How to use examples effectively

Most schools teach the PEEL framework for expository essays. It is a simple and effective structure that is easy to learn, but may take a while to master. Today, we will explore the “Evidence” and “Link” part of the PEEL framework:

Point > Explanation > Evidence > Link

Let’s take a look at the part of the rubrics that addresses the use of examples/evidence.

Band Descriptors
1 Thoughtful, enlightening illustration using local, national and international examples where applicable.
2 (Very) good range of examples/illustration.
3 (upper) Reasonable range of examples/illustration to 
support key points.
3 (lower) Does not always support major points with apt illustration.
4 Limited illustration and/or factual inaccuracy.

From the table, you can see an essay that has “limited illustration” (or examples) falls under a Band 4. As a general rule, if you attempt to provide to at least an example for each of your arguments, it should fulfill at least the Band 3 requirement for examples/illustration. However, you will also notice that if you don’t use your examples well, it may well end up in the lower range of Band 3.

What does it mean to use examples well?

The descriptors for Band 3 (lower) imply that while examples are provided, they are may not be apt. This means that the examples do not accurately reflect the point. In other words, your argument could be saying one thing, but your example doesn’t follow suit.

This can be due to two things: i) poor choice of example and/or ii) lack of explanation to link the example to the point. To illustrate this, I will use the following excerpt, adapted from a sample essay:

Government should spend on the young. The young holds the key to economic development for any society, and it makes pragmatic sense for the government to invest in them, as they are the next building blocks of society. The young are likely to be more innovative, energetic and ambitious compared to the older workers, and it is a more efficient allocation of the government’s capital. For example, Europe is currently facing very high youth unemployment, and with such high levels of unemployment, it spells disaster for the economy and leads to social unrest. Therefore, the government ought to invest in the next generation to prevent themselves from falling into such a predicament.

For easy reference, I have colour-coded the PEEL sections.

We mentioned earlier that good examples reflect the point. In this case, the Example is on Europe’s high unemployment leading to social unrest, which is entirely different from the two points raised under Explanation. The Link, which is meant to further gel the example with the explanations, made the disjoint all the more obvious when it ends with a new point – that investing in the young is to prevent the said predicament.

This paragraph would probably fall under the lower end of Band 3 as the example was not an apt illustration of the point.

What’s the remedy?

The paragraph already has a decent Point and Explanation. All it needs is to replace the Example and Link:

Example: Take Silicon Valley as an example. It is the world’s innovation hub and most of the successful start-ups there have come from the green, not the grey. David Packard and William Hewlett founded Hewlett Packard in the 1940s, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started Apple and Microsoft respectively in the 70s, Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up Google in the 90s and Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in the early 2000s.  The common thread they all share is their youth, ambition and innovation – they were all in their twenties when they founded their companies.

*Note that when we cite the example, we also provide a brief context to help the reader understand why it was chosen.

Link: The fact that the most successful start-ups in Silicon Valley were started by young people suggests that young people could be more inclined and better positioned to be innovative. Hence, by investing in the young, the government is also providing an environment that nurtures and catalyzes innovation.

We understand that many students take time and effort to prepare and memorise examples, statistics and case studies. In their eagerness, they may not realise that if the examples do not adequately reflect their point, it is actually counter-productive. Sometimes, it is a blind spot that students don’t realise as school teachers may not always have the time to point out every single error and suggest remedies for all of them.

We hope that this article had been useful in shedding some light on how to use examples more effectively. Follow us on Facebook for more GP tips!

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