Our Essential Lessons are a sequence of lessons that form the backbone of the Writing Program curriculum, illustrating what we want all students to learn across our program’s diverse course topics.

This lesson helps students consider four different ways they might use a source: they might rely on it for information, analyze it as evidence, respond to its argument, or follow it as theoretical or methodological model. Such a rhetorical understanding of sources gives students agency to use sources to raise and answer new questions as they embark on independent research projects.


The small group work that is part of this lesson offers an opportunity for participation that is more accessible for many students than participating in whole-class discussion. Consider floating between groups as students work together, looking for the opportunity to supportively “warm call” students who tend to hang back when you come back together as a large group.


Students will be able to identify how a writer has chosen to use sources in a range of ways and to make informed choices about how to deploy sources in their own writing using the BEAM/BEAT framework.

Key Terms

BEAM/BEAT (background source, exhibit source, argument source, method/theory source)


The best way for students to become acclimated to the BEAM/BEAT framework is through repetition. Instructors should use BEAM/BEAT to discuss rhetorical strategies used in course readings and help students use it to frame their own uses of sources throughout the semester. To do so, begin this lesson in Module 1 and continue it in Module 2.


Genre Awareness

As students consider how authors use sources in various ways to create different kinds of texts, instructors can highlight the ways in which different genres demand different approaches to sources. Using BEAM/BEAT, instructors can encourage students to draw parallels across genres, identifying, for example, how authors similarly find occasion to make arguments for different audiences by responding to previous sources, or how different genres similarly use exhibit sources as material for analysis.


This lesson is primarily about developing a new way of thinking about texts (how authors use sources, rather than what sources are), so reflection is integrated throughout the lesson, from group reflection in class discussion to written reflection in the annotated bibliography.

  1. Ask whether any of your students have come across BEAM/BEAT in their WR 120 classes. Although at first students might not seem familiar with the framework, some will realize they’ve had some exposure once you start discussing the terminology.
  2. Begin by brainstorming as a group the ways in which students have used sources in past papers for other classes. Keep track on the board.
  3. Distribute (or project) the BEAM/BEAT in the Disciplines handout and introduce the terminology that the class will share over the course of the semester.
  4. Have students try to connect some of the material on the board to the concepts outlined in the handout.
  1. Take a look at a scholarly reading you’ve assigned for that or an earlier class period. Try to pick one in which you can identify at least one use of each BEAM/BEAT category.
  2. Have students consider the ways in which that author is using sources.
  1. Divide your class into small groups.
  2. Give each group one of the shared course sources to discuss.
  3. Have groups brainstorm to see which ways they might be able to use their assigned source in a research paper.
  4. Ask students to catalogue those BEAM/BEAT uses on the board and let each group present the various possible uses of its source to the rest of the class.
  5. Leave 10 or 15 minutes at the end of this activity for individual reflection.
  6. Ask students to consider which of the shared course sources can act as springboards for their own research projects.
    • How might they use those sources in terms of BEAM/BEAT?
    • How might their choices of rhetorical approaches affect the kind of research they would then need to perform?
    • How might it affect the type of audience they might be able to engage?
  1. Prompt students to reflect, as they perform their own research, on how they might use sources they come across to inspire and construct compelling arguments in their papers.
  2. Assign the Mid-Research Annotated Bibliography, which asks students to craft BEAM/BEAT-centered annotations of what they’ve found so far and reflect on the rhetorical roles their sources will play.
  3. Specify a rough number of sources you expect to see in this version of the bibliography, depending on how far along students are supposed to be when this is assigned. For this assignment, more is not necessarily better, as students need to have the chance to write the annotations carefully and reflect on the gaps in their research so far.
  4. Make sure there is still time to do further research after this version of the bibliography is due, so students can reflect on and refine their research before they begin drafting the paper.
  5. Use the BEAM/BEAT terminology when you respond to student work, and continue to use it to frame class discussions and peer reviews so that students become comfortable with identifying rhetorical strategies for source use.

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