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Sociology 001 (Duenas): Evaluating Sources

Introduction to Sociology

Evaluate Your Sources Based on Your Information Need

Not everything is best answered with a scholarly journal article. Consider your type of information need when you evaluate sources. Is the information you need best answered by a scholarly journal? Government website? Magazine? News? Book? Use the resources below to help you think more deeply about how you might potentially use a source in your paper.

A Perfect Source? NCSC Libraries


It is helpful to think about how to use a source when evaluating. Using BEAM (background, exhibit, argument, and method) can be helpful in determining a source's usefulness.

  • B(ackground): Can this source be used to provide general information to explain the topic?
    • For example, the use of a Wikipedia page on the Pledge of Allegiance can be used to explain court cases related to the Pledge, as well as changes the Pledge has undergone.
  • E(xhibit): Can this source be used as evidence or examples to analyze?
    • For a literature paper, this would be a poem you are analyzing. For a history paper, a historical document you are analyzing. For a sociology paper, it might be the data from a study.
  • A(rgument): Can this source be used to engage its argument?
    • For example, you might use an editorial from The New York Times on the value of higher education to refute in your own paper.
  • M(ethod): Can the way this source analyzes an issue apply to your own issue?
    • For example, you might use a study’s methods, definitions, or conclusions on gentrification in Chicago to apply to neighborhoods in San Francisco.

Adapted from Hunter College Libraries, CUNY, "How to Use a Source: The BEAM Method."

Selecting Your Sources


  • Read the abstract or summary to get a sense of whether the source might be useful.
  • Look at the citation to determine if the item is a format that you can use (book, magazine article, journal article, newspaper article, DVD, blog, etc.)
  • When you find one relevant source, use it to lead you to others on the same topic.
  • If you're not finding information that exactly matches your topic, use pieces of information from sources that are related. (Information quilting)

Evaluating Sources to Find Quality Research

Portland Community College Library (5:27)