ENGL 3894 - Major Figures in Literature: Toni Morrison - Goddu

Evaluating Sources

I have a list of results.  How do I further narrow that list down to sources I might use?

The best way to do that is to read the whole article or book.  However, during the research process, there isn’t always time to do that.  Whenever possible, you should take advantage of tools such as subject headings/descriptors and abstract.

subject heading (sometimes known as a descriptor) is a standardized term, usually a word or a phrase used to describe what the article or book is about. There are usually several subject headings per book or article. Subject headings exist in order to organize a collection of information. Consider using subject headings you find as search terms.

An abstract is a short summary of what the article or book is about.

Other tools for books you should use are a table of contents and the index once you find the book on shelf.

You've done your search in a database and found a list of articles.  Or you have some book titles to consider.  You now have to decide whether or not these potential sources help you accomplish your purpose.  One way to do that is to see how you might use those sources in your research paper.

The BEAM model below might be helpful. As you examine your results ask yourself, does this source fall into one (or more) of the categories below?

More Details


Background Sources

  • Rely on them for information accepted as unquestionable fact
  • Provide general information to explain a topic
  • Sources to consider: books, encyclopedias (either general or subject-specific), articles.

Exhibit Sources

  • Materials a writer is interpreting or analyzing
  • Used to provide an example of or give evidence for a claim
  • Sources to consider: Depending on your topic and discipline, scholarly books or articles, a film,  novel, a data set, an interview, experimental results, a diary, letters, a work of art, etc.

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
  • 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
  • Sources to consder: articles, books.

Method Sources

  • Materials an author follows to determine how they are doing their research
  • Sources to consider: Course readings, books, articles, Can include research procedures, theories

Graphic and List: Created by Pam Morgan, Central Library, August 2016


Adapted from Beeghly LIbrary, Heidelberg University: http://libguides.heidelberg.edu/eval/beam#s-lg-box-2260491

Additional Sources:

Meredith Farkas, Meredith. “Good for What? Teaching Sources for Sustainable Lifelong Information Literacy." Presentation, Association of College and Research Libraries, Portland, OR, March 25-28, 2015. http://www.slideshare.net/meredithfarkas/good-for-what

Rubick. Kate. 2014. "Flashlight: Using Bizup's BEAM to Illuminate the Rhetoric of Research." Presentation at Library Instruction West 2014. http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/liw_portland/Presentations/Material/10/

Rumble, Juliet, Carter. Toni and Noe, Nancy.  2015. "Teaching Students the 'How' and 'Why' of Source Evaluation: Pedagogies that Empower Communities of Learning and Scholarship." Presentation at 2015 LOEX Conference. http://www.loexconference.org/2015/presentations/rumblePresentation.pdf

Woodward, Kristin M. and Ganski, Kate L., “BEAM Lesson Plan” (2013). UWM Libraries Instructional Materials. Paper 1. http://dc.uwm.edu/lib_staff_files/1

BEAM originally developed by Joseph Bizup.

Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review 27, no. 1 (2008): 72-86. doi:10.1080/07350190701738858

These brief videos give an overview of ways to distinguish between popular magazines & scholarly journals -- and why it matters.

An important step in evaluating a resource is determining if it is considered scholarly.  This distinction will need to be made for books, as well as articles.