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Researching a Theory

Finding a Theory

The following resources are great places to being your theory search. SAGE Reference is a database that contains encyclopedia entries that are helpful for learning about a topic. The Big Red Box allows you to look at all sorts of resources, including books, articles, and encyclopedia entries, and can be a great option when beginning theory research. Use ProQuest Dissertations and Theses to look for dissertations similar to your research topic and then review the theory section and references list.

Each resource is demoed in the below boxes. You will see an example from education and learning, nursing, and educational leadership. We recommend that you try searching for a theory in at least two of these resources, linked below.

Not even sure where to start?

Finding a theory can be difficult, and if you haven't read about one in a textbook or paper it can often be even more challenging to find one related to your topic. The link below is a list of theories, organized by overall theme, that might help you get started. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a starting point. Please also note that this is a dynamic document, and will be kept updated by the librarians.

Example Search: SAGE Reference

Where to start

For this example, let's consider the topic: Strategies for motivating struggling readers in rural high schools. 

Consider the example topic in broader terms

The topic is in the overall field of education. Better yet, this has to do with student learning, so we might want to search for learning theories.

Look at the demo search below using the keywords: Learning Theories, as a starting point to identify possible theories related to the example topic. This video contains no narration.

Example Search: Big Red Box

Where to start

For this example, let's consider the topic: Supporting and developing the novice nurse in clinical practice.

Consider the example topic in broader terms

The topic is the in field of nursing, better yet, this topic has to do with novice nurses and their development, so we might want to look at theories about novice nurse development.

Look at the demo search below using the keywords: novice nurse development theory, in order to identify possible theories related to the example topic. This video contains no narration.

Example Search: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

Where to start

For this example, let's consider the topic: Leading organizational changes in higher education.

Consider the example topic in broader terms

The topic is about organizational change. Better yet, this topic has to do with organizational change in higher education, so we might want to look for organizational change in higher education theories.

Look at the demo search below using the keywords: organizational change AND higher education, in order to identify possible theories related to the example topic. This video does not include narration.