Chapter 6

Evidence that People Find

Authors utilize many kinds of evidence to defend or “prove” their arguments. Chapter 6 details some of the most common evidence types: authority, testimony, examples, signs, maxims, and fables.

Evaluating Evidence

Before you can analyze evidence, you must separate it from the claims and reasons that it supports. If you are not sure you understand what a claim is, watch this helpful video from

The Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric has put together a list of questions that will help you determine whether or not the evidence provided in a text is valid. Like a lot of online resources, Dartmouth assumes that you are writing your own argument, not analyzing someone else’s, but still the questions are applicable. 

Maxims and Fables

Maxims and fables can be difficult to identify and analyze because they require background knowledge. But because utilizing them conveys how deeply an author understands the expressions and stories circulated within a particular community they can also be wildly effective with audiences.

Many websites offer lists of maxims. However, it would be hard to beat the Brownielocks list, which brings together folk sayings that have been popular in the United States over the course of three centuries. 

You may recognize some of the maxims and other “Texas Sayings” compiled in this recent article from the Texas Monthly

Like maxims, fables are infinite in number. Authors often borrow fables from texts they—and presumably their audiences—encountered as children. Popular sources include Aesop’s fables, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm’s fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and the “tall tales" about national heroes that tend to be told in primary schools. 

Many authors also draw stories from sacred texts including the Bible and Qur’an.