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Module 4: Synthesizing & Using Sources: Organizing Sources

Table of Contents

Organizing Sources

You have located and thoroughly read your sources. Now you have to figure out what to do with them. Different sources (i.e., articles, books) will serve different functions or purposes for your paper. Some sources may help you write the background information needed on your topic, while others may help you support your main arguments.  Jeffrey Bizup*  recommends using the B.E.A.M. method to identify the purpose of each source.

*Bizup, J. (2008). BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing. Rhetoric Review, 27(1), 72-86. Retrieved from Jstor.

Intro to B.E.A.M.

B.E.A.M. = Background Sources; Exhibit Sources: Argument Sources; and Method Sources

Background Sources

  • Rely on them for information accepted as unquestionable fact
  • Will sometimes be uncited if considered "common knowledge," which is information in a discipline or subject that is universally accepted by those in the field
    • Ex. The existence of natural selection is a given in biology, so Darwin's On the Origin of Species does not need to be cited to prove it

Exhibit Sources

  • Materials a writer is interpreting or analyzing
  • Used to provide an example of or give evidence for a claim
  • Depending on your topic and discipline, exhibit materials can be a novel, a data set, an interview, experimental results, a diary, scholarly books or articles, and much more
    • Ex. If you are researching depictions of working women on TV, an episode of 30 Rock could be an exhibit. If you are researching changes in employment in the United States, a data set from the Bureau of Labor Statistics might be your exhibit

Argument Sources

  • Information from other authors you are agreeing with, disagreeing with, or building upon
  • Citing them puts your research in the context of other scholarship on that topic--brings you into the conversation
  • The literature review section in many disciplines
  • You use your exhibit sources as examples of why you agree with, disagree with, or want to add more to what was claimed in your argument sources

Method Sources

  • Materials an author follows to determine how they are doing their research
  • Can include research procedures, theories, and sources of discipline-specific vocabulary
  • Some methods become so common in a field that scholars do not feel the need to cite them but will presume their readers will know them
    • Ex. Scholar who studies game theory in economics may presume their audience is familiar with the prisoner's dilemma, while a scholar in critical literacy studies may not define "reification" 

B.E.A.M. Worksheet

Using Your Sources: The B.E.A.M. Method