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SSI1-105: 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?

Consider the sources below and match them to the correct resource type.

Shekel, Susan. "Home On The Train: Race And Mobility In The Life And Adventures Of Nat Love.American Literature, vol. 74, no. 2, 2002, pp. 219-250. 

Primary: 0 votes (0%)
Secondary: 4 votes (100%)
Tertiary: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 4


Orme, Wyatt. "On The Trail Of Black Cowboys From Nat Love To Sheriff Bart.Code Switch, 1 June 2014. 

Popular: 1 votes (33.33%)
Scholarly: 2 votes (66.67%)
Primary: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 3


Street and Smith's Wild West Weekly

Primary: 1 votes (33.33%)
Secondary: 0 votes (0%)
Tertiary: 2 votes (66.67%)
Total Votes: 3

Start Your Research at the Library!

Yosemite Falls Reflected



Use this guide to get started with your research for SSI1 105: Imagining the American West






‚ÄčCarleton E. Watkins and Isaiah West Taber (Printer). "Yosemite Falls, Reflected" (ca. 1870, printed ca. 1875). Smithsonian American Art Museum

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!  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.

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

Subject Guide

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

Peer Research Advising

Summer 2020

Ilana Dutton '20 and Kate Roscher '20 just graduated and we congratulate them!!!
Check back in late August for information about our new peer research advisors for the 2020-21 academic year, including their hours.
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