedious. You can guard against having too little or
too much evidence by appropriately qualifying the claim your evidence supports.

Strong claim: Working full-time seriously harms a student’s grade point
average (much data needed probably a combination of examples and sta-
tistical studies).
Qualified claim: Working full-time often harms a student’s grade point
average (a few representative examples may be enough).

TYPICALITY OF EVIDENCE If readers are to trust your evidence, they need to
be confident that you have chosen typical and representative cases rather than
extreme or outlier cases. Suppose that you want to argue that students can suc-
cessfully work full-time while going to college full-time. You cite the case of your
friend Pam, who earned a straight-A grade point average while working forty
hours per week as a night receptionist in a small hotel. Your audience might doubt
the typicality of Pam’s case because a night receptionist can often use work hours
for studying. What about more typical jobs, they’ll ask, where you can’t study
while you work?

ACCURACY OF EVIDENCE Evidence can’t be used ethically unless it is accu-
rate and up-to-date, and it can’t be persuasive unless the audience believes in the
credibility of the writer’s sources. This criterion is particularly important in an era
of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Arguers need to evaluate their sources,
analyzing where each source might be placed on the continuum from “truth-
seeking” to “persuasion” (see Figure 1.5). Ethical arguers must also develop an
eye and ear for identifying reliable sources of data, distinguishing, for example,
between widely respected news and public affairs sites and potential fake news
sites. Later in this section, we illustrate our own fact-checking search to ensure
the accuracy of a piece of evidence, explaining how we tracked down the original
source for a piece of data cited in a The New Yorker article.

RELEVANCE OF EVIDENCE Finally, evidence will be persuasive only if the
reader considers it relevant to what is at stake in the dispute. Consider the
following student argument: “I deserve an A in this course because I worked
exceptionally hard.” The student then cites substantial evidence of how hard he
worked a log of study hours, copies of multiple drafts of papers, testimony
from friends, and so forth. But what is at stake here is the underlying assumption

Using Evidence Effectively 57

(warrant) that grades should be based on effort, not quality of work. The student
provides ample evidence to support the reason (“I worked exceptionally hard”),
but this evidence is irrelevant to the warrant (“People who work exceptionally
hard deserve an A”). Although some instructors may give partial credit for effort,
the criterion for grades is usually the quality of the student’s performance, not the
student’s time spent studying.

Establish a Trustworthy Ethos
Besides supplying evidence that meets the STAR criteria, you can make your
evidence more persuasive by being fair, honest, and open to uncertainty (the
appeal to ethos see Chapter 5). To establish your readers’ confidence, you must
first tell them the source of your evidence. If your evidence comes from personal
experience or observation, your prose needs to make that clear. If your evidence
comes from others (for example, through interviews or library /Internet research),
you must indicate these sources through attributive tags (phrases like “according
toT. Alvarez” or “as stated by a recent EPA report”). For academic papers, you
must also cite and document your sources using an appropriate style for in-text
citations and concluding bibliography. (Part Five of this text explains how to find,
use, and cite research sources.) Finally, you need to be fair in the way you select
evidence from your research sources. For example, it is unethical to take quota-
tions out of context or to write an unfair summary that oversimplifies or distorts
a source author’s intended meaning.

Be Mindful of a Source’s Distance
froin Original Data
When you support an argument through library /Internet research, you often
encounter sources that report evidence from a second- or third-hand perspective.
You need to imagine where your source author found the information that you
now want to use in your own argument. How might you trace the process that led
from the original data to your source author’s use of it? Let’s take as an example
a passage from an article on the minimum wage by James Surowiecki writing for
The New Yorker. (You can read the full article in Chapter 8.) Because the source
is a magazine article rather than an academic paper, it contains no footnotes or
bibliography, but the author nevertheless uses attributive tags to identify his main
sources. Here is a passage from the article:

Passage from “The Pay Is Too Damn Low” by James

[O]ver the past three decades, the U.S. economy has done a poor job of cre-
ating good middle-class jobs; five of the six fastest-growing job categories
today; pay less than the median wage. That’s why, as a recent study by the
economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones has shown,low-~ge workers
are older and better educated than ever. More important, more of them are
relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night
dates but, rather, to support families.

Much of Surowiecki ‘s argument for increasing the minimum wage depends on
evidence that low-wage workers are “older and better educated than ever.” But we

Attributive tag (cites
this study as his

Purported factual
statement that we are

• •

58 Chapter 4

might ask: How does Surowiecki know about the age and education of low-wage
workers? Why should we trust him? Using an attributive tag, he identifies his source
as a recent study by economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones. We conducted a
Google search and quickly located the source: a working paper titled “Low-Wage
Workers Are Older and Better Educated than Ever,” dated April 2012. The paper
was published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which, according
to its Web site, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center aimed at providing factual
economic data for public policy makers. So where did Schmitt and Jones get their
data? They cite statistical tables compiled by the Current Population Survey, which
is a joint effort of the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Based on
these original data, Schmitt and Jones constructed two graphs showing shifts in the
distribution of low-wage workers by age and then by education from 1971 to 2011.
One of these graphs shows that in 1979, 26 percent of low-wage jobs were held by
teenagers, but by 2011 only 12 percent of low-wage jobs were held by teenagers.
(You can see this graph in Figure 8.3). In contrast, Schmitt and Jones’s second graph
shows that in 1979 only 25 percent of low-wage job holders had completed at least
some college, but by 2011, 43 percent had completed some college.

