If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Citing evidence in literary analysis | Reading

In order to successfully build an argument about a text, you must make inferences and draw conclusions—and those must be built on the backs of evidence in the text. Let's talk about how to search for evidence-bearing details in text, and how to best derive support for the points you're trying to make, in the only way I know how: by talking about fictitious pirates. Created by David Rheinstrom.

Want to join the conversation?

  • marcimus pink style avatar for user       🎃    Pepper Lintz 2008
    I'm in 7th. Not sure that i am ready for this!
    (30 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby blue style avatar for user lilly
    The burbling deep
    By Lilly pilly All credits to dave.


    Captain Bigsby was the captain of the pirate ship Albatross. The birdman was feared by many, with sharp talons and a piercing gaze. But what he was known for was his dismissive attitude towards his crew members, especially towards Eniola, who had just joined the crew.

    Eniola was a young woman who always dreamed of becoming a pirate. She babbled about ships and giant Krakens from the moment she could talk. She knew about Captain Bigsby’s reputation but had never anticipated the harsh reality of life at sea. He would often belittle her in front of the crew and make her do the most annoying tasks on the ship. Gone were her dreams of fearless pirating. For now, she would just scrub the deck faster, The captain’s watchful eye on her every move.
    Eniola refused to give up.
    “I’ve given up everything for this. I need to make this count.” She would remind herself.
    She knew that she had to earn Captain Bigsby’s respect. If that meant deck cleaning and dishwashing, so be it. So she worked tirelessly, day and night, striving to do better.

    One day however eniola forgot to clean the portholes,
    “You there what’s-her-name! These portholes needed to be scrubbed yesterday! Get to work.” he screeched. “But my name is-”
    "Does it look like I care?" he snapped at her, Eniola was taken aback by his behavior and tried to ignore his rudeness. But inside it hurt.
    When will my best ever be good enough?


    Eniola was watching the deck one day after a long day at work. The entire crew was asleep. She stared into the pools of blue linin that flowed around the ship, molding and twisting to every one of the ship’s needs. She knew that blue linen wouldn’t stay at peace anymore.
    The sky was getting darker and darker. A storm was coming.


    She saw a glimpse of movement. Something big and terrifying.
    "A Kraken," She thought to herself. “HELP!” She called, but no one came. Without thinking, she launched herself at the monster and threw a punch right at its face.

    To her surprise, the monster stumbled back, surprised by her sudden attack. Eniola couldn't believe it - she had never been the type to jump into action like this before.

    But as the storm raged around her, Eniola realized she had to keep fighting. She punched and kicked the monster, dodging its attacks as best she could. And finally, after hours of battling, the monster gave up and slunk away into the night.

    Eniola breathing heavily and feeling more alive than she had in years, screamed.
    “I DID IT!” then flinched. Her leg was twisted and in oh-so-so-so much pain. She couldn’t help but smile. All those years of dreaming had led to this moment. She was eniola and she was a true pirate.
    That day Eniola proved her worth and saved them all by punching a giant octopus monster. Captain Bigsby was amazed by her bravery and realized that he had been wrong about her all along.

    After tending to Eniola's broken leg, Captain Bigsby apologized to her saying, "Eniola, that was some mighty fine pirating you did. You showed no fear when you punched that kraken, and more importantly, you showed no fear when you stood up to me. I was wrong, and I have been a jerk, and I am sorry."
    “It’s alright.” She said and meant it.
    From that moment on, Captain Bigsby treated Eniola, and everyone else on the ship, with much greater respect and courtesy. He had learned that it was important to recognize the potential in others, and he had changed for the better.

    Eniola was glad to see Captain Bigsby's transformation and was grateful for his apology. She knew that she had earned his respect and that she had helped him become a better person. Together, they sailed the seas as a team, with Captain Bigsby leading them with kindness and fairness.
    (69 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • leaf red style avatar for user Gavin1027
    Does everyone think David is funny?
    (38 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Marissa Miller
    At , you can actually see David's Mac if you pause the video on the right frame.
    (39 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • leaf red style avatar for user Leyard
    Could I use this in a Informational Argumentative essay?
    (11 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Melody
    A poem I made up while I was typing this:

    Sniffle.
    Sniffle.
    Snort.
    It burns.
    Tingles.
    My eyes get teary.
    It fights.
    It kicks.
    It wants to leave.
    I close my eyes,
    Lean back,
    And let out
    A big,
    Roaring
    Sneeze!

    I love making poems that usually have one word on each line:)
    Hope you guys liked it.
    (16 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Bella
    How do you tell the difference between explicit and implicit evidence?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • area 52 blue style avatar for user HariniK
      Explicit evidence is found in the text from word to word. Implicit evidence makes us think what and why the character is saying or doing. So when you start to think why and what, then you are trying to get implicit evidence.

