Deploying Supporting Materials

Types of Supporting Materials

There are many types of supporting materials, some of which are better suited for logical appeals and some for emotional appeals.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using different types of supporting materials

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Scientific evidence includes all factual information. It is necessary and particularly useful for logical appeals.
  • Testimonials, personal experience, intuition, and anecdotal evidence are all great for emotional appeals.
  • Non-scientific supporting materials may be useful, but are not necessarily reflective of broader truths.

Key Terms

  • anecdote: An account or story which supports an argument, but which is not supported by scientific or statistical analysis.

There are a number of types of supporting materials, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Not every type of supporting material is useful or effective in every situation, but each has its own niche.

Scientific Evidence

Scientific evidence is evidence which serves to either support or counter a scientific theory or hypothesis. Such evidence is expected to be empirical and in accordance with scientific method. Standards for scientific evidence vary according to the field of inquiry, but the strength of scientific evidence is generally based on the results of statistical analysis and the strength of scientific controls.More broadly, scientific evidence can be any statistic or fact that has been proven to be true through rigorous scientific methods. Facts and figures are necessary for logical appeals.

A picture of statistics charts.

Scientific Evidence: Statistics are a type of scientific evidence that can bolster arguments.

Personal Experience

Personal experience is the retelling of something that actually happened to the speaker. Personal experience is useful for emotional appeals, but is not always good for more scientific arguments.

Anecdotal Evidence

Anecdotal evidence is evidence from anecdotes (stories). Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representative samples of typical cases. Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support for a claim; it is accepted only in lieu of more solid evidence. However, it is particularly useful for making emotional appeals.


Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot justify in every case. For this reason, intuition is not a particularly strong supporting material.


A testimonial is when someone speaks on behalf of another idea, product, or person. For example, weight loss commercials often utilize testimonials. The power lies in how convincing the person giving the testimonial is.

Using Supporting Materials

Supporting materials bolster arguments and can make them more persuasive to audience members.

Learning Objectives

Identify reasons to use supporting materials and which types of materials are appropriate in a given situation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Scientific evidence is used to prove that a set of facts exist in the world.
  • Non-scientific evidence is often used to create emotional connections with the audience, which can make them more receptive to the argument.
  • Misused supporting materials can ruin your perceived reliability as a speaker and cause the audience to stop taking your argument seriously.

Key Terms

  • scientific evidence: Empirical, true facts or figures.

Supporting materials are necessary to turn an opinion into a persuasive argument. Being able to say something and have others immediately accept it as truth is a privilege afforded few speakers in few settings. In the vast majority of cases, audiences will not just want to hear the view you are asking them to accept, but also why they should accept it.

Supporting materials come in many different forms, from scientific evidence to personal experiences. Each is useful in different situations, but all are used to cause the audience to stop rejecting your idea as foreign and instead internalize it as truth.

Not all supporting evidence, however, is created equally. For example, scientific evidence is absolutely necessary in settings such as an exam. Appealing to the emotions of the professor is unlikely to yield a positive result, while articulating and analyzing the correct facts is. Scientific evidence is used to prove that a set of facts or conditions is present in the world.


Scientific Evidence: In most subjects, exam questions test the individual's grasp of empirical evidence (scientific evidence).

In other instances, more experiential evidence will help you connect to the audience on a personal level. Personal experiences and anecdotes are great for establishing an emotional connection with the audience. Being able to connect emotionally helps to mitigate some of the boredom that often accompanies appeals that are just facts.

Using non-scientific evidence comes with some dangers, however. Non-scientific information is not often generalizable. That is, just because there is a story (or series of stories) does not mean that they necessarily represent the broader truth. Some audiences are skeptical of non-scientific supporting materials for this very reason. Using an anecdote of a boat sinking, for example, is unlikely to persuade most audiences that all boats sink. Attempting to use this type of evidence can actually weaken the appeal by decreasing your perceived reliability as a source.

Using Supporting Materials Effectively

Supporting materials are effective only if they help persuade the audience.

Learning Objectives

Name elements to be considered when deciding what type of supporting materials to deploy

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Regardless of the type of supporting material used, they are effective only if they fulfill the speaker's burden of proof.
  • Supporting materials must exist in order to be used; not all types exist for all arguments.
  • The supporting evidence used depends on the idea being supported. Some ideas are more effectively supported by certain types of materials.
  • Not all types of supporting materials are effective for every appeal. Speakers should select the materials that make their specific appeal most effective.
  • The type of supporting material used also depends on the audience. If the audience cannot comprehend the material, it is not effective.

Key Terms

  • comprehensible: Able to be comprehended; understandable.

Using Supporting Materials Effectively

Supporting materials are the difference between an opinion and a convincing argument. Supporting materials are effective only if they help to persuade the audience. The type of supporting materials that should be deployed depend on the following:

  • Available supporting material: not all types of supporting materials exist for all arguments. If there is no evidence, it obviously cannot be used.
  • The idea being supported: if you are trying to explain that your favorite ice cream is chocolate, then scientific evidence about the molecular composition of chocolate ice cream is not as effective as personal accounts.
  • The type of appeal: emotional and logical appeals tend to be supported by different types of materials. All types of supporting material can be used for emotional appeals, but providing data may not be as effective as providing anecdotes for connecting with the audience. For logical appeals, all types can again be used, though the most effective support is scientific evidence, because it is empirical and true.
  • The audience: different audiences respond differently to different types of supporting evidence. It is the speaker's job to determine what supporting materials will be most comprehensible and effective.

Members of an FBI response team check a crime scene for evidence.

Gathering Evidence: An individual must have enough supporting material (evidence) in order to write a convincing speech.

Regardless of the type of supporting material used, they are effective only if they fulfill the speaker's burden of proof. If the supporting materials are not delivered in a way that advances that goal, they are not deployed effectively.

For example, if you are speaking in front of a large crowd, and use a chart printed out on a sheet of paper, it doesn't really matter what the chart says. If the audience cannot see the chart, then it will not be understood or effective. The same goes for other types of supporting materials; they are only effective if they can convince the audience.

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