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net.TUTOR: Using Information in Context

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2. Using Information: BEAM: A Solution That Might Shine


Introduction: A Rough Analogy


Image ourtesy of Steve Baty

Let's say for some reason you've been asked to put together a Cricket game, a bat and ball game originating from England.

You've been given a diagram that shows you all the fielding positions, batsman positions, and the equipment you need.

Unfortunately, you don't actually know the rules of Cricket. It seems similar to American game of baseball, but you don't know what anyone is supposed to do. After a few hours, you manage to put something together - but it's probably not a true Cricket game.

Incidentally, this isn't dissimilar from written assignments that have a minimum requirement for cited sources. Telling you what kind of things to get doesn't tell you how they're used.

Your paper must be in 12 pt. font, Times New Roman, double spaced, with no more than 1" margins, and include a minimum of 8 total articles comprising of:

  • At least 2 peer-review articles
  • 3 (no more than 6) popular articles (magazine or newspaper)
  • 2 (no more than 4) electronic sources (website or blog)

A Solution That Might Shine

Other tutorials showed you how to distinguish between scholarly and popular articles, how to search for articles, as well as how to inductively evaluate articles.

This tutorial is all about how to determine how to use a source once you've figured out what and how good it is - or going back to our previous analogy: what to do with capable athletes once you have them. Knowing these roles will also help you refine your search.

More often than not, people tend to grab quotes and statistics that suit their claims without considering the context of those sources or if those sources actually serve their intended role in the paper.

Lists and definitions don't show us how to use resources; fortunately, there's a guy named Joseph Bizup who recognized that this wasn't always a useful approach, so he developed a model to help students think about it a little differently:


Otherwise known as:

B ackground
E vidence / Exhibit
A rgument
M ethods


These are essentially the roles that sources play in academic writing. When you write a research paper, you are entering a larger conversation or dialogue with all other research that has covered your topic.

In the next few pages, we'll learn more about each role by using the following pop culture essay as an example. It discusses how pop culture impacts American values.


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