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KAM Resources: Breadth

The Breadth

In the Breadth component, you will explore the ideas of the foundational theorists in the field you are studying, and you will draw conclusions from these theories that will inform your research of current literature in the Depth and your project in the Application.

The Breadth section analyzes theory. Students usually choose 3-4 theorists, though you may approach this differently.*

Research materials useful for the Breadth include:   

Exploratory research: Encyclopedias, websites, & more

Primary sources: Books & articles by theorists

Secondary sources: Articles & more about theory



* See p.16 of A Guide to the KAM for more info or consult with your KAM assessor.

Stack of books.

Finding Theorists

"Exploratory research" is looking up basic background information in encyclopedias, books, websites, and more. It can help you learn about and choose your theorists, as well as identify their most influential works and the ones that will work best for your needs. 

Do not cite your exploratory research. Instead look out for lists of references, often in a Further Readings or Bibliography section. These are the types of sources you should read and cite.


Primary sources are the original works of an author—in this case, your theorists.

These books and articles will form the basis of your Breadth section. You might know exactly what you want, having gathered references from encyclopedias, websites, etc., during exploratory research. You might also search for random items written by your theorist so you know the full extent of what's available.

Walden Library may not have access to everything you want. This can be especially true for older works that may not be available in online formats.

First check Walden Library for full text. Then consider other sources—freely online, through purchase, or in local libraries. 



At the Library

Beyond the Library

Find an exact book

How to use Google Books (for potential book previews and purchase)

How to find random books by author

How to find a book at a local library using WorldCat







At the Library

Beyond the Library

Find an exact article

How to find full text articles through Google Scholar

How to find random articles by author

How to buy an article


How to find an article at a local library using WorldCat







Secondary sources comment on and critique primary sources.

These articles and books will supplement your Breadth section. While most of your content should focus on your own critique and analysis of the primary works of your theorists, you may also want to analyze and cite what other scholars have said.

Learn how to search the Library databases for articles, books, and more, including choosing keywords, creating complex searches using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), and more.

Sample search

1. Use Thoreau, our multiple database searcher, or search for articles by topic by selecting a topic from the Subject Resources drop down menu on the Library homepage.


2. Search using the theorist's name and/or their theory or related terms. Different combinations of terms will produce different results, so experiment! Try only the theorist's name, or only the theory, or perhaps the title of a specific work by the theorist (not to find the work itself, but to find others writing about it).

If you find too many items by and not about your theorist, change the drop-down menu to Title, Subject Terms, or Abstract.


TIP: In Thoreau, do not check the Peer Review box if you also want to see books.  

Seeing the articles and books that have cited your theorists' works is another way to find related, secondary sources. Learn how to see research that cites an older item using Google Scholar.

Writing the Breadth

Example #1

In the Breadth component of KAM I, I address social change through the works of theorists Lauer, Toffler, Toffler, Toynbee, Lewin, and Alinsky, and I analyze the major concepts of each. I also use Lauer's myths of social change to compare and contrast the arguments of the other authors. Finally, I highlight both historical and more contemporary works to give a broad range of perspectives on social change. These I can further explore in the Depth component.  (Patricia Bresser, Breadth)

In this paragraph, the student introduces the theorists she has read and the theories that she analyzes in her Breadth. She also offers a brief description of the methods she uses in this component of her KAM as well as the purpose of her Breadth research.

Example #2

In this component, I explore the ideas advanced by several theorists whose contributions have caused significant discussion within the domain of human development. Each theorist has observed ways in which culture and nature have had an impact on human development and therefore sees human beings as a part of a larger context in a multicultural environment. The areas I cover will include but not be limited to biological, sociocultural, cognitive, moral, and psychological aspects of human development spanning the historical spectrum from Aristotle to Freud. I then synthesize these authors' ideas to develop a theoretical framework of human development. (Mark Bignell, Breadth)

This student begins his Breadth with a description of the broad themes he covers in this component, as well as specific topics and authors that he addresses. He finishes his opening paragraph by stating a clear purpose for his Breadth component. Note that this student provided only enough background information to give his readers a clear understanding of his topic, and as a result this paragraph is short and concise, containing just over 100 words.

