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Explore Theories & Theorists in the Social Sciences: Theories & Theorists

Explore Theories & Theorists in the Social Sciences

To choose the best theory or theorist you will want to take some time to familiarize yourself with a variety of theories and theorists.  This will take some time and some exploration.

Theories are broad ideas.

Even though your area of study is counseling you may find a theory in another area of study that will mesh better with your research topic. Below are some examples of theories:

  • Psychology: development, cognition, personality, motivation, etc.
  • Sociology: social change, race, class, gender, etc.
  • Business: leadership, management, etc.
  • Health: nursing education, etc. 

For more on finding theories, see the main Theorists and Theories guide.


Explore the literature!  

As you do your exploratory research you will want to start with sources that give you the broad overviews.  Finding primary sources and peer review sources will come later.

Below are good places to start your exploratory research: 

  • Textbooks and other readings from your courses
  • Encyclopedias 
  • Websites 
  • Books

You will not cite these sources in your research. These are for your knowledge and understanding


Find relevant theories!

After you've identified some theories you will want to find the original works. Books and websites will often list a theorist's influential books and articles—these are the original, primary sources.

The primary sources are what you will read and cite in your own work (not textbooks, encyclopedias, websites, or "secondary source" books—ones not written by the original theorists)


Encyclopedias & Handbooks

Readers Guide and Subject Index tabs can be used to browse encyclopedias and handbooks for theories and theorists.