How Much Evidence Is Enough

When you’re documenting your work you’re telling readers about the evidence and you’re helping them to find it because if they’re going to believe that you haven’t cooked up this story you’ve got to be able to help them find their way towards it there are two main styles of referencing Harvard and the number two footnote one Harvard one is sometimes called the author-date system that’s the one you ask these people to use so we’ll talk more about this towards the end when I get to the particular and important aspects of our essay writing but it’s thinking about reference as being like an address you want to give someone the address of a mutual friend.

You want to make sure all the particulars are there so that the person can find them likewise you want to make sure that people can go to the source you used and find the page I do remember in an earlier incarnation when I was writing an essay about history and I used a quote from the famous historian e Cara in which I said that he talked of a golden age of history and it doesn’t use believed the page number I didn’t start the page number it was a reference to a whole book and the comment that came back from my lecturer was I am surprised to learn that professor Carr subscribed to a golden age theory of history and I thought well damn it he did it was in the book I must have a look and find the page reference but if it’s going to be a struggle for me to get through the book to read it again and find the page reference why should I expect him to do it he’s got umpteen essays to write so make it easy for him or her to find what you’re talking about well when you’re doing your research for your essay which will be the question of reading on an argument means looking for evidence well how much is enough.

Students often used to ask me that how much is enough and this was the cruel answer I gave them I think it’s a cruel answer because it’s a bit like you know somebody asked you the question how long is a piece of string and well it’s as long as you need for the purpose that you have in mind and for people who are just beginning it doesn’t really help them a lot but nonetheless for people who are well underway it is the correct answer you’ve read enough when you can support your argument and show that you’ve tested it against alternative arguments but for students maybe a rule of thumb would you think that was sort of fairly reasonable that you’ve read enough if you’ve read and used or you’re well aware the people who have this bibliography stuffed with references doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence in the paper that they’ve actually read them.

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