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SSI1-141: Architectures of Power (Prof. Melchior): Research Frameworks

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.

How would you use this source?

Using the BEAM framework, how could this source be used to make a researched argument? Why do you think so?  Can you imagine more than one way to use the source?


Merrill, Andrew. "The Life of a Gunshot: Space, Sound and the Political Contours of Acoustic Gunshot Detection." Surveillance & Society, vol. 15, no. 1, 2017, pp. 42-55. 


McQuade, Samuel C., III, and Peter Danielson. "Monitoring and Surveillance." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, edited by Carl Mitcham, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, pp. 1228-1232.


Foucault, Michel. "Panopticism." Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. First ed., Vintage Books, 1979, pp. 195-230.

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 Framework

BEAM is an acronym intended to help you think about the various ways you 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.

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