By David Cregar, Expository Writing Program at New York University




Find an article that seems relevant to the questions you are thinking about today. Use PowerNotes to highlight the sentences and put them into one of the four BEAM categories. Write in the “note” box if you find something of particular interest -- but this is mostly about analyzing the article in terms of what the writer is doing in each part: giving background, giving an example, making an argument, presenting a concept.

BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing

Joseph Bizup

Rhetoric Review

Vol. 27, No. 1 (2008), pp. 72-86

An Alternative Vocabulary that Emphasizes Use

“If we want students to adopt a rhetorical perspective toward research-based writing, then we should use language that focuses their attention not on what their sources and other materials are (either by virtue of their genres or relative to some extratextual point of reference) but on what they as writers might do with them. We should adopt terms that allow us to name, describe, and analyze the different ways writers use their materials on the page or, equivalently, the various postures toward their materials that writers adopt.

“I use the terms background and background source to refer to materials whose claims a writer accepts as fact, whether these “facts” are taken as general information or deployed as evidence to support the writer’s own assertions.

“I use the terms exhibit and exhibit source to refer to materials a writer offers for explication, analysis, or interpretation. Materials used as background, argument, or method sources tend to be prose texts, but anything that can be represented in discourse can potentially serve as an exhibit. The simplest sort of exhibit is the example, a concrete instance offered to illustrate some more general claim or assertion.

“I use the terms argument and argument source to refer to materials whose claims a writer affirms, disputes, refines, or extends in some way. To invoke a common metaphor, argument sources are those with which writers enter into “conversation.”

“I use the terms method and method source to refer to materials from which a writer derives a governing concept or a manner of working. A method source can offer a set of key terms, lay out a particular procedure, or furnish a general model or perspective.”



PART ONE: Read three articles from popular media sources (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Weekly Standard, Slate, Atlantic Monthly) and annotate as you go. Use PowerNotes and create four new “topics” -- Background, Exhibit, Argument, Method/Theory. As you choose particular sentences or parts, consider what the writer of the article is doing in that part (giving background, etc.). Try to categorize most of the parts of each article. Respond (in the dialogue box) to ideas or information that seems especially interesting to you, and/or relevant to the problem you are focusing on.

PART TWO: Now go through the assigned essay and mark each part as either Background, Exhibit, Argument, or Method/Theory.




  • Why did you choose the articles you did? (How did you search?)

  • What could you see in these articles, in terms of B-E-A-M? (Was the article mostly an “exhibit”? An “argument”?)

  • How might you use any of these, in relation to the questions you have been thinking about (in your reading and writing work)?

  • Choose one of the articles you found and post the link here.


Then look, in one of your articles, for:

  • Places the author gives a counter-argument or complication (“some disagree”)

  • Some new “angle” on the subject -- information about a key article or concept the author offers

  • Key conceptual terms or vocabulary (that might help you continue refining your search)

  • Useful links to other sources

  • What kind of article is this? (opinion, reporting, review?)

  • What can you find out about this publication?

  • What can you find out about this author?