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Researching a Theory

Application of your Theory

Once you have a theory selected and you've read about its development, it's time to find scholarship and research applying your theory. This step with help you see better understand how the theory is used by a researcher to frame their work. It also always you to explore how your theory has been applied to research similar to your own. This is an important step in theory selection as it helps you to envision how your selected theory can frame your own research.

We recommend using a database related to your field of research (e.g., nursing, education) to begin locating original research related to the theory you are researching. Two examples below demonstrate searching for original research in subject databases for education and nursing. The third example is for citation tracking with Google Scholar.

Example Search: Subject Database (Education)

Where to start

Subject Database: Education Source (EBSCOhost)

Begin your search

Within a subject database, build a search broadly related to your topic's main idea and theory. For example, if your topic is related to struggling readers in rural middle schools, and your selected theory is cognitive theory, you can select the keywords: "struggling readers" and "cognitive theory." These keywords are broadly related to your topic.

Look at the search below using the search statement: "struggling readers" AND "cognitive theory" AND (research OR study), as a starting point to find articles. This video contains no narration.

Verify for original research

Review the results list much like you would in any literature search, but, when reading the abstracts for possible articles, look for phrases such as: "the purpose of this study is . . ."  or "this research is about . . .".

Article #3 from results

The image below shows the first sentence highlighted: "the purpose of this study was to translate cognitive models of reading comprehension to educational practice . . ." This is an indication that this article is original research.

article record highlighting the following sentence: "The purpose of this study was to translate cognitive models of reading comprehension to educational practice to develop an intervention that is theortically sound, effective, and feasible for classroom use."

Article #6 from results list

The image below shows an abstract where it isn't clear that the article is original research, in cases like this you can open the full text and look for section like: research question(s), methodology, or results to help determine if it's original research.

article record image

One more thing

Just because an article is not original research, doesn't mean it won't prove to be of value. For example, the reference list may lead to original research articles.

Example Search: Subject Database (Nursing)

Where to start

Subject Database: CINAHL (EBSCOhost)

Begin your search

Within a subject database, build a search broadly related to your topic's main idea and theory. For example, if your topic is about supporting novice nurses in clinical practice, and your theory is Benner's "novice to expert" theory., you can select the keywords: "novice to expert" and "nurse development." These keywords are broadly related to your topic.

Look at the search below using the search statement: "novice to expert" AND "nurse development" AND (research OR study) as a starting point to find articles. This video contains no narration.

Verify for original research

Review the results list much like you would in any literature search, but, when reading the abstracts for possible articles, look for phrases such as: "in this study . . ." or "this research is about . . .".

Article #2 from results

The image below shows the second line of the abstract highlighted where you're able to read "the purpose of this research is to investigate career mapping for nurses . . .". This  is an indication that this article is original research.

article record with highlight sentance "the purpose of thsi research is to investigate career mapping for nurses at a new hospital in Jakarta"

Example Search: Citation Tracking with Google Scholar

Use the "Cited by" link in Google Scholar to see who has cited an article since it was published.

Using "Cited by" with Google Scholar

The video below walks through how you can use the "Cited by" link in Google Scholar.

"Cited by" allows you to do what's called "citation tracking." With citation tracking, you can look for articles and other sources that have cited this article.

This can be extremely useful when you are conducting a literature search. Just like looking at the references list for articles, looking to see who is citing an article can show you a new set of sources related to your topic. Note this video does not have narration.

If you have further questions about how to use the "Cited by" link for searching you can contact the Lavery Librarians at LibraryReference@sjfc.edu.

Google Scholar Link