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Social Studies 60: Methods Training for Political and Social Theorists

Fall 2021 edition



This research guide has been designed as a first point of entry for students in Social Studies 60, a Fall 2021 course taught by Don Tontiplaphol. 

If questions about finding, accessing, or managing information arise at any point in your project, librarians are your lifelines!  

Please feel free to contact me. We'll triage by email, or we can set up a time to meet up in person for a longer conversation. 

Enjoy your work!

Sue Gilroy, Library Liaison to Social Studies, Lamont Library 

Contexts, Overviews, Consensus Views


logo oxford university pressThe Oxford Bibliographies Online combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia  in order to help you identify some of the most important and influential scholarship on a broad social, political, cultural or interdisciplinary disciplinary topic. They're regularly updated to remain current.

Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material but overabundance. OBO entries can help you solve the problem of knowing what or who to read or which voices in the conversation you should give some fuller attention to.

Examples related to Social Studies 60  course themes include:



Handbooks and companions are a stock-in-trade for academic researchers. Typically, they're edited volumes, with chapters written by (often commissioned from) subject experts. They synthesize current "consensus" thinking about  a particular topic, phenomenon, theory, etc., and often offer extensive bibliography. 

Certain publishers (Oxford UP, Cambridge UP,  Blackwell, Routledge, and Sage) are well-known for producing high quality, authoritative handbooks on a wide array of topics across the disciplinary spectrum. 

PRO-TIP: One easy way to search for them is simply to add the word "handbook"  or "companion" or "reader" or even "introduction" to a broad keyword search in HOLLIS. That's because they often have this word in the title (signifying form as as well as content) or because they a have special language tag added to the catalog description.



Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory

In this volume an international team of distinguished contributors examines the major figures in Critical Theory, including Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin, and Habermas, as well as lesser known but important thinkers such as Pollock and Neumann. The volume surveys the shared philosophical concerns that have given impetus to Critical Theory throughout its history, while at the same time showing the diversity among its proponents that contributes so much to its richness as a philosophical school. The result is an illuminating overview of the entire history of Critical Theory in the twentieth century, an examination of its central conceptual concerns, and an in-depth discussion of its future prospects.

Cambridge History of Twentieth. Century Political Thought 

Primage of book cover ovides a comprehensive overview of the development of political thought from the late nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century: covers the rise of the welfare state and subsequent reactions to it, the fascist and communist critiques of and attempted alternatives to liberal democracy, the novel forms of political organization occasioned by the rise of a mass electorate and new social movements, the various intellectual traditions from positivism to post-modernism that have shaped the study of politics, the interaction between western and non-western traditions of political thought, and the challenge posed to the state by globalization.

Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory (2015)

book coverLeading scholars from across the globe provide an overview of the analytical frameworks and concepts feminist theorists have developed to challenge key epistemic assumptions that inform traditional scholarship. The chapters offer innovative analyses these transformations on  topics in social and political science, cultural studies and the humanities, discourses in medicine and science and contemporary critical theory.  


Oxford Handbook on Philosophy and Race (2017)

Provides up-to-date explanation and analyses by leading scholars of contemporary issues in philosophy of race and African American philosophy. Ideas about race held by Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche are supplemented by suppressed thought from the African diaspora, early twentieth-century African American perspectives, and Native American, Asian American, and Latin American views. Philosophical analysis is brought to bear on the status of racial divisions as human categories in the biological sciences, as well as within the architectonic of contemporary criticism and conceptual analysis. The special applications of American philosophy and continental philosophy to ideas of race are presented as methodological alternatives to more analytic approaches. 

Sage Handbook of Philosophy of Social Sciences (2011)

book coverStarting with the history of social scientific thought, this handbook sets out to explore the core fundamentals of social science practice, from issues of ontology and epistemology to issues of practical method.  Considers the contrasting approaches by which social scientists study the world and justify their knowledge claims and  identifies the fissures and debates in contemporary thought.






Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: a well-respected web resource. Entries are created and maintained by groups of experts and materials are peer-reviewd by a distinguished editorial board prior to their publication. Essays cover individuals, concepts, and events related to all aspects of philosophy. Each article has a list of references to other sources, including books and journal articles;

The International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, first published in 2001 and completely revised in 2015, is an effort to map the map the social and behavioral sciences on a grand scale. As such, it is a vast, authoritative, and efficient first point of entry for researchers. 

Each article provides a detailed overview of the individual, idea, phenomenon, movement or field it treats, complete with cross-references.  All articles are followed with useful bibliographies identifying the scholarship and texts that have been most important in shaping consensus thinking as well as the figures who are now making cutting edge contributions 

Because the  IESBS is part of a larger online information pavilion, called Science Direct, related content links will sometimes appear on the right side of the subject entry, to encourage further exploration and discovery. 

Scholarship beyond JStor and Google Scholar

Research projects often require you to look close up at a body of research produced by scholars in a particular field.  This research is typically collected, codified, and made findable in a subject database. 

The databases that Harvard subscribes to on your behalf are discoverable three ways: by title; by a broad keyword search; or by browsing disciplinary categories.

Databases are like lenses: they change what you see and how you see it -- and they offer you easy and efficient ways to bring your questions into sharper focus.


A discovery site that aims to be a comprehensive entry point to all branches of philosophy, maintained and updated by a community of philosophers. Books, journals, preprints, dissertations, personal web sites of scholars are made searchable here. A finely grained "taxonomy" of subjects allows for efficient browsing of research on many topics. 

Examples of curated subject pages: 

Sociological Abstracts (ProQuest)

A core resource for Social Studies concentrators, researchers, professionals, and students in sociology, social planning/policy, and related disciplines. It includes citations and abstracts from over 1800 journals, relevant dissertations, selected books and book chapters, and association papers, as well as citations for book reviews and other media.

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (ProQuest)

WPSA provides citations to and summaries of journal literature in political science and related fields, including political sociology, theory and philosophy.

Primary Sources

Social Theory: brings together an extensive range of influential writings representing the most important trends of sociological thought from the eighteenth century to the present day. Included in the more than 150,000 pages of searchable content are seminal works by such theorists as Harriet Martineau, Max Weber, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Jürgen Habermas, Talcott Parsons, Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard.

Past Masters: Full-text electronic editions of works by major philosophical figures, in both original language and in English translation. Areas covered include the history of political thought and theory, education, religious studies, economics, classics, history and German studies. Texts include published and unpublished works, articles and essays, and correspondence. 




At Harvard

Beyond Harvard

Quick Re-Entry Tips

Widener Call number Chart  [PDF]




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Tools for Managing the Research Process


One simple change can turn Google Scholar into what's effectively a Harvard database -- with links to the full-text of articles that the library can provide. Here's what to do:  Look to the left of the GS screen and click on the "hamburger" (); then click on .  Look for "Library Links."  Then type Harvard University into the search box and save your choice.  As long as you allow cookies, the settings will keep.  

 Zoteroa free, open source citation management tool will take the process of collecting and organizing citations, incorporating them into your paper, and creating a bibliography or works cited page to the next level. 

It's worth the small investment of time to learn Zotero.  A good guide, produced by Harvard librarians, is available here: