BEAM is a framework for thinking about the various ways in which a resource might be used to make a researched argument.
What could a writer do with this source?
Background: general information, establish facts
Exhibit: explicate, interpret, analyze
Argument: affirm, dispute, refine, extend
Method: critical lens, key terms, theory, style, perspective, discourse
Analyze your sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—which is not a thesis.)
Joining the Scholarly Conversation, from CLIP. Image attribution: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Imagine that your topic is the subject of a conversation among several people: you, the author(s) of your text(s), and an average, intelligent person. What do each of these participants say or assume about this topic? Whose analyses, descriptions, or opinions are similar to yours, and whose are different? Try using these sample sentences to articulate your answers:
Most people think/assume _____________ about [my subject], but [one author] believes _______________ because __________. My position is ______________ because ______________.
[One author] thinks ___________ about [my subject], but [another author] believes ______________ because _______________. My position is ________________ because _____________________.
Explain what is important or significant about your particular contribution to this conversation. Why is it important for your readers to consider what you have to say? What would happen if your position were widely read and accepted? What would happen if it weren’t?