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HONC 130: BEAM Method: Rozendal Fall 2023

This research guide is for Professor Rozendal's HONC 130 class, with a focus on the BEAM Method.

Introduction to the BEAM Method

Developed by Joseph Bizup, the BEAM method encourages you 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. You might have had discussions about the differences in scholarly, academic articles vs. popular magazine or newspaper articles; but the reality is, depending on your research, you might need to use a combination of sources to articulate your arguments.

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. 


Content of this page is credited to Columbia College. 


BEAM Method in Library Research


This slideshow walks you through the BEAM Method and some examples of how it works when applied to researching various topics.



Group Activity


  1. In your group, determine a notetaker to write in the BEAM Activity Doc.
  2. Feel free to change your group name! Use a sample research question/topic from someone in your group
  3. Try to find 3 sources (bonus points for using library resources), and sort each respective source into a BEAM category, format the citation, and add 1-2 sentences/notes on why it’s a background, exhibit, argument, or method.

Hint on places to look:

Background: Encyclopedia + Reference Materials

Everything Else: Books OR Articles

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