Explain Your Evidence

LRS In the Wild<

Listen to the following clip from NPR, in which host Terry Gross interviews< climatologist Heidi Cullen about the heat wave of the summer of 2011. Listen for the point where Gross gets lost in Cullen’s recital of evidence. As you listen, consider the following questions:

  • What does Gross do?
  • How does Cullen try to help Gross understand?

See the Principle in Real Life<

On several occasions, our host (Gross) asks the expert (Cullen) to explain the evidence she provides. Gross asks questions at predictable points in the conversation.

  • When the expert offers highly technical evidence, the host asks for more information.
  • When the expert covers a lot of evidence quickly, the host asks about some specific part of that information.
  • When the expert suggests that several pieces of evidence are logically connected but doesn’t say how, the host asks what connects them.
  • When the expert says something that the host thinks is surprising or unexpected, the host asks for more information.

Your readers respond to your writing in much the same way. Like good radio hosts, they want you to explain evidence they might not understand, show how one part of your evidence connects to another, and show how your evidence supports your claims. But since you don’t have a good host sitting with you to ask you questions while you draft, you have to imagine a reader asking those questions and answer them in your draft.