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Determine what kinds of sources you need for your research
Evaluate how sources can be useful in your research, given your goals and context
BEAM refers to 4 key ways researchers use sources, as...
Background: Using sources to provide factual or general information about your topic. For example, you might use an encyclopedia entry to offer a quick historical overview related to your topic.
Exhibit: Using sources as examples to analyze, or as evidence. Exhibits are often primary sources. For example, a novel or an image you are analyzing would be an exhibit. Census data, an oral history interview, or social media posts could also be exhibits if you analyze them as evidence.
Argument: Using sources to engage the arguments they make. For example, you might align your thinking with another author's argument, extend their argument in a new context, or present their argument in order to counter it with your own. You can find arguments in scholarly sources (like academic journal articles and books), as well as in popular sources (like newspaper editorials).
Method: Using sources to inform your research methods; to help you explain your analysis or interpretation of your exhibits; and to define key conceptual terms. For example, you might draw on another source's explanation of a theoretical framework or concept to explain that idea to your audience, or you might describe your methods in relation to those used in another study.
Adapted from Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27.1 (2008): 72-86.