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POLSC 306: Peace Studies


This activity is designed to help you get started on a research assignment by selecting a topic that interests you. In this activity, you will:

  • Identify a topic that interests you
  • Brainstorm key words and phrases that describe your topic
  • Discover the terms that experts use to describe your topic to aid in searching
  • Learn where to search for background information, research articles, government sources, and other types of information

BEAM Sources

Effective research requires information from several types of sources. Below is an overview of information types, and the role they play in your research.

Kind of Source


How to Use Them

Where to Find


Undisputed information

For general factual information to introduce a setting, situation, or problem

Biographies, almanacs, encyclopedias, data repositories, or other reference sources

Exhibits or Evidence

Object of analysis

To interpret and analyze, the same way a piece of art may be exhibited in a museum, or as evidence presented in a court case

Primary sources, including newspapers, personal papers, works of literature or art


Context of analysis

To strengthen your interpretation and analysis by engaging other research that you agree/disagree with

Secondary sources, such as commentaries and criticisms, literature reviews, or research articles

Method or Theory

Underlying assumptions

To explain the “lens” you are using to examine exhibits/evidence and frame your argument

Secondary sources, such as scholarly books or articles

Background: Topic Overviews

Background information provides us with answers to the critical questions: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE. (You'll be answering the WHY by writing your research paper). Take note of key names, places, events, landmarks, laws, and other details. You'll use these to search for relevant books, articles, news stories, and government reports.

Exhibits & Evidence: Government and Independent Agencies

Now that you have identified the concepts that make up your research topic, and thought about the potential relationships between those concepts, you can start searching for evidence to analyze. Pick a government or independent agency and locate a relevant report, press release, or news article.

Arguments & Theory: Books and research articles

You will also need secondary sources to support your interpretation and analysis. Using the search terms you've identified, locate a book or article that addresses your research question.