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Michigan State University

MC 497: Adam Smith's Challenge: Self-Interst or the Common Good?

Professor Brianne Wolf | Spring 2021

Keep a Research Log

The BEAM Model

The BEAM Model can help you think about the different ways to use sources in your writing. There are four major types of sources that you will engage with during your research process:

Source type Description
B - Background Background sources provide you with context for your research or a broad overview of a topic. Common types of background sources are encyclopedias, textbooks, or other summaries.
E - Exhibit Exhibit sources are the material that you analyze and interpret. Commonly, exhibit sources are primary sources, including data, pictures, documents, laws, first-hand narratives, etc.
A - Argument Argument sources provide you insight into the current state of research on your topic. They are most commonly peer reviewed or scholarly sources. In your writing, you may refute, refine, affirm, or extend the arguments of these sources.
M - Method Method sources demonstrate ways of analyzing your exhibit sources, or definitions of critical concepts. These might be research studies or peer reviewed articles. They can be about topics related to or adjacent to yours, as long as you can apply the methods used to your own research.

Adapted from Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.”

BEAM Example for Adam Smith's Challenge

Example topic: the concept of liberty in current public discourse

Source type Description
B - Background An encyclopedia article defining liberty
E - Exhibit A selection of speeches from politicians that use the term "liberty"
A - Argument A peer reviewed study that analyzes how the term liberty was used by Reagan during his campaign speeches
M - Method An academic book chapter that outlines a method for analyzing public discourse
Michigan State University