Examples Used as Evidence
Examples from "Whose Body is This?"
In today's society, the expectations for women and their bodies are all too evident. Fashion, magazines, talk shows, "lite" and fat-free food in stores and restaurants, and diet centers are all daily reminders of these expectations. For instance, the latest fashions for women reveal more and more skin: shorts have become shorter, to the point of being scarcely larger than a pair of underpants, and the bustier, which covers only a little more skin than a bra, is making a comeback. (207)
by Katherine Haines
Comment on Haines
The paragraph begins with a topic sentence that makes a strong assertion. Whenever a writer makes an assertion, an attentive reader will ask "What makes you say this?" The writer is then obliged to answer the implied question with evidence.
In the paragraph the evidence is presented in the form of examples. The second sentence lists a series of short examples of how reminders of a woman's physical appearance are presented by society. Haines follows this by another set of examples focused on clothing.
These examples are introduced by the phrase "For instance." Writers frequently use phases such as "For instance" or "For example" to alert readers that they are about to present evidence for a general statement in a topic or subtopic sentence.
From "The Merits of Meritocracy" by Brooks
Today's mode of raising kids generates a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety, some of it on my part. We fear that kids are spoiled by the abundance and frenetic activity all around them. We fear that the world of suburban sprawl, Game Boys, Britney Spears CDs, and shopping malls will dull their moral senses. We fear that they are too deferential to authority, or that they are confronted with so many choices that they never have to make real commitments. Or we fear that they are skipping over childhood itself. (194)
Comment on Brooks
The paragraph opens with a topic sentence. The sentence tells us that the focus of the paragraph will be the fears that parents have about raising children in today's world. The following sentences list examples of the typical fears that parents have.
Notice the parallel structure of these sentences. The parallelism emphasizes the coordinate nature of the ideas; these are all real fears and are equally serious threats to the well being and healthy development of children.
From: "A Different Kind of Mother" by Amy Wu
I am not blind, however, to the disciplinary differences between a culture from the west and a culture from the east. Unlike American mothers, who encourage their young children to speak whatever is on their mind, my mother told me to hold my tongue. Once, when I was 5 or 6, I interrupted my mother during a dinner with her friends and told her that I disliked the meal. My mother's eyes transformed from serene pools of blackness into stormy balls of fire. "Quite!" she hissed, "do you not know that silent waters run deep?" She ordered me to turn my chair to the wall and think about what I had done. I remember throwing a red-faced tantrum before my mother's friends, pounding my fists into the rug, and throwing my utensils at the steaming dishes. Not only did I receive a harsh scolding, but a painful spanking. By the end of the evening, I had learned the first of many lessons. I learned to choose my words carefully before I opened my undisciplined mouth. (54)
The topic sentence of this paragraph alerts the reader that it will be developed in a comparison and contrast mode. This paragraph focuses on the kind of discipline Wu received which is quite different from what is considered appropriate by many American mothers. The example takes the form of a short narrative or anecdote. Stories of incidents that used to illustrate a point are often used as examples.
From: "The Rise in Reported Incidents of Workplace Sexual Harassment" by Sarah West
The media have also contributed to the rise of reports of workplace sexual harassment by giving great attention to a few prominent cases. In 1991, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Senate hearings on his nomination had to defend himself from sexual-harassment charges by his former colleague Anita Hill. Later that same year, U. S. male navy officers were accused of sexually harassing female navy officers at the infamous Tailhook Convention, a yearly gathering of navy aviators (Nelton 24). Highly publicized cases like these make sexual harassment a much-discussed public issue that sparked debate and encouraged victims to come forward. (465)
The topic sentence tells us that the paragraph will be about how the media have contributed to increased reporting of sexual harassment by highlighting important cases. The examples include Clarence Thomas and U. S. Navy officers.
Note that the author is careful to give the source of her information in a parenthetical citation that refers the reader to a full bibliographic citation at the end of the essay.
The last sentence is a comment on the examples. Here the writer emphasizes her point that the media attention generated by these high profile cases encouraged ordinary people to report incidents of sexual harassment. A final comment to interpret information or to emphasize its importance is a common practice in exposition and argument.
From: "Is Sex Necessary? Virgin Birth and Opportunism in the Garden"
Miraculous as it may seem, parthengogenesis [procreation with copulation] is actually rather common throughout nature, practiced regularly or intermittently by at least some species within almost every group of animals except (for reasons still unknown) dragonflies and mammals. Reproduction by virgin females has been discovered among reptiles, birds, fishes, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks, ticks, the jellyfish clan, flatworms, roundworms, segmented worms; and among insects (notwithstanding those unrelentingly sexy dragonflies) it is especially favored. The order Hymenoptera, including all bees and wasps, is uniformly parthenogenetic in the manner by which males are produced: Every male honeybee is born without any genetic contribution from a father. Among the beetles, there are thirty-five different forms of parthenogenetic weevil. The African weaver ant employs parthenogenesis, as do twenty-three species of fruit fly and at least one kind of roach. The gall midge Miastor is notorious for the exceptionally bizarre and grisly scenario that allows its fatherless young to see daylight: Miastor daughters cannibalize the mother from inside, with ruthless impatience, until her hollowed skin splits open like the door of an overcrowded nursery. But the foremost practitioners of virgin birth -- their elaborate and versatile proficiency unmatched in the animal kingdom -- are undoubtedly the aphids. (228)
by David Quammen
The author's purpose in this paragraph is to illustrate that although the idea of virgin birth may seem farfetched to a laymen, biologists have in fact found it to be quite common. Quammen then makes his point by giving a number of specific examples. The weight of the evidence makes the reader willing accept this improbable idea. The red font in the paragraph highlights the separate examples.
From: Understanding Islam
An incident that occurred during the war between Iran and Iraq in 1980 illustrates the dedication with which Muslims cherish their faith and the lengths to which they will go in the most trying circumstances to fulfill their religious duties. As the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca approached, a convoy of empty buses assembled in Iran. Bypassing Iraq, the vehicles crossed from Iran into Turkey, then on to Syria and Jordan, where they rolled down to the Allenby Bridge. This bridge over the Jordan River is the crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. There the buses picked up a group of Muslim Arab citizens of Israel, who for the first time since the creation of the Jewish state were being allowed to go to Saudi Arabia to fulfill the duties of their faith. This exercise required cooperation among Iran (which sent the buses because it would have been politically embarrassing to use Israeli buses), Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and especially Saudi Arabia, which was breaking precedent by allowing citizens of Israel onto Saudi territory. It is probable that no mission other than fulfillment of an Islamic duty could have brought about that collective effort.
by Thomas W. Lippman
This paragraph opens with a topic sentence indicating its purpose, that is to give an illustration of Muslim piety. Lippman then recites his example and concludes with a comment to reinforce his point. So this paragraph illustrates the simple pattern of topic sentence, evidence, and comment on the evidence.