Students are often asked to find a number of sources by source type (primary, secondary or scholarly, popular).
Developed by Joseph Bizup, the BEAM method encourages students to think about sources in terms of the function rather than common features. It asks students to think about how writers use sources in writing.
BEAM describes 4 ways that sources can be used. Students can be asked to try to use sources in each of the 4 ways, but requirements can be adjusted depending on the purpose of a particular writing assignment.
B: Background Source - These are sources used to establish common ground with the reader, provide context, and for background information such as basic facts and general information.
E: Exhibit Source - Used for analysis or to provide evidence. These sources may be used to provide examples to back up an argument, or may be presented and analyzed. May take the form of data, an image for analysis, quotations.
A: Argument Source - Used when the writer engages in the ideas or claims of a source as part of an argument. Writers may use these sources to affirm, refute or refine an argument.
M: Method Source - Offers a model, definitions or perspective for understanding an argument. Often takes the form of a particular school of thought, for example, applying a Marxist literary criticism to an interpretation of a work.