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BEAM: Using sources purposefully in writing: Home

On the BEAM

Writing and research assignments often urge students to consult as many sources, and as many kinds of sources, as possible. But students may believe that the mere number or variety of their sources is more important (or even as important) than how well they use them in their texts. Joseph Bizup's BEAM framework focuses students' attention directly on what they might do with the materials they read and introduce into their texts.*

*Bizup, J. (2008). BEAM: A rhetorical vocabulary for teaching research-based writing. Rhetoric Review, 27(1), 72-86. DOI:       10.1080/07350190701738858.

Learning Goals.

Students will be able to...

  • Identify appropriate uses for sources in crafting an argument
  • Identify how a writer has chosen to use sources in a range of ways
  • Make informed choices about how to deploy sources in their own writing

Supports Program in Writing & Rhetoric Outcome 2

To work strategically with complex information in order to generate and support inquiry by...

  • gathering, evaluating, and making purposeful use of primary and secondary materials appropriate for the writing goals, audience, genre, and context
  • creating a "conversation"--identifying and engaging with meaningful patterns across ideas, texts, experiences, and situations

Supports Program in Writing & Rhetoric Outcome 3

To craft persuasive, complex, and inquiry-driven arguments by...

  • considering, incorporating, and responding to different points of view while developing one's own position

Basic Lesson Plan

Basic outline:

[Any or all materials provided may be distributed to students to read before the class session.]

1. Introduce the BEAM framework to your students. This can be done synchronously in the classroom using the slide deck (BEAM slides [ppt]) provided. They can also be assigned asynchronously to provide more in-class time to answer questions, discuss, and practice applying the concept to specific materials.

2. Divide the class into working groups of any appropriate size (3 is typically ideal.) Provide time to scan/read the materials included in the Practice Topic [ppt] file, as necessary. Announce the topic ("The music and politics of Stax Records in Memphis, TN played a valuable part in our national history of racial integration.")

3. Have the class work in their groups. Ask them to experiment bringing the readings together in support of the given thesis.  They may discuss a variety of uses for each source and write their decisions and rationales on their printouts (if you printed the materials), highlighting chunks of relevant text, as necessary, to support their decision(s) or have them mark up the slides with their annotations.

4. As time permits, have the groups report out some of their decisions. Encourage students to briefly discuss differences in uses of a source.

BEAM Activity option 1

  1. Select a single academic article or chapter, especially one that your students have read as part of your course readings and that has a reasonably rich selection of sources cited or referenced. 

  2. Divide the class into groups or pairs. Have the groups read through the article and mark with a highlighter the cited works (or works that may be identified by an author without direct citation.)  Using the BEAM framework, have each group write (on a separate sheet or in the margins of the printed article) a description of the purpose for which each source was used in the context of the BEAM framework..

  3. After the exercise, have groups report out selections of their work to the whole group. Pause over disagreements among groups or any noteworthy or novel responses that you feel deserve further discussion. Encourage a variety of uses for each article cited to discourage the notion that there is a "right" answer.

  4. Help students describe the rhetorical moves an author makes to integrate sources in the piece. BEAM can especially help students see how signal verbs (e.g. suggests, identifies, observes, analyzes, etc.) work when writers synthesize and respond to other sources. Using these terms in assignments can also help students understand the ways different kinds of sources might help shape their arguments.

Beam Activity Option 3

  1. Distribute the BEAM framework handout to your students and assign them to create (over the next days, weeks, etc.) an annotated or working bibliography for their own projects. 

  2. Ask them to gather a cluster of sources they feel will be relevant to their research project and/or claim/thesis. (You may use the handouts or other resources available in the “Search for Sources” section of this PWR guide or introduce a brief unit on searching databases to help them in searching.)

  3. Have them use the left side of the table in the BEAM Worksheet to insert a citation for each of their sources. Have them use the right side of the table to describe, in as much detail as possible using the BEAM framework, how they will use each source in building their argument or discussion.

Writing & Rhetoric Librarian

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John Holmes
M109 Odegaard Undergraduate Library
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3080

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