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SSI1-171: Medical Discourse and the Body: Types of Sources

What type of source is it?

Consider the sources below and match them to the correct resource type. How would you use this source to make a researched argument? 


Hansen, Sarah. “Terri Schiavo and the Language of Biopolitics.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, vol. 5, no. 1, Mar. 2012, pp. 91–112.

Primary: 2 votes (6.67%)
Secondary: 25 votes (83.33%)
Tertiary: 2 votes (6.67%)
Popular: 1 votes (3.33%)
Total Votes: 30


Fins, Joseph J. "Vegetative and Minimally Conscious States." Bioethics, edited by Bruce Jennings, 4th ed., vol. 6, Macmillan Reference USA, 2014, pp. 3132-3137.

Primary: 3 votes (10.34%)
Secondary: 4 votes (13.79%)
Tertiary: 22 votes (75.86%)
Popular: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 29


Didion, Joan. "The Case of Theresa Schiavo" The New York Review of Books, vol. 52, no. 10, June 2005, pp. 

Primary: 1 votes (3.85%)
Tertiary: 4 votes (15.38%)
Scholarly: 4 votes (15.38%)
Popular: 17 votes (65.38%)
Total Votes: 26


"Act for the Relief of the Parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo." Human and Civil Rights: Essential Primary Sources, edited by Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner, et al., Gale, 2006, pp. 237-240.

Primary: 18 votes (78.26%)
Secondary: 1 votes (4.35%)
Tertiary: 4 votes (17.39%)
Scholarly: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 23

What is research?

Research, like writing, is an incredibly creative process.  As you encounter and sift through sources, you will find yourself shaping your argument in perhaps unexpected ways.  The ultimate goal of research is not "to find the right answer," but rather, to create a persuasive argument based on your synthesis, analysis, and interpretation of the sources you use.  For this reason, the choices you make about which sources to use as you craft your argument are of the upmost importance.

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.

The BEAM Framework

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

Humanities Librarian

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.


Marcelle Rutherfurd '19
Lindsey Hunt '19
Peer Research Advisors
Find Marcelle and Lindsey at Collins Library, Library 118 (near the Learning Commons). You can drop in or request an appointment.
Spring 2019 Hours
Sundays - Wednesdays   7:00 to 9:00 pm