Use of a Direct Quotation and Paraphrasing

According to Lauer (1991), in order to understand social change, one not only has to define it; one has to evaluate the myths that surround it. For some, social change occurs with a change in attitude by an individual or group. For others, social change results from a change in a social structure or organization. Lauer's perspective was that "social change is an inclusive concept that refers to alterations in social phenomena at various levels of human life from the individual to the global" (p. 4). Some of the levels he described include organizations, community, and society. Lauer believed that social change is evident whenever there is "alteration at any level of social life" (p. 6). The direction of the change and how rapidly or slowly the change occurs should be the focus of study. Invariably there is a relationship between change on one level and change on another.
For instance, an individual's attitude about affirmative action may lead that individual to try to effect change in the company (institution) for which she or he works. However, Lauer (2009) cautioned that one cannot assume that change on one level (individual) will automatically lead to change on another (organization). (Patricia Bresser, Breadth)

In this paraphrase, the student effectively puts most of her source's ideas into her own words, which allows her to clearly and concisely connect these ideas to her own argument. She also includes direct quotations, but she only uses them when the author's exact wording helps to accurately describe an idea, and she integrates them into her own text.

Effective Use of Secondary Sources

Bandura (as cited in Crain, 1992) has been criticized for minimizing the impact or interplay of developmental stages in learning because he argued that the child's environment was more of an influence on new behaviors than was the child's intrinsic desire to learn new skills. The followers of Piaget, focused on the cognitive processes of the child rather than the influences in the immediate environment, are particularly prone to this position (Holm, 1995). Bandura also drew criticism for raising questions about Kohlberg's stages of moral development in children (as cited in Crain, 1992). Like Skinner, Bandura (as cited in Crain, 1992) focused on observable behavior instead of hypothesizing about what occurs during the thinking process.
Bandura's disagreement with these developmental theorists stems from a weakness in the social learning approach in which theorists examine the "black box," or the brain as the cognitive and emotional center, from the outside rather than the inside (Johnson, 1989; Bandura, as cited in Crain, 1992). In contrast, Bandura's work offers little acknowledgment of internal thought processes responsible for creativity and individuality. Indeed, if Bandura is to be believed, people are great imitators, using their cognitive skills to choose who they will imitate. While the self-efficacy appraisal is a form of reflection, there is no generalization of that sort of self-evaluation to the human condition, to an appreciation of the human capacity for philosophy, art, and love. (Diana White, Breadth)

In the first paragraph, the writer states the criticism of Bandura and determines if there is any basis for it. Then, in the second paragraph, she expands on this criticism, adding her own reasons and arguments. Also, this student effectively uses a secondary source to support her own ideas about the theories that the secondary source addresses. Note that she uses secondary source citation rather than the standard citation style to indicate to her readers that her source is secondary (i.e., cited within a work by another author) rather than primary. Secondary sources are acceptable within academic writing as long as they are kept to a minimum. You should use secondary sources only if you are unable to find or retrieve the original source of information.

Effective Synthesis of the Literature

Sperry (1996) added that structure specifies how an individual in a role should perform. In most cases, a performance appraisal can be used to measure how well an individual is performing in a given role (Sperry, 1996). Finally, the structure subsystem is responsible for helping to control and coordinate information to and from other systems, such as subsystems and the suprasystem (Sperry, 1996).
This structural subsystem most closely aligns with Goffman's thoughts on interaction rituals. Goffman (1982) explained that individuals carry out actions instinctively when those actions are governed by specific sets of rules. In other words, in the structural subsystem, a clear definition of the rules surrounding each role will lead to the employees carrying out their respective roles on a nearly automatic level; they will know what to do and when to do it. One could argue that Bandura's (1995) social cognitive theory also lends credence to this subsystem classification. While Goffman's (1963) ideas reveal that employees will carry out each task without conscious thought, Bandura's ideas expose how the employees reach that level of action.  Bandura's social cognitive theory also identifies the ways employees learn the methods required to carry out their actions, such as mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, social persuasions, and interpretations of their own emotional state at a given time. (Adam Jones, Breadth)

In this student's synthesis, he not only conveys his sources' ideas; he also uses those ideas to advance his own argument. For example, he connects Sperry's ideas about the structural subsystem to Goffman's ideas about interaction rituals and Bandura's social cognitive theory, synthesizing a foundation based in scholarly literature for the conclusions he will make later in his Breadth. Notice, too, that this student does not restrict each author to his or her own paragraph; instead, the student cites each of these authors in multiple paragraphs. He bases the structure of this portion of his paper around his own ideas rather than the ideas of the authors he cites. This student also makes sure to include a citation, per APA style, whenever he uses the words or ideas of another author.

