Using sources to function in these roles is how you enter into the scholarly conversation with all the other research and writing that has covered your topic before.
BEAM: Background Sources
These are sources that should be noncontroversial—the author accepts information from these sources as being authoritative (and expects readers to, as well). In other words, the sources (and the information gleaned from them) are generally trusted or undisputed. That information can serve as the incontestable foundation for your claims.
Background information is common knowledge (e.g. the sky is blue) and not necessary to be cited.
It’s recommended that you cite background sources when you’re unsure, but one rule of thumb suggests finding the same undocumented information in at least 5 other credible sources. It can be difficult to make this determination, so it’s always a good idea to consult your professor.
There is more about background sources at Getting Background Reading.
Activity: Background Sources
Which of the following would be the best example of a background source that doesn’t need to be cited, according to the BEAM framework?
There were a total of 39 delegates who signed the U.S. Constitution; William Jackson was the 40th, but served as secretary and did not represent a state.
Thought to be limited to bat populations, the fungi responsible for the fast-spreading disease known as White-nose syndrome has been linked with similar infections affecting amphibians.
Having published over 300 reports since 2000, the Pew Internet & American Life Project has been a trusted source for research into online behavior.”
Our Answer: There were a total of 39 delegates who signed the U.S. Constitution; William Jackson was the 40th, but served as secretary and did not represent a state.
BEAM: Exhibit and Evidence Sources
Generally, exhibit and evidence sources are works of literature (or other media), collected data, or some observed phenomenon, etc. that you have been asked to write about. They are what you analyze or interpret.
Exhibit sources are not limited to examples in the humanities; they could also be data that was collected in a scientific experiment or by a website’s user survey. They can also simply serve as examples that help support a claim.
BEAM: Argument Sources
Argument sources provide you with the other voices in the academic conversation about your topic. Who else has done similar research, and how should your paper respond to what they’ve said? Does your paper refine or extend an existing hypothesis someone else has tested? If so, those sources belong in your paper.
Sometimes the purpose of including an argument source is to disagree with it and definitively indicate a different direction.
Activity: Argument Sources
Which of the following best defines an argument source in the BEAM framework?
- It’s one piece of research or scholarship that your paper is directly responding to.
- It’s one of many voices in a larger conversation that your research paper participates in.
- It’s one of several articles whose authors disagree with the premises of your paper.
Our Answer: It’s one of many voices in a larger conversation that your research paper participates in.
BEAM: Method Sources
While argument sources help you frame your paper within the larger scholarly discussion about your topic and exhibits provide a focal point, method sources help provide underlying and sometimes implicit assumptions for your argument or analysis.
For some research, these are literally the methods you use to collect data like a focus group or a particular statistical analysis, and they provide justification for them. In other research, your paper might reveal a leaning toward a major attitude or school of thought within a discipline.