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BEAM method for using resources

Using your resources

Using Your Sources: The BEAM Research Model (3:25), from Portland State University Library

What am I going to do with my sources?  BEAM ask you to consider the function of the source.



This guide is modified from:

1- UC Merced Library, Source Functions: Background, Exhibits, Argument, Method (BEAM)

2- River Campus Libraries, LibGuides, BEAM Method for note-taking and using scholarly sources;

3- Hunter College Libraries, HOW TO USE A SOURCE: THE BEAM METHOD; and

4- Columbia College, Designing Research Assignments: BEAM Method

This guide is licensed through Creative Commons as CC-BY-NC-3.0.

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What is BEAM method?

Students may be asked to do their research employing BEAM method, developed by Joseph Bizup. BEAM is an acronym for Background, Exhibit, Argument, Method. Resources can be used in one of these ways.

  • Background: using a source to provide general information to explain the topic. For example, the use of a Wikipedia page on the Pledge of Allegiance to explain the relevant court cases and changes the Pledge has undergone.
  • Exhibit: using a source as evidence or examples to analyze. For a literature paper, this would be a poem you are analyzing. For a history paper, a historical document you are analyzing. For a sociology paper, it might be the data from a study.
  • Argument: using a source to engage its argument. For example, you might use an editorial from the New York Times on the value of higher education to refute in your own paper.
  • Method: using a source’s way of analyzing an issue to apply to your own issue. For example, you might use a study’s methods, definitions, or conclusions on gentrification in Chicago to apply to your own neighborhood in New York City.


BEAM model in charts

BEAM model (Joseph Bizup)

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

Encyclopedia articles, overviews in books, statistics, historical facts; see CREDO Reference

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


Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library