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Discovery Seminar - Science: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Powell - Spring 2022

The BEAM Method


 Key Takeaways 

  • What are sources for?: Sources support your thesis by providing background information, data/evidence, discussion from other scholars, and/or details about your research method(s).

  • Not all sources serve the same function: A journal article or a book might include background information, data, and the views of other scholars in the field. An encyclopedia article or dictionary entry may only provide background information or key terms to use in your search for other sources.


For any research project, you want to use a variety in types of sources as well as points of view. Some assignments will have certain requirements for the sources, in terms of genre of source (academic, popular), format (blog, print) and publication dates. You may need a variety of sources, both in type and point of view, in order to research a question in-depth.

In discussing the usefulness of different types of sources, we will use the BEAM method, developed by Joseph Bizup. This method can be helpful when addressing the way in which you intend to use a source in an annotated bibliography.


BEAM stands for: Background, Exhibit, Argument, Method

Source Function Explanation Examples Common Locations
Background Factual and noncontroversial information, providing context

Encyclopedia articles, overviews in books, statistics, historical facts

Exhibit/Evidence Data, observations, objects, artifacts, documents that can be analyzed

Text of a novel, field observations, focus group transcriptions, questionnaire data, results of an experiment, interview data (primary sources)

Body, Results section
Argument Critical views from other scholars and commentators; part of the academic conversation Scholarly articles, books, critical reviews (e.g. literacy criticism), editorials

Body, sometimes in Introduction or in Literature Review

Method (or Theory) Reference to methods or theories used, usually explicit though may be implicit; approach or research methodology used

Part of books or articles with reference to theorists (e.g. Foucault, Derrida) or theory (e.g. feminism, post-colonialism, new historicism etc.); information on a research methodology

Methods section or referenced in Introduction or Body


A source may serve more than one function For instance, a journal article could include background information, exhibits, argument and method.  However, some sources are focused on a single function.  For example, an encyclopedia entry on “Alzheimer's disease” is likely to only serve as background information.


Adapted from:
Hayden, W. & Margolin, S. (n.d.). How to use a source: The BEAM Method. Hunter College Libraries. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
UC Merced Library:; (CC BY-NC 4.0)