In the Breadth component, I explored the theoretical underpinnings of organizational and social systems from the perspectives of Bertalanffy (general systems theory), Passmore (sociotechnical systems theory), and Scott (organizational systems theory) to understand the relationship between systems and subsystems in the workforce.  These theorists all emphasized the importance of understanding, predicting, and controlling the influence of the environment and technology on organizational change or redesign.  In the final analysis, the comprehensive examination of Bertalanffy, Passmore, and Scott contained philosophical and practical strategies to evaluate the interrelationship between the USPS and USPIS and to employ techniques and strategies to decrease occupational stress and reduce occupational stressors.
From their unique perspectives, Bertalanffy, Passmore, and Scott provided system techniques to implement organizational change.  For example, Bertalanffy (1975, 1968) argued that traditional problem-solving techniques are no longer effective to execute organizational change in an increasingly complex society.  Consequently, Bertalanffy (1975) asserted that an open system approach should be utilized when assessing social systems or organizations.  In fact, Bertalanffy (1975) stated that understanding comes from the investigation of the entire system and the interrelationship of its parts.
Similar to Bertalanffy, Passmore (1988) emphasized the importance of interrelationships between systems and subsystems.  As I noted previously, he argued that social, technical, and environmental systems all influence the success of organizational change or redesign (Passmore, 1988).  Furthermore, he defined joint optimization as social and technical systems working together in harmony (Passmore, 1988).
Finally, Scott (2008, 2003) argued that organizations are the leading force of change within social systems, and they affect every area of life.  In fact, Scott and Davis (2007) stated that the study of organizations has led to a better understanding of people and society.  Whereas Bertalanffy and Passmore asserted that environmental factors influence organizations, Scott and Davis emphasized that organizations are ubiquitous, and they influence status, power, personality, and performance.  As I noted previously, Scott and Davis provide techniques from a rational, natural, and open system-perspective on how to manage organizational change.  (Gregory Campbell, Breadth)

In his conclusion section, this student summarizes all of the major points he makes in his Breadth, including the foundational theories he examined and the ways that they connect to his topic. Notice that he goes beyond a "bullet point" summary and leaves the reader with an understanding of how he will use these theories in the later components of his KAM.

Abstracts have specific formatting rules that should be followed.  For example, page numbers should not appear on the abstract page, and the abstract should be flush left (rather than indented).  Each abstract should be properly labeled with a heading that is centered and in plain text, and the abstract should be limited to 120 words or fewer.  There should be an abstract for each section, Breadth, Depth, and Application, prior to the main text of the KAM.

In addition to the formatting requirements, each abstract should concisely summarize the subject, methods, purpose, and results of each KAM component. Think of it as being similar to the information on the back of a DVD case that lets you determine whether you want to watch that movie. Your abstract should give your readers a clear idea of what you cover in your KAM component and the conclusions you draw in it. Many students find it helpful to write their abstracts after they write their KAM components; that way, they have a clear idea of what their components include before they summarize them.

Example #1

In this Breadth section, I explore the concept of the jury system and its historical context, growth, and development.  I examine deliberative democratic theory and decision theory as they relate to the jury system. Further, I analyze how different jury systems across the world are conducted and have changed over time. I then examine the development of both civil and criminal law trial systems, notably in Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Britain, Brazil, India, China, Japan, and the United States. I further examine the effects of the jury system on social change in the administration of justice and public policy making. I conclude that there are genuine reasons for reforming the jury system. (Kennedy Marange, Breadth)

Example #2

In this Breadth essay, I compare and contrast Bandura's model of self-efficacy with Benner's skill-acquisition model for novice registered nurses in emergency departments.  In addition, I discuss the use of Knowles's theory of andragogy as a conceptual framework for these nurses.  I also discuss the relevance of Benner's skill-acquisition stages to the development of emergency-room nurses.  Lastly, I synthesize the theories of Bandura, Benner, and Knowles to develop a specific model and approach to emergency nursing care. (Laura Gallagher, Breadth)

In these abstracts, the students summarize the topics of their Breadth components and list the chief theories that they examine in these portions of their KAMs. Note that these students also include clear purposes for their Breadth sections--in the first example, the student's Breadth lays a theoretical groundwork for reforming the jury system, and in the second example the student uses the theories she read to develop a learning model for emergency-room nurses.

Recommended Books

See the theorists and theories guide for more suggestions.

Related Resources

Writing Resources