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Social Science Research Methods - POLS/SOAN 215 - Andrews

  • What framework(s) or perspective(s) are the articles using to frame your topic?
    • Check the introduction, literature review, and/or abstract
    • Models are not theories; however, they are influenced by a theoretical framework
      • Theories are used to explain things, while models are used to discover things.
  • What works are cited in the literature review or listed in the references?
    (This may provide clues to what theory/perspectives are being used.)
    • Look for words like paradigm, theory, perspective, or framework 
    • EX: Citing J. Piaget (in psychology) provides a Constructivist framework.
  • What are the key arguments/questions?
    • Check in the abstract and/or introduction
    • Sometimes arguments are based on a theoretical framework
  • Are similar questions posited by your sources?
    • Similar questions show a gap or need for explaining a “phenomenon”
  • How are the articles defining the key terms you note? Are the various researchers in agreement with what these terms mean? If different researchers define these terms in different ways, it may have implications for how to address these concepts in the "field."
    • EX. How is culture defined?
    • Definitions can lead you to a discipline or theoretical perspective used to explain a concept.

Example articles:


Search for your topic in a database, but add "theory" in the abstract field. Since theories are typically mentioned in the abstract, this will help pinpoint potentially relevant theories.



Haven't found a relevant theory to use? Try feminism or critical theory for testing purposes during class.


Haven't found a relevant theory to use? Try critical theory to learn this technique.

1.)  Use an subject-specific encyclopedia (or wikipedia) to read an overview of a theory you'd like to explore. 

2.) Identify the important theorist(s) related to/responsible for that theory.

3.) Search for the theorist's name, along with your topic, in Library Search.

Haven't found a relevant theory to use? Try critical theory to try this technique.

1.)  First, find an article that is a great fit for your topic AND mentions theory. 

2.)   Next, look through the reference list (bibliography) at the end of the paper for more sources relating to the theory. This is very simple when using Library Search: just look for the red arrows at the top corner of each result:

The "up" arrow takes you to research that cites this article, and the "down" arrows take you to research cited in this article. 

3.) If your "perfect fit" article isn't in library search, you can find the sources listed in the bibliography by copying and pasting the title of each item from the bibliography into Library Search.