EN306B at Park

Imagining Evidence in Action

Rhetoric is often an act of imagination, so it helps to imagine the evidence you hope to find before you even go looking for it.

S. David Grover

5 October 2020 | 17:06 video

Note: This was recorded in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, so some of the context may have shifted a bit since then, but the principles remain sound.

Notes on the Video

If you read the article "Research and Evidence," you'll remember that it ended with two examples of how claims, reasons, and evidence can be combined into a well-structure argument. One was a five-paragraph essay; the other was a murder trial prosecutor's case.

Let me give you one last example: this one an analytical business report—the thing you’re writing for the final project in EN 306B. It might have a scary name, but it’s no different from any researched argument-type paper. Claims, reason, and evidence, baby.

For your report, you’ve been asked to identify a problem with an organization you are part of or work with and then propose a solution to that problem. So we could say that your claim is something along the lines of “[This organization] should solve [this problem] by adopting [this solution].”

Now, the thing you should immediately notice is that this claim naturally divides itself into two things you’ll need to prove: that the problem exists, and that the solution will work. We could consider these the two main reasons supporting the claim, but because this are such big reasons, they’ll probably each need their own supporting sub-reasons, which are in turn supported by evidence. How about this for a rough outline:

  1. Introduction: States the claim and main reasons
  2. Reason 1: The problem exists
    • Sub-reason 1: The problem is real
      1. Evidence
      2. Evidence
    • Sub-reason 2: The problem hurts enough that it’s worth the effort to solve
      1. Evidence
      2. Evidence
  3. Reason 2: The solution will work
    • Sub-reason 1: The addresses the problem adequately
      1. Evidence
      2. Evidence
    • Sub-reason 2: The solution does not use too many resources
      1. Evidence
      2. Evidence
  4. Conclusion: Restates the claim and main reasons

The thing you should notice here is that this isn’t all that different than either the five-paragraph essay or the murder trial—it’s just claims, reasons, and evidence. This time, though, they are stacked in a slightly more complex way to account for the complexity of the argument that will be made.

Now, at this point in planning ahead for your report, you don't need to be thinking about solutions at all. You only need to concentrate on understanding the problem fully and from the perspective of all stakeholders. What better way to do that than by imagining (and then finding) the evidence you can eventually use to prove the problem exists?

David Grover is the cofounder of Grover's English and a professor of English at Park University. He earned his doctorate in Technical Communication and Rhetoric from Texas Tech University in 2017.

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