      Hope this helped you out!
      (16 votes)
  • spunky sam red style avatar for user Zecadd
    Don't focus on grades, stay confident, david is just explaining the parts of a story.
    (11 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Ellie Castillo
    do theses lessons co agree with 8th grade learning standards?
    (9 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Kiana Fox (Favorite Animes In BIO)
    I thought this was a real book until he said he made it up 😂🤣
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Hello readers. The following video contains explicit content. Uh, okay, not in the way you're thinking. It doesn't contain violence, obscenity or profanity. Or even anything that wouldn't appear in a G-rated movie, but it will contain explicit evidence. Yes, we're talking about citing evidence in literary analysis. When you're talking about a text and making arguments about it, in order to successfully build that argument, you must make inferences and draw conclusions. And those must be built on the back of evidence. Both explicit, that is stated in the text, or implicit or based on clues or evidence in the text. So your responsibility is to tie those conclusions or inferences back to explicit or implicit evidence in the text. It can't just be, "This is a feeling I have." It has to be, "My feeling about this is backed up by this specific evidence." Say you're trying to be make an argument in a book that the captain of this pirate ship, let's just say, I guess, he's a birdman. That's what I drew, he's a birdman. He's really unkind to the main character in the beginning of the book, but changes by the end of the book and treats everyone, including the main character with respect and courtesy. So I'm gonna write that my argument is that the captain's behavior changes towards the MC, the main character. I have to back that assertion up with evidence. So how do we find those details? First, you have to seek out parts of the book where the captain and the main character interact. Then look closely at the pros and dialogue. What are the details that prove your point? Which are the strongest, most specific details that say, "Oh, yes, here is where the captain is being mean. Here is where the captain is being respectful." If you can't find evidence for your assertion, first, try searching in a different part of the book. Or importantly, acknowledge the possibility that you might have a weak argument. Maybe it's time to start over and find a new or different argument to make and find support for. Once you've assembled your evidence work it into your analysis. "Captain Bigsby is dismissive and rude to Eniola when she first joins the crew of the pirate ship Albatross," I might say. And then back it up with an explicit example of Captain Bigsby being dismissive and rude with a page number citation like so. On page 34 of "To the Burbling Deep," Bigsby says to Eniola, "You there, what's her name! These portholes need to be scrubbed yesterday. Get to work!." "Yes, sir, Captain," Eniola said. "But my name is-" "Does it look like I care?" the captain snarled. But by the end of the story, when Eniola has proven her worth, saved the day, and humbled the captain, he treats her, and everyone around him, with much greater respect and deference. On page 225, after Bigsby tends to Eniola's broken leg, he tells her, "Eniola, that was some mighty fine pirating you did. You showed no fear when you punched that kraken, and more importantly, you showed no fear when you stood up to me. I was wrong, and I have been a jerk, and I am sorry." Now both of those examples use explicit evidence where Captain Bigsby is being a jerk and then when he is apologizing for being a jerk. There's also implicit evidence too. Bigsby tends to Eniola's broken leg. So while he's not saying, "I will take care of you little buddy," with his words, he is saying it with his actions. And in that first example when he demands that Eniola clean the portholes, he's not literally saying, "I'm impatient," But by saying, "They need to be scrubbed yesterday," as an immediately because you already messed up, he's implying that he's impatient. Now there is no such book that I know of about a kraken punching girl pirate. But if we're lucky, my friend Jordan will write one. Remember to use strong details to get good evidence. There might be a part of "To The Burbling Deep" where Captain Bigsby huffs angrily at Eniola but doesn't say anything, and that's mean or, at least, impolite, but it's not as strong as him yelling at her. So when you find the detail, ask yourself, how does that detail related back to your analysis or your argument. Is it repeated? Does that detail or detail similar to it appear elsewhere in the text? And if you see a lot of similar details, how do those details prove the argument that you're trying to make? If you have a sense of what the central idea or ideas of the text is, try to connect those details back to that central idea and then connect that central idea to your own argument. I don't know what "To the Burbling Deep" is about 'cause I made it up 20 minutes ago. But maybe one theme in it is that it's important to recognize the potential with another people. And that can be both true for Eniola who becomes a hero and punches a giant octopus monster, but it can also be true of Captain Bigsby who occupies kind of antagonistic role and then changes through the story. And so we can build our argument around that idea that character change is possible. Not just for the main character, but for everybody. So that's where I will leave you. Remember to choose the pieces of evidence that give you the strongest support for your idea and if the evidence doesn't match your idea, you might need to change the idea itself. You can learn anything. David out.