Social theorists and dissertations


Additional information

By Carrie Winstanley. For an undergraduate dissertation, your examiner is going to expect you to choose a largely theoretical or a mainly practical look at your chosen subject. A theoretical study can be mainly abstract with an emphasis on the philosophical, ethical and cultural considerations of the subject, or your subject can be an applied theoretical study with an emphasis on political, social or economic issues, for example.

Research Process

More practical research studies in social science are usually about exploring issues through surveys, action research, observations, case-studies or a review of existing studies. The following table gives a few examples of different ways of approaching a topic just to get you thinking:.

Important Links

An empirical dissertation involves collecting data. You can collect your data in many ways: from questionnaires and observations to interviews and focus groups. Or, you may prefer to collect your data by taking another approach such as looking at and analysing existing data from new angles, making useful comparisons or drawing interesting parallels. Sustaining an argument over the length of your whole dissertation is a distinct challenge. If you enjoy spending time in the library, reading, thinking and discussing theory, this is likely to be the right choice for you.

If you know that making the university library your home for weeks on end is going to be difficult, you may be better off choosing a more empirical research question to explore. Key theories in your discipline such as feminism or pragmatism can be the basis of an abstract discussion in your dissertation.

The self and social structure: A synthesis of theories of self

See the link below for a comprehensive definition of theory and how it relates to social science research. Using a theoretical framework for your dissertation can help you to better analyze past events by providing a particular set of questions to ask, and a particular perspective to use when examining your topic. Traditionally, Ph. Further, Ph.

Theoretical Framework

View our Library FAQ for how to locate this document here. It can be difficult to find scholarly work that takes a particular theoretical approach because articles, books, and book chapters are typically described according to the topics they tackle rather than the methods they use to tackle them. Further, there is no single database or search technique for locating theoretical information. However, the suggestions below provide techniques for locating possible theoretical frameworks and theorists in the Library databases.

"Negotiating news: A study of the social construction of news realities" by Stephen F Ostertag

In addition to your Library research, you should consider discussing possible theories with colleagues and your Dissertation Chair. Also, keep in mind that you will probably find and discard several potential theoretical frameworks before one is finally chosen. Since the e-book databases will contain fewer resources than a database containing thousands of scholarly journal articles, it is best to keep your search terms a little more broad. For example, a search for education theory in the Ebook Central database results in many relevant e-books, as shown below.

Expanding the Table of Contents will provide additional details about the e-book.


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  • Research Process.
  • When should I look at other dissertations and theses??

Encyclopedias and handbooks will also provide reliable background information on particular theories. For example, a search for cognitive developmental theory in the Credo Reference database results in a number of reference entries which discuss the history of the theory, identify relevant theorists, and cite seminal research studies. You may search for theorists and theoretical information using Google and Google Scholar , as well.

Contemporary Social Issues

However, please keep in mind that you will need to be more discriminating when it comes to using material found on open access websites. We recommend reviewing the Website Evaluation guidelines when considering online sources. One method that may be used in Google is limiting your search by a particular domain name. If a website ends in. If it ends in. In the search below, for example, we have limited our search for "leadership theories" to just those websites ending with. Note: Limiting to a particular domain is not necessary in Google Scholar, as all results in Google Scholar may be considered scholarly.

This may include articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, material from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

Since most doctoral research requires a theoretical framework, looking at completed dissertations related to your topic is an effective way to identify relevant theories and theorists. ProQuest Dissertations is accessible from Research Resources - Dissertation Resources , and provides access to over 1 million full text doctoral dissertations and graduate theses.

You may limit your search to only doctoral dissertations by using the Advanced Search screen. Look at the table of contents or abstract for reference to theoretical framework, as shown below.

Table of contents

It will retrieve results that include one of the following keywords: theory, theories, theoretical, theorist, or theorists. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this is not a foolproof method for locating theoretical frameworks. Scholars will often cite theory or theorists in order to refute them, or because they are saying something that's tangentially related, or they may even just refer to theory briefly in passing. In our example, we have selected the field for AB Abstract because if theory is mentioned within the abstract, the study is more likely to take a theoretical approach.

As shown below, results from our example search clearly include articles which apply theory to the topic of curriculum design.


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    Social theorists and dissertations

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