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Research Guide for INFSCI 2205

This guide is designed to support the students in INFSCI 2205.

Using Sources to Make an Argument

As part of your information gathering process, you will find many sources on your topic. To determine which sources are the best for you, consider how you will use these sources in your Argumentative Essay.

Before you can decide if a source is right for you, it's important to think about how you'll be using that source in your research, writing, and speaking. Any type of source could be appropriate for a research assignment, depending on how you use it. The BEAM framework helps you think this through. BEAM stands for: Background, Exhibit, Argument, Method. 


Background Sources provide information that is accepted as unquestionable fact

  • These sources are usually non-controversial
  • Depending on the discipline, background sources are considered "common knowledge," which is information that is universally accepted by those in a particular field of study

Exhibit Sources include the actual data/phenomena/artifacts a writer is interpreting or analyzing

  • These sources are used to provide an example of or give evidence for a claim
  • For a literature paper this would include the novel or essay you're analyzing, for history it would be a primary historical document, for sociology it might include a data set or experimental results, or for biology it may be information gathered from observing plants in a laboratory.

Argument Sources include information from other authors you are agreeing with, disagreeing with, or building upon

  • Other scholars have investigated your research question; acknowledging and citing them puts your research in conversation with these authors
  • This is your chance to add something new to the discourse on this topic

Method Sources are materials that influence how you think about, engage with, and understand your topic 

  • These sources can include research procedures, theories, and sources of discipline-specific vocabulary
  • They may also include specific theories or scholars whose work is relevant to your analysis


Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review 27, no. 1 (2008): 72-86. 

This resource was inspired by Jaclyn Spraetz's guide on Evaluating Sources, Heidelberg University (2017).