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SWK222 Research Guide: Start Your Research Here

Your Guide to Researching Theories on Human Behavior

Researching Theories

Review the following tips & strategies for your Theoretical Research Paper to learn how to effectively find research on theories and their theorists, history, tenets, & applications.

Then use these strategies searching in the library's catalogs and databases for scholarly books, ebooks, & articles.

The Theories

  • Activity Theory
  • Choice Theory
  • Conflict Perspective
  • Disengagement Theory
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Family Systems Theory
  • Functionalist Perspective
  • Human Relations Model
  • Interactionist Perspective
  • Levinson—Life Structure/Transition
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Peck’s Theory of Psych Dev
  • Social Intelligence
  • Social Reconstructionist Syndrome
  • Strengths Based Perspective

3 Tips

How We (& Others) Refer to Theories

There are differences in how we--and more importantly, how others--refer to theories. These difference impact how we can best search for information & scholarly research on them.

(1) Theory/ Perspective/Model/Approach - sometimes, but not always, interchangeable

  • Human Relations Model/Theory
  • Family Systems Theory/Approach

(2) Sometimes Theory/Perspective/Model not used at all or if so, very rarely

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Social Intelligence

(3) Sometimes  the theorist is often mentioned with the theory

  • Peck's Theory
  • Maslow's Hierarchy

We need to use the terms others' use in order to find what they've written.

6 Strategies

Strategies for Finding Secondary Sources: Books & Articles about the Theories

Integrate multiple search strategies into your searching in the library catalogs & databases--don't settle for just one!

(1) Try exact phrase search with quotation marks around phrase

  • Brings back exact match--makes the most relevant results come to the top of your list
  • Example: "motivational interviewing"

(2) Interchange Theory / Perspective / Model / Approach in your searching

  • In case others don’t refer to the theory the exact way you do
  • Always good to try different synonyms & related terms in your searches

(3) Try one-word search using a single term unique to the theory

  • In case others don’t refer to the theory the exact way you do
  • Example: interactionist

(4a) Try theorist last name + AND + one word unique to theory
(4b) Try one word to represent your theory + AND + one word to represent a unique aspect/application you wish to focus on      

  • Sometimes theorist’s name needed for relevant results
  • Sometimes you can effectively focus your search on just one trend/
  • Note: You need the AND in the library catalogs to search effectively for both terms to appear in the items you are looking for; in the databases, AND is typically there between the search boxes by default
  • Example: maslow and hierarchy

TIP: If you do this kind of a search, be aware that the results will not sort by relevance, so you might need to scroll down a bit to find what you need.

(5) Try just the theorist(s) by last name

  • The theorist may have a unique name that makes it easily searched with
  • Example: miller and rollnick

(6) Try a SUBJECT search for theorist by last name, first

  • Choose SUBJECT from the drop-down menu options in the library catalogs & databases next to the search button
  • Searching for SUBJECTS like this can help find books & articles that focus on your theory/theorist
  •  Example: maslow, abraham
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Student Learning Outcomes

The goal with this guide is to enable students to:

  • Develop effective search strategies to use in the library catalogs & databases
  • Search in the library catalogs & databases to find research on fundamental principles, generalizations, or theories
  • Develop research skills needed by professionals in the field of social work;

Course Research Guide content & student learning outcomes are based on course syllabus outcomes & assignments.