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HD Theory Research

Online guide for researching theoretical foundations in human development.

Types of Research Articles

As you search for scholarly articles using library databases, you will come across three types of articles:

Research Articles or Empirical Studies
Article reports on data collected in an experiment or study, and is written by the person who conducted the research.  These are considered primary sources.

Review Articles
Article summarizes results of existing studies, and attempts to identify trends and draw larger conclusions.  The author may not be the auther of the other studies analyzed.  These are considered secondary sources.

Theoretical Articles

Article contributes new theoretical knowledge to a specific discipline.


Overview of types of scholarly articles from Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries.

More about empirical studies

  • Empirical studies are those based on actual and objective observation or experimentation.
  • Articles that describe empirical research studies are published in scholarly or academic journals.
  • Many scholarly or academic journals are peer-reviewed or refereed, meaning that a panel of experts in the field selects and reviews the articles published in the journal. These articles are often, but not always, empirical studies.
  • Empirical studies articles comprise the following parts (wording may vary):
    • abstract
    • introduction (and review of the literature)
    • method
    • results
    • discussion (and/or Conclusion)
    • references

Research Strategies

For your research assignment, you will be looking for primary resources written by your assigned theorist.  Here is a suggested research strategy for finding information written by your theorist.

1) Find books

Many primary sources published by human development theorists have been placed on Course Reserve at the library.

  • Course reserves are located at the Circulation Desk
  • Materials are in-library use only, and can be checked out for 2-hours (one at a time)

See also Library Resources for HD Development Theories summary

2) Find articles

  • Some theorists have published primary sources within scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. 
  • Use OneSearch or PsycNET (on the Articles tab) to find articles published by your theorist. See also:  Library Resources for HD Development Theories summary
    • Use the ‘Author’ dropdown.
    • Include keywords for theory.
      Examples: adulthood, attachment, racial identity, family
  • Citation chaining. Use the References page of a related article to find original research by your theorist.
    Uncheck “Full Text Articles” for ILL options
  • Accessing articles
    • Some articles will be available electronically via full-text access
    • Other articles may be available in print serials in the library
    • Other articles may only be available via Interlibrary Loan

3) If necessary, background information

  • Use the recommended encyclopedias on the Reference Materials tab to find encyclopedia articles and biographies about your theorist.
  • Skim articles to find titles of key books and articles written by your theorist.  Make a note of these titles and search for them using OneSearch.

Ask a librarian if you need help!