Let’s summarize the process we have just traced. The original data came
from government statistics collected by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of
Labor Statistics. Schmitt and Jones then converted these data into detailed graphs.
Surowiecki then summarized the graphs’ message into a single sentence. If you
were to cite Surowiecki as your source of this same information (“low-wage work-
ers are older and better educated than ever”), you would be depending on a
chain of trust stretching from the original data through Schmitt and Jones and
Surowiecki to you.

Of course, you can’t be expected to trace all your research-gathered evidence
back to the original data, but you need to imagine that it is possible to do so. The
closer you can get to the original data, the more trustworthy your evidence. Unfor-
tunately, fact-checkers employed by news sources or nonprofit organizations often
discover that purportedly accurate information cannot be traced back to a credible
original source. They might show that the information is not factual at all, that it is
derived from flawed or discredited studies, that it has been distorted unfairly, or
that it is purposely invented fake news in the service of propaganda.,
a nationally respected fact-checker, uses a “truth-o-meter” to rank purported
evidential statements along a scale from “True” to “False,” with the most egre-
giously false statements earning their famous “[Liar, Liar] Pants-on-Fire” award.
To develop a respected ethos, you need to develop your own internal truth-o-meter
by being aware of a source’s distance from the original data and by occasionally
tracing a piece of evidence back to its origins.

etorical Understanding
of Evidence
4.3 Understand evidence rhetorically by explaining how the selection

and framing of evidence reveal an angle of vision.

In the previous section we presented some principles for persuasive use of evi-
dence. We now ask you to look more closely at the rhetorical context in which
evidence operates.

Angle of Vision and the Selection and Framing
of Evidence

Using Evidence Effectively 59

When we enter the argumentative arena, we arrive as complex, whole persons,
not as disembodied computers that reach claims through a value-free calculus.
We enter with our own ideologies, beliefs, values, and guiding assumptions as
formed by our particular lived lives. These differences help explain why one per-
son’s terrorist might be another person’s freedom fighter, or why a handgun in
a drawer might be one person’s defense against intruders and another person’s
accident waiting to happen. In writing about guns, a believer in Second Amend-
ment rights is apt to cite evidence that having a gun can stop a violent intruder
or prevent a rape. Conversely, proponents of gun control are apt to cite evidence
about accidental deaths or suicides. In an argument, evidence is always selected
to further the arguer’s claim and is never simply an inert, neutral”fact.”

These guiding beliefs and values work together to create a writer’s angle of
vision: a perspective, bias, lens, filter, frame, or screen that helps determine what
a writer sees or doesn’t see. This angle of vision makes certain items stand out in
a field of data while other items become invisible. The angle of vision both deter-
mines and reveals the writer’s view of which data are important and significant,
and which data are trivial and can be ignored.

To help you better understand the concepts of selection and framing, we offer
the following exercise based on different angles of vision regarding Uber, the ride-
sharing company. Wildly popular in many cities, Uber has been accused of unfair
or unsafe business practices causing dilemmas for city governments, regulatory
agencies, insurance companies, and customers who want to avoid supporting
socially irresponsible companies.

Suppose that your city has scheduled a public hearing on whether Uber needs
stricter government regulations either for public safety or for ensuring fair busi-
ness practices. The following pieces of data and evidence are available to the
people who plan to attend the hearing.

• Uber has provided income opportunity for over 1 million drivers.

• Customers generally love Uber for the ease of its rider experience. The rider
is automatically billed through the mobile app without the need to pull out
a credit card or pay a tip.

• Some Uber drivers have complained of low pay and stressful work condi-
tions. Uber data show that 11 percent of Uber drivers quit within a month,
and about half quit within a year.

• Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.
Therefore, Uber doesn’t have to provide health insurance, overtime pay, and
other benefits.

• As independent contractors, Uber drivers have the freedom to work any
hours they wish, and they accept only the riders and destinations they choose.

• In San Francisco, an Uber driver who was watching his Uber app for a poten-
tial rider struck a six-year-old girl in a crosswalk. The parents sued Uber, but
Uber lawyers claimed that the company bore no responsibility for the accident
because the driver was an independent contractor and was not carrying a rider.

• Uber stores every user’s ride-history data. If your Uber app is running,
Uber can also track your location even if you aren’t requesting an Uber

60 Chapter 4

ride. Uber has been accused of using its tracking data to dig up dirt on jour-
nalists who are critical of Uber and to spy on Uber’s rivals.

• Several independent studies have shown that a rollout of Uber in new areas
is frequently associated with a decrease in drunk driving incidents.

• Several American cities have reported instances of Uber drivers sexually
assaulting passengers. Two lawsuits in California accuse Uber of misleading
customers about the quality of their background checks for drivers. As part
of the suits, district attorneys cited findings that twenty-five Uber drivers in
San Francisco and Los Angeles had criminal records.

• An Australian report found that Uber is less risky than a taxi because both
passengers and drivers have profiles that can be checked before pickup.
Unlike taxi services, Uber provides an online record of who the driver is.

• Taxicab drivers and union leaders complain that Uber’s “surge pricing” poli-
cies are unfair to both regulated taxi companies and to customers. During low
demand times, Uber is cheaper than taxis; during surge times, customers are
often surprised by a bill that is higher than what a taxi company would charge.

• One union leader for taxi drivers said: “Either the city should deregulate us
[taxis] completely, like them [Uber] … or regulate them at least closer to us,

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