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SSI2-105: Imagining the American West: Home

Types of Sources

In academic research, it's important to be able to distinguish between different types of sources.  These differences often are contextual, meaning that a single source might fit in different categories depending on how you are using it and in what academic discipline you are writing.

Primary sources are the raw materials of scholarship.

Secondary sources report on or interpret primary sources.

Tertiary sources synthesize and present overviews of primary and secondary sources.

Scholarly sources present sophisticated, researched arguments using both primary and secondary sources and are written by experts.

Popular sources aim to inform or entertain and are intended for a general, non-specialized audience.  In academic writing, popular sources most often are analyzed as primary sources.

What kind of resource is it?

Using the BEAM framework, how could this source be used to make a researched argument? Why do you think so?


Surface-Evans, Sarah. "A Landscape of Assimilation and Resistance: The Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School.International Journal of Historical Archaeology, vol. 20, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 574-588.

Background: 2 votes (11.76%)
Exhibit: 1 votes (5.88%)
Argument: 14 votes (82.35%)
Method: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 17


Reyhner, Jon. "American Indian Boarding Schools." Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by Patrick L. Mason, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2013, pp. 96-100.

Background: 10 votes (90.91%)
Exhibit: 0 votes (0%)
Argument: 0 votes (0%)
Method: 1 votes (9.09%)
Total Votes: 11


Zitkala-Sa. "The School Days of An Indian Girl.The Atlantic Monthly, vo. 85, 1900, pp. 185-194.

Background: 4 votes (33.33%)
Exhibit: 8 votes (66.67%)
Argument: 0 votes (0%)
Method: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 12


Spack, Ruth. “Re-Visioning Sioux Women: Zitkala-S̈a's Revolutionary American Indian Stories.” Legacy, vol. 14, no. 1, 1997, pp. 25–42.

Background: 0 votes (0%)
Exhibit: 1 votes (9.09%)
Argument: 1 votes (9.09%)
Method: 9 votes (81.82%)
Total Votes: 11

Start Your Research at the Library!

Use this guide to get started with your research for

SSI2 105: Imagining the American West

View on the Columbia, Cascades

Carleton E. Watkins "View on the Columbia, Cascades." (1867). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Warner Communications Inc. Purchase Fund and Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1979

What is research?

Research is a creative, nonlinear process.  Experienced scholars will tell you that they rarely end up exactly where they thought they would when they first started out!  You'll need to give yourself the time to pursue ideas, reconsider ideas in light of new information, and then craft an original, researched argument.

To be successful in college-level research, you will need to make use of the resources and services of the library.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • Much scholarship and information is not available freely on the web.  Libraries pool their resources (your tuition dollars hard at work!) to purchase on your behalf access to quality information sources such as databases, journal collections, and reference resources.
  • Many materials are not available electronically, either because they have not been digitized yet or their original creators do not wish to make them available digitally.
  • Libraries cooperate with one another to lend you items that are not immediately available in your home library.
  • Librarians are experts in the organization of knowledge and can help you find treasures that perhaps you didn't even know existed!

The BEAM Model

Research is connected to your writing. Relevant sources will address your questions and fit your purpose. BEAM is an acronym intended to help students think about the various ways we might use sources when writing a researched argument. Joseph Bizup, an English professor at Boston University, outlined the framework in a 2008 article. The idea has since been refined and adapted by many others.

Beam Model

Subject Guide

Katy Curtis's picture
Katy Curtis
Office: Collins Library 140

Peer Research Advising

Did you know we have TWO dedicated Peer Research Advisors at Collins? The peer research advisors can help you locate, evaluate, and cite sources for your research.

Ilana Dutton '20
Kate Roscher '20
Peer Research Advisors
Find Ilana and Kate at Collins Library,
Library 118 (near the Learning Commons).
No appointment necessary, just drop by!
Fall 2019 Hours

Sundays - Wednesdays  7:00 to 9:00 pm​