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SOC2130: Sociological Theory: Search Overview

Getting Started

Once you know which social theorist you will be researching, there are a variety of sources to explore in order to learn all you need to know.  Some of you will find more information than you need, while others might have a more difficult time.

The following steps outline the process that I would recommend to anyone doing this type of research.

Why Biographies?

Biographies not only give you a condensed version of your theorist's life and accomplishments, but can also point you to other sources of information about an individual.  Always check for a list of References at the end of each entry, to find further reading.

Entries may vary in length and content, so be sure to check multiple sources and compare what you find!

Researching Theorists

After choosing your theorist, your goal will be to learn as much about that individual's life, peers, and theoretical works, as well as how others reacted to this work.

Getting Started:

One of the easiest places to find information about individuals (ancient to the present) is through the Library's Biography Reference Bank database.  A simple name search should bring up at least one biography, as well as links to article and book citations by and about the individual.

After gathering your basic biographical information, limit your results using relevant keywords, such as the names of notable theories (exchange theory, social stratification, etc.) or particular written works or accomplishments.  This will help to focus on specific aspects of your theorist.

Next Steps:

Following your initial search, you should look in other biographical sources to both compare and expand on the information that you've already found.  The Library's print collection contains a number of good resources, which include reference works (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.) or books in our circulating collection (that you can take home).

In the Finding Books & Media section of this guide, you'll find a few selected titles to get started with, including Encyclopedia of Social Theory (Ref. HM425.E47 2005). 

You can also search the Online Catalog using the name of your theorist and keywords like theory, sociologysocial stratification, or exchange theory (ie, terms that sum up what you're looking for).

In general, you'll want to look at more than one source, to get the 'big picture', so be sure to find multiple books that discuss your theorist's beliefs/life.


Once you've explored one (or more!) print resources, you may still need to fill in some of information needed for your assignment.  That's where scholarly articles can come into play.  

A list of suggested databases can be found under the Finding Articles section of this guide, although I would recommend starting with the following to find information on your theorist:

I would recommend starting with the name of your theorist, then narrowing with additional keywords or by Subject (on the left in EBSCO and the right in ProQuest).  Also limit your results to scholarly articles, to make sure that you're getting research-